Keep up with the latest news, notes and developments with Fungoes, a daily journal for all things baseball that will last all season long.
Is Theo A Real Genius?
With the division lead hovering at eight games over the Yankees and the first AL East title in 12 years within reach, things are good in Red Sox Nation. This week's three-game series against the reeling Yankees couldn't come at a better time (and I wrote that before their 16-0 drubbing by the Tigers and the talk that Kei Igawa -– and his 6.79 ERA -- may take Mike Mussina's spot in the rotation surfaced).
But this is Boston and we have a predilection toward half-empty glasses, so forgive me if I can't help but scream at my TV every time J.D. Drew (and his $14 million salary) watches a third strike while his bat remains velcroed to his shoulder. The same can be said for Julio Lugo (and his $9 million salary), whose futility in the field (16 errors) is matched by his futility at the plate (.240 average). Sure the Sox are a major-league best 29 games above .500 and I should be satisfied, but I can't hep but think that if either of this year's big money free agents matched their production from last year, it could be 35 games over .500. Maybe more. And I can't stop thinking about that.
I look at Theo Epstein and I no longer know what to think. Do I blame him these two free-agent busts or praise him for the other 23 guys playing around him? Do I look at his tenure with the Sox and focus on the good free-agent pick-ups (David Ortiz, Bill Mueller) or the bad (Matt Clement, Edgar Renteria)?
In a nutshell, is he a bad GM or a good one?
A little of both.
He's certainly not a genius as many heralded him after the 2004 World Series, but he's no slouch either. Here are five reasons we should give Theo a break:
The Recycle Bin
Retreads such as Mueller, Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts and Mike Lowell all thrived with the Sox after their old teams decided they no longer had value. That is especially true for Lowell, who the Red Sox were "forced" to take by the cost-cutting Marlins in the Josh Beckett deal. Lowell has a team-leading 93 RBIs.
We could've grouped Ortiz in the recycled bin category, but his production has so far exceeded expectations that he deserves his own category. It's not an exaggeration to say that he may be the greatest free-agent signing in baseball history. Not only has he led the team to a World Series victory and broken a handful of team records, but he also has become the second-most popular athlete in Boston (Gisele pushed Tom Brady back up to No. 1). Not bad for a $1.25 million gamble in 2003.
The Farm System
For years, the words "Red Sox" and "home-grown talent" were rarely uttered in the same breath. When Epstein took over in 2003, the team's farm system was ranked No. 27 in Baseball America's Talent Rankings. Four years later, it is ranked No. 8 with Clay Bucholz and Jacoby Ellsbury set to join the big club later this week. Though the team consists largely of veterans, productive second baseman Dustin Pedroia was an Epstein draft pick.
It seems weird for someone's strength to only come as a result of his failures, but Theo isn't shy to backtrack when his moves have backfired. He swallowed his pride (and a lot of guaranteed money) to unload Renteria on Atlanta and traded back with San Diego to acquire Doug Mirabelli after realizing that nobody else could catch Tim Wakefield's knuckler. But the most impressive example is Theo himself, who briefly quit the team two years ago after failing to reach a contract extension only to return a couple months later.
Moves Not Made
He steadfastly refused to sign aging free agents such as Johnny Damon or Pedro Martinez to four-year deals, and didn't blink when both took the money and ran. Neither has contributed this season and few Sox fans are complaining as they were (loudly) when both were allowed to leave town.
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Yeah, Red Sox fans, that 'unloading' of Renteria (not to mention Hanley and Orlando) in favor of a $36 million gremlin was a fine business decision. Oh, wait, it was more like caving to an obsessive-neurotic fan base by dealing a legit star after his only rough season in memory.
shut up, yankees' fan.
What about Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena? Theo, how could you?!
Eric GAG-NE anyone... what a move..
renteria? one shortstop too late. epstein's biggest mistake was letting cabrera go.
All I can say is, look at the standings idiots. Oh and whose favored to win it all right now.
Well, both Drew and Lugo are signed to four year deals so we'll see how they play out. If you've been watching Drew take strike threes then I'm sure you've seen Lugo's respectable .315/.345/.435 line since the All Star break. The only area of concern is where Lugo has stopped running. The hope is that Lugo will be more of this type of player over the duration of his contract. The much more worrisome player is Drew who was brought in to be a force in the number five spot and has hit all of 7 homeruns.
We'll need to wait out the Theo era and see how many of his draft picks end up in the majors. The most important thing is that Theo is surrounded by some of the smartest people in baseball and has the coffers to use it to his full advantage.
The Beckett, Lowell - Ramirez, Sanchez, etc. deal was made during the two months after Theo's gorilla suit escape.
I love what Theo's done, but the single BIGGEST mistake he ever made was letting Orlando Cabrera leave the team. It's been three years of auditions at shortstop since 2004. Unbelievable.
I wish we could of kept Hanley for sure, but when you have cy young frontrunner Josh Beckett and leading RBI man (on MLB leading team) Mike Lowell in return for H Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, I think I would make that deal. When it happened, I wished that he had kept Derek Lowe I would definitly prefer a righty to and JD Drew for 14 million. Coulda had Vlad like 4 5 years ago for 14 million...
All the hype about Gagne, while Bobby Kielty was basically snuck in with no fan-fare at all. Hello? Kielty was a much more key addition than Gagne. Find a comfortable spot on the bench JD. Hey, there's a spot right next to Eric.
Boy, don't you love the Yankee fan comments about Renteria, who is on the DL again, and Bronson Arroyo whom I loved but was really only a good number 5 starter. Gagne we still need to wait and see.
But the last time I checked we were 8 games in front of a reeling Yankee team struggling to make the play offs. Hey Yankee fans, lose with the same dignity you have when winning. Heck, you've had a great run over the past ten years.
Life Time Red Sox Fan!
Actually the Hanley/Beckett&Lowell deal happened during Theo's hiatus, though some claim that Theo was consulted while he was away.
Though it was mentioned, I don't think that enough attention is paid to the big moves that Theo didn't make. Letting Pedro and especially Damon go was not easy, and it freed up the money for DiceK. (Last year I had to laugh every time the Yanks announcers crowed about the theft of Damon - they'll give him away this winter).
Mike Mussina. Jason Giambi. Kevin Brown. Jose Contreras. Kei Igawa. Carl Pavano. Johnny Damon. Kyle Farnsworth. Raul Mondesi. Hideki Irabu. And Theo gets criticized?
Yeah and last time I looked the Sox had the best record in baseball and you have no ground to stand on!
how are JD Drew, julio lugo, and coco crisp looking now ?
Hopefully, they´ll keep Lugo longer than just one season. I KNOW, he will produce next year, just as Cabrera and Renteria did after leaving.
I don´t know, why everyone is cursing Theo´s pitching moves. He sends Bronson and risks something. He sends Gabbard and risks something. Maybe the result wasn´t even good with Wily Mo, but what do oyu do with a 6th or 7th starter, when you can get more valuable pieces (slugger with raw power or a potentially lights-out-closer) ?
Theo Epstine is not a good GM. The Gange trade proves it. He made a useless trade that could very possibly hurt Boston in the playoffs. He had a lights out guy in the 8th inning(the Japanese guy. I don't know his name)and wasted prospects to get a shot pitcher. He signed free-agents because the Red Sox' ownership gives him blank checks every year. The only reason he could get Schilling was because the Phillies didn't want him back. He traded Bronson Arroyo when they were short on pitching last year for useless overrated Willy Mo Pena. Then to prove his incompetance, he gives JD Drew $70 million. And with Francona constantly bringing in Gange in crucial situations Boston fans are starting to understand why the Phillies fired him.
8 Games back
Dude, you cannot give Theo credit for picking up Mike Lowell, because that deal took place during Theo's "leave of absence". He played no part in that deal.
well, actually, the coco crisp deal has worked out just fine thanks. No, he's not batting .320 but he's a front runner for gold glove and is stealing bases. He's a solid center fielder with amazing range. I think Theo's done a great job as GM. Sure, he's made mistakes, but i don't think anyone can name a GM who hasn't had one move that they would like back.
A) Renteria asked out of boston because he couldnt take the pressure, Tony La Russa said this when boston signed him, and he didnt have a bad year at the plate, ,it was his 30 errors in the field and blaming it on the grounds crew that did him in.
B) Orlando Cabrera left because he was a free agent they got a draft pick back in return, they decided not to resign him because of what he did outside of baseball, this is also his first good season since leaving boston 2005 .257 BA 8 HR 57 RBI 2006 .282BA 9HR 72 RBI
Theo also already said the arroyo for pena deal was a mistake... drew is also signed to a 5 year deal not four so get your head out of your ass they can also opt out of the deal when he has an injury to his left shoulder (which is what hes probably hiding right now)... also the guy talkign about all the bad cashman deals you forgot a few jeff weaver,Juan Rivera(cut by the yankees after he stole derek jeters belongings and sold them) mike myers, alan embree,Sterling Hitchcock,Steve Karsay,John Vander Wal ,and the list goes on and ontrading David Justice for Robin Ventura, trading Gary Sheffield... wily mo pena for a 24 year old first baseman/outfielder whos tearing up AAA is that a bad deal as well? you also left out Jon Lester as a draft pick. but if you want to pile it on theo you guys forgot to mention the Freddy Sanchez for Jeff Suppan... the stiff talking about Gange doesnt know shit because right off the bat he doesnt know what the "japaneses guys name is" its Okajima and they picked up gane to give him a break hes already pitched the most innings of his baseball life this year and that was in july they made the trade so he didnt burn out and then you go on to make yourself look like a bigger idiot by saying the red sox got schilling from the phillies(you know the team he hadnt played for since 2000) it was the dimondbacks, and what is he suppose to do stay away from gange and not use him? you were probably the same guy saying they should sit pedroia when he was struggling in april and early may good thing Francona doesnt have the iq of a monkey like you... should he have sat millar in 2004 too? francona stays with people when they struggle because he hopes they come out of it if idiots like you ran the team youd have a new player in the game every time someone made an error or stuck out
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
on the whole, theo's done a good job. like all of the GMs in the game, he's had good deals and some clunkers. he has one championship and the 2007 version of the sox maybe primed to make a run at another. the two signings this year that have drawn a lot of fire -- lugo and drew -- has been a mixed bag. lugo has not hit .300, but he has driven in 60-plus runs and is in the top five on the team for rbis. drew has had the worst year of his career, but would want to see how he does next yr before making a decision on that one. last yr, coco crisp was the worst signing after breaking his finger in game 5 of the season, but he has rebounded so well. the same thing may happen with drew so wd rather wait on that one before piling on. i don't think there is a perfect, mistake-free GM in the history of the game. the only way we can judge theo is when he's done. if he approaches half or even a fourth of what red auerbach did with the celtics and he gets several championships along the way, his winnings will be celebrated more than his losses.
I think you need to get your facts straight. The only mistake Theo has passivley acknowledged is the Arroyo fiasco. Epstein was out of the organization when the moves for Josh Beckett and Mikle Lowell were made, the Renteria trade, or the Damon non-signing. His biggest strength as GM is that he has drafted well. After shooting his collective wad in 2003 and the Nomar trade, every free agent/ personnel move made by him has been questionable at best, disastrous at worst.
The Boston fan base is extremely unforgiving and they turn on a dime, at least in NY we are never satisfied. As a longtime Yankees fan, suffering through underachievement by the Yanks against the Red Sox over the past four years has been grueling and we have to recognize that Theo has mostly done great. Last year, the Sox really suffered a lot of injuries and the sweep came at a time when the pitching staff had lost the anchor that is Jason Varitek, if the Yanks lost Posada, their ERA would be two runs higher, guaranteed. If you look at the process over time, the pitching staff that Theo has assembled blows your socks off, Matsuzaka, Beckett and Schilling (even with his injuries) is fantastic. Bringing back Mirabelli so that Wakefield can be a CY contender was brilliant and geting the production he has out of the fifth spot is impressive. But most brilliant of all, Theo has assembled the right chemistry. He keeps finding players who gel together to form a true Team, Papi, Manny and Variket are the anchors and around them he has put in Lowell (who was a superstar before a couple of bad years in Florida and was certain to be again with a change of venue), Pedroia (home grown stud), Crisp (not what was expected but superior defensively which is what the pitchers need) and Youkilis (absolutely as clutch and gritty as they come). Drew has been a dissapointment but so was Beckett last year, you need to give players time to adapt. Overall, this is a team that fights, and takes pitches and runs the bases and does everything the Angels do, and on top of that they hit for power and pitch lights out. They have stayed healthy and that has been the biggest difference in the year, particularly Varitek's handling of the staff. People think that this is an easy business, but look at other teams in the league like the White Sox, Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Orioles and A's and ask yourselves if it is easy to be consistently great, the way the Red Sox have been under Theo.
1. I'll take Coco Crisp and his so-so offensive production on the cheap for Johnny Damon's little league arm and constant injuries at an inflated cost any day of the week. Even if the Sox weren't in first place.
2. I thought the Sox bailed on Renteria too quickly myself.
3. The Lugo deal was/is/and is to be forever a headscratcher. A wife-beater [that's why the Astros booted him years ago] with middling ability.
4. J.D. Drew is your typical dog who's not trying hard in the first year of a mega-contract. He's just like Adrian Beltre: big year when the contract's up; a dog when he has financial security. I get sick to my stomach just seeing him walk to the plate [Drew]. He's been a wuss with injuries his entire career as well. His Braves teammates had the stones to call him out on that though a few years back. The Drew signing alone proves Theo isn't a genius. The average guy farting into his couch cushion in his living room wouldn't have given that cupcake $14 M a year.
5. The Becket deal happened while Theo was gone and was short-sighted. Hanley would've solved the short stop problem and Anibal could be a power for years to come, the first six of which would've been at a bargain-basement financial commitment. We could have Youkilis at third and perhaps Hinske at first, or vice-versa. I know it's not my money, but I like to see my team win while spending as little as possible.
The real problem with the Drew deal is that it totally blocks minor league talent. Ellsbury (among several other minor league prospects) will all reach their maximum minor league development range while Drew's humongous contract is on the books. Theo has to move him at some point or completely eat the contract. Either that or trade away all those prospects for vets in the (proven failure) Yankee method.
what you guys refuse to remember is the Nomar Garciaparra trade in 2004. everybody was in an uproar when he traded nomar for cabrera and mientkiewicz. remember he also got Dave Roberts for a minor league outfielder on that day. the red sox wound up winning the world series on those deals! and at the time, everybody was yelling for theo's head! sure, every GM makes mistakes (like the josh bard/cla meredith deal for mirabelli) but he's also been able to find some gems-okajima, pedroia, youkilis- cmon, give the guy a break.
AL East blog (Monday)
NL West blog (Monday)
AL Central blog (Tuesday)
NL Central blog (Wednesday)
AL West blog (Thursday)
NL East blog (Thursday)
Wild Card (Friday)