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Blame Theo Watch: Jon Morosi piles on

Sep 20, 2011, 4:30 PM EDT

Theo Epstein

Once was interesting. Twice was eyebrow raising. But the third “Blame Theo” article in a little over 24 hours means we have a full-fledged phenomenon on our hands.  The lastest: Jon Paul Morosi from Fox, who says “Epstein, for all his skills as a general manager, failed to accumulate the pitching depth required to win the American League East.” He goes on:

Epstein has been on the job for nearly a decade, and yet Lester is the only homegrown pitcher to have a 200-inning season for the Red Sox in that span. For an organization of these resources and smahhhts, there’s no way that should be the case.

He ends by noting that the Rays have all kinds of pitching depth and that that’s what separates them from the Sox. At least he does note that, for now anyway, the Sox are still two games up on the Rays.

Look, I’m not going to say Epstein is perfect, but dear lord, I can’t recall a single instance where the general manager has been held so pointedly responsible for an otherwise well-constructed team suffering a boatload of injuries and sub-par performances from people who were not at all expected to have sub-par performances.

Especially before it becomes clear that the team’s failings, whatever the cause, have cost them anything of consequence.

  1. mornelithe - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    He’s employed by Fox, what do you expect?

  2. lardin - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Have you seen the crap that gets written about Cashman? He gets it worse than Theo

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:47 PM

      It’s amazing how winning (or winning slightly more) seems to get you off the hook. [note I'm a Yanks fan] but we haven’t heard a lot of reports about how lucky Cashman got that both Colon and Garcia and Nova have all worked out. If the roles were reversed, we’d hear endless comments about the failure of Hughes/Chamberlain, especially with how well Kennedy is doing in Ari.

      • lardin - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:55 PM

        There are yankee fans who think Casman screwed up royally by trading Kennedy for granderson even though the trade worked out well for the Yankees. Cashman and Theo are both in no win situations but to say Theo is the only GM who gets criticized is so long

    • garnermusic - Sep 21, 2011 at 7:54 AM

      I’m a lifelong Yankee fan. But even I have to admire what Theo has been able to do over the last 10 years. I lived in the Boston area for a number of years. The baseball fans up there have very short memories, and act like the Sword Of Damocles is always hanging over their heads. They would rather bitch & moan, and act out the “poor us” thing than just enjoy their team.

  3. halladaysbiceps - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    It’s ridiculous. Just like I stated in the Jim Donaldson post earlier today, I pose the same question, with a different slant: How can a team with a 175 million dollar payroll that already has a ton of money tied into it’s starting pitching insulate itself from pitching injuries? Quality starting pitching doesn’t grow on trees, correct?

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:58 PM

      I actually I picked a quality starter off of a Halladay Pine the other day. The problem is that the fruits of these trees take so long to ripen and are picked clean very quickly.

    • Ari Collins - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:17 PM

      I agree with halladaysbiceps.

      Wait, what?

  4. 18thstreet - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    I’m not sure what Halladay’s point is — hell, I think I agree — but I’m giving him a thumbs-down, just because.

    Also, Ryan Howard.

    • halladaysbiceps - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:09 PM

      I think my point was pretty clear. The Red Sox on paper has a very, very good starting 5. Being that this was the case, Epstein decided to go out and get Gonzales and Crawford, 2 of the most coveted offensive players. The team was declared the team to beat in the AL. Adversity on some levels, whether on the field or injury wise, affected the starting rotation. Epstein is not a future teller. He did the best job he could. Why crucify him for something beyond his control?

      • lardin - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:46 PM

        Because you didn’t need to be a genius to figure out that out of those five only is actually reliable. Theo’s idea was to pray for health and effectiveness. Looks like god really is a Yankee fan afterall..

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:58 PM

        lardin,

        I can see that you are a pissed off Red Sox fan. I appreciate that. You care very much about you team, like I do the Phillies. You have stones.

        Let me ask you this hypothetical question: If you were Theo Epstein, would you have not signed Gonzales and Crawford and instead concentrated on signing Cliff Lee and another quality starter?

      • lardin - Sep 20, 2011 at 6:31 PM

        its not just this year it actually started last year with the Vmart trade. Heres what I would have done.

        1. Not made the trade for VMart. This would have allowed them to keep Masterson.
        2. Not Trade of Agon. this would have allowed them to keep Casey Kelly
        3.I wouldve have kept Youk at first, reducing wear and tear on a guy that has gotten hurt the last few years.
        4. I would have resigned Beltre to play third instead of signing Crawford.
        5. I liked the signing of Aceves. He should be starting. I dont understand why hes not.
        6. I would have kept Millwood in the minors. Hed be the third best pitcher right now.
        7. I liked the trade for Bedard at the time, but I wonder how bad was injury scenario with Harden that they didn’t make that trade instead…
        Under my scenario, in addition to Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Bucholtz, Dice K and Wake, They would have had Masterson, Kelly, Millwood and Aceves.

        Yes I know hindsight is 20/20 but. What was the point of trading Masterson for Vmart if you werent going to resign him? Why trade for Agon and move Youk to physically more demanding position when he constantly gets hurt? If you still had Masterson, even if he didnt develop like he did in Cleveland, you could have Aceves start because there would be depth in the bullpen. At the Very least Millwood could pitch better then Weiland or Miller.

        One more thought on the Crawford, signing, I read somewhere, I cant find the link though, The Henry and Lucchino wanted Crawford not Theo and he was overuled.

      • Ari Collins - Sep 20, 2011 at 8:08 PM

        1. V-Mart was pretty great for the Sox. The point of trading Masterson for V-Mart was to get a year and a half of star production for very little money. Plus two draft picks in an extremely deep draft.

        2. They wouldn’t be leading the WC without Gonzalez. Kelly is not that great a prospect. No contest.

        3. Beltre has been more banged up than Youkilis this year. And a lot more banged up than his actual replacement, Adrian, who’s been a win better. (And is three years younger.)

        6. I don’t understand the love of Millwood. Would’ve had to bring him up when the rotation was full in order to keep him, and he hasn’t been any good in an awfully long time. No one else is giving him a shot, and there are plenty of teams who could use a back of the rotation starter.

        So, yeah. I’m pretty glad you’re not the Sox GM, if you value pitching prospects over offensive stars and think that Beltre is the better Adrian.

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:39 PM

        I would add that in VMart the Red Sox went out and got the best bat on the market in 2009 – at a point in the season that they clearly felt they still had a chance to compete in the playoffs. They ended up winning 95 Games, but had very shaky Starting Pitching, it was Lowell’s last season, Tek was struggling, Nick Green was the starting 2B, and Papi had that awful start to the season.

        They got excellent offensive production out of VMart last season, but he just wasn’t in the plans moving forward as the Sox already have a DH.

        And they traded Masterson because he was a reliever with reliever stuff at the time. It took until this season for Masterson to make the adjustments necessary to be an effective Starter each time he takes the hill – and there just isn’t anyway to know that when that would have happened.

        By signing 12 of their top 13 picks this year, many believe that Theo just wrapped his best draft ever – greatly benefiting by having four of the first 40 picks of the draft – which were acquired by allowing Beltre and Martinez to walk. The draft was regarded as a very deep draft – and the last one under the current CBA format. With Detroits 19th pick, the Sox selected a stud in Matt Barnes and 18 year old 6’6″ LHP Henry Owens who, like Barnes, sports a heater in the mid 90’s. With the Texas 1st Rounder they selected Blake Swihart – one of, if not the top HS Catching prospect.

        And yes, Theo does consider all the positives and negatives of acquiring a player or letting a player walk in the FA market – right down to the possible compensatory draft picks.

      • bigharold - Sep 21, 2011 at 1:37 PM

        “The Red Sox on paper has a very, very good starting 5.”

        I don’t see that, .. not now nor did I at the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the year they had two very good starters, Lester and Buchholz, one poor one, Lackey and two very big question marks, Matsuzaka and Beckett. As it turned out Lester has pitched well, Beckett returned to form, that’s a plus, but it’s negated by Buchholz’ injury, Lackey still stinks and Matsuzaka went down to an injury but if he hadn’t I doubt that he would have made them any better. Add to that add a shaky pen and frankly their pitching isn’t that great nor did it look like it was at the beginning of the season.

        If anything injuries will give Epstein an out for this years failures. While he is lauded for his intelligence and ability I don’t agree. He is a good GM but not a great one. I think a myth was constructed around him because of 2004. A myth that upon closer examination is undeserved, especially when you consider that the 2004 team’s foundation was put in place by his predecessor. The 2007 team was much more of his making and between the two WS wins he’s attained a “professional capital” and a reputation that will not go away anytime soon. Say anything else you want about him, … he was the GM that was at the helm when the curse was broken and that is going to get him a lot of slack rightly or wrongly.

        As stated it’s the GMs job to get the talent and have a plan B in the ready should things not go to form due to injury, unexpected production drop off or anything else. Is he to blame is not the question. As the GM he is responsible. That being said, he’s not getting canned anytime soon because of the teams accomplishments in 2004 & 2007, .. nor do I necessarily think he should. But, this year’s record like last year’s will be blamed on injuries which isn’t exactly the whole story. Although I think the RS will hold on to make the playoffs whether they do or not should not change the way Epstein is evaluated for this season. The team he constructed had serious holes to start with that were just exposed over the course of a 162 game season. Nevertheless, I’m sure that if the RS don’t make it to the playoffs Theo has in his office a gorilla suit encased in glass that reads “Break Glass in Case of Third Place”

  5. adowding3 - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    Morosi is an idiot. Tampa’s homegrown rotational depth was a result of a decade of tampa sucking. Neimann (4th overall) and Price (1st) were gifts for being league bottom feeders. Shields, taken in the 16th round has been a nice surprise.

    But this is my point: If you aren’t in contention for so long, you get two simultaneous benefits:
    1) High draft picks in next years draft
    2) No need to drain your system through free agent signings.

    By not buyers at the deadline, the Rays didn’t need to be sellers. They had the luxury of waiting for their talent to develop. Something that Theo, the Sox, couldnt afford because of their consistent potential for success.

    I dont understand how being at the helm of a sinking ship, and then waiting for people to come rescue you makes you a better GM.

    • Mark - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:24 PM

      The fact that you think Tampa’s pitching depth is due to “A decade of Tampa sucking” shows how little you know about the Rays success.

      Niemann is a fifth starter at best. I mean he was the 4th overall guy, but if he wasn’t there, somebody else would be taking his place. At 28 this is his first good season, and he’s thrown a grand total of 135 innings.

      The Rays are succeeding because of Price – who as you said, was a first rounder. And because of James Shield the 1st…I’m sorry, 16th rounder. And Hellickson, another 1st…nope, 4th rounder. I don’t want to say they’re succeeding because of Davis, but he’s a third rounder.

      As far as offense, I’ll grant you Longoria. Upton while a top pick, isn’t exactly having a great year. No, they’re winning because of Zobrist (acquired for Huff, a fifth rounder) and Joyce (acquired by Jackson, for Lance Carter & Baez). They got lucky on Kotchman, sure. But another key guy for them is a 10th rounder, Desmond Jennings.

      See where I’m going with this? Outside of Price and Longoria, none of their key guys were first rounders. Most of them were taken in rounds 3-10. All guys the Sox or Yankees could have picked, but passed over for various reasons.

      And now they’ve added the best pitching prospect in baseball, a guy drafted in the 8th round.

      It’s very easy to suggest the Rays are built off the success of sucking for 10 years. But go look at who they drafted in the first round for the majority of that time. Paul Wilder, Jason stranridge (5.80 ERA), Josh Hamilton (who I believe they lost for nothing), Rocco Baldelli (ditto Hamilton), Dewon Brazelton (6.38 career ERA), Upton, Young, Niemann, Wade Townsend, Longoria, Price.

      Of that list, two players turned into stars, 4 are currently with the team, and the rest of them had no impact on the current team save for Delmon Young. So maybe you want to double check that whole “they sucked for a long time and had good prospects line” until you see what they did with all those high draft picks. Pretty much nothing, until Friedman came along. And they’re STILL the #1 farm team despite the fact they’ve made the playoffs twice in the last 3 years.

      • buddaley - Sep 20, 2011 at 6:08 PM

        Thank you Mark. You saved me the time. I have been pointing out the fallacy of the argument that the Rays have developed primarily because of high draft picks so many times I have gotten tired of repeating. It is obviously a misleading if not entirely wrong statement.

        Certainly high first round picks have helped, but without exceptional development of lower round picks and intelligent trades and other types of acquisitions it would have been for naught. Other teams have also had a succession of high first round picks and continue to fail.

        In fact, that is the challenge facing K.C. There is consensus they had the premier farm system to start 2011, perhaps one of the best ever. We will see if Moore can acquire the necessary complementary players and whether the development system will maximize the talents of their prospects so that K.C. can compete.

        High draft choices are more ancillary than central to the development of a contender.

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:54 PM

        Andrew Friedman is a tremendous GM (who BTW walked right into the Rays front office, with no prior experience when Sternberg bought the team). However his job (and margin for error) is enhanced considerably when the rays make a practice of allowing star players to walk and acquiring a bounty of draft picks.

        Case in point? The Rays had an insane 11 of the Top 75 picks this year.

        As I noted elsewhere earlier today – the Rays have been named among the teams who allegedly pocket luxury tax revenue. I recognize that the Rays play in an awful facility, in an inconvenient location. However, they have the 2nd lowest payroll while playing in the 15 largest media market.

        One of the major drawbacks of the Rays formula is that no players stay around long enough for the fans to develop a long term relationship with – making marketing efforts more challenging and fan loyalty more difficult to cultivate.

      • Ari Collins - Sep 21, 2011 at 12:50 AM

        Size of media market isn’t size of market, though. Nor does the location and design of that ballpark help.

      • bigleagues - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:03 AM

        Ari Collins,

        Yes and no on the media market vs MSA’s. Metro population is certainly a key factor for any professional franchise. But I have found media markets are are a better snapshot of a market and a teams potential success because it estimates the number of households with TV. MSA’s just report population demographics within a geographical area.

        You might have room to seat 45,000 in your ballpark – but in a good market you have the potential of several hundred thousand people watching at home on any given night. While attendance is certainly important, having a strong regional network sports deal can be the most lucrative revenue stream.

      • buddaley - Sep 21, 2011 at 8:11 AM

        Yes, bigleagues, but you have to keep in mind that the allowing of players to leave is not simply financially prudent but part of the intentional, overall strategy of rotating talent through the system to maintain competitiveness.

        As a matter of fact, it isn’t even quite so simple. When possible, the Rays have extended players they want to keep; Crawford and Baldelli when the new management team took over, Longoria and Davis since. They have also been in talks over the last few years with Upton and I think Price. The success of the Rays has a lot more to do with choices they make and their development system than with the high draft choices they used to have.

        So if the point is to claim the Rays succeed because of 10 years of being lousy, or primarily because of the draft, it is incorrect. In their last 3 drafts they have not been anywhere near the top 10, and to the extent they rely on the draft, it is because of a policy to replenish the system rather than risk long term expensive deals to aging players. That is to their credit, not a matter of luck or happenstance.

        As an aside, although TB had many more picks than did Boston in 2011, in the first round, Boston had the higher pick in round 1 and again in the supplementary round. And Boston too added to its number of picks via their free agent players signing elsewhere.

  6. Ari Collins - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    You have to jump through some pretty crazy logical hoops to make the Red Sox development machine into a failure. Sure, Lester is the only 200 IP pitcher he’s drafted and developed and kept, but that ignores all useful pitchers who haven’t pitched 200 innings and all hitters ever. Not to mention the young players he’s traded for excellent players like Beckett and Gonzalez.

    Just mentioning players currently on the team, I don’t think anyone would argue that this isn’t one of the better rosters of homegrown talent:

    Lester
    Buchholz
    Bard
    Papelbon
    Pedroia
    Ellsbury
    Reddick
    Youkilis (not drafted by Theo, but developed and given a starting job despite others’ doubts about him)

    Considering one of those guys is one of the best starters in the league and three of the hitters are carrying the entire team, yeah, I’d say Theo’s done a decent job on the development side.

    Highlighting the Rays’ homegrown staff simply further proves the foolishness of only looking at the pitching side of it. The only Rays hitters who were drafted by the Rays and have put up above-average seasons are Longoria and Upton. So sure, the Red Sox have been hit by injuries and are throwing Kyle Freakin’ Weiland out there, but they’re not throwing out terrible players every day at DH, SS, and C, like the Rays.

    So… whatever, John Paul.

    • Mark - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:33 PM

      I’d add Jennings/Crawford to that list depending on how far back you’re willing to go. Zobrist too, if we’re including guys who were developed and given their first chance by their current org.

      It is a valid point that the Rays offense isn’t as good as their pitching. But most of their key guys were traded for via their pitching.

      But I agree with your main point – it’s kind of crazy to criticize Theo for the homegrown players considering not just the quantity, but the quality of the players the Sox have developed. And still managed to keep, since they traded for Beckett, Bay, and others over the years.

      • Ari Collins - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:37 PM

        Yeah, I didn’t want to go for guys like Jennings and Crawford and Zobrist if I was only giving Theo credit for guys he’s drafted and developed and are currently on the team (though if I bent thing to get Youkilis in there, yeah, I should have put Zobrist in there. And if Boston gets credit for Reddick, TB gets credit for the most likely better player in Desmond Jennings.

  7. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    So what they Morosi and others are saying is that Theo should not have let Millwood walk? Carlos Silva is still out there.

    I don’t really remember everyone loving the Lackey signing, but I do remember lots of people saying that he was basically statistically identical to AJ Burnett, and should be paid about the same. Oh, I’m sure both of these guys wish that wasn’t true…

    • lardin - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:51 PM

      The sad part is that AJ is having a better year than Lackey. They really are the same pitcher.

  8. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    Pretty sure Theo sold the farm for A-Gon so how on earth could he have also acquired a top flight pitcher? In addition, what viable options have hit the free agent market (besides CC) in the last 5 or so years?

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 20, 2011 at 7:17 PM

      Not that I care about thumbs up/down but a thumbs down is not an answer. I’d love to know what all the armchair GMs would have done in Theo’s position

    • ras1tafari - Sep 21, 2011 at 9:41 AM

      2006: AJ Burnett, Clemens, Jeff Weaver, Jarrod Washburn
      2007: Daisuke, Zito, Jason Schmidt, Clemens, Glavine, Mussina, Maddux, Gil Meche
      2008: Pettitte, Carlos Silva, Colon, Paul Byrd, Kyle Lohse, Kawakami
      2009: CC, Burnett, Dempster, Sheets, Mussina, D. Lowe, Moyer
      2010: Lackey, Wolf, Harden, Pinero, Garland, Pavano, Bedard

      Not exactly Spahn, Sain, and pray for rain on this list.

  9. bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    For ALL of the reasons that I LOVE baseball in the Northeast – what is being displayed by the Boston area media over the last 24 hours is one of the BIGGEST reasons I often find myself disgusted with the sports media in the Northeast.

    And truly, I suspect (OK, I more than suspect) columns like these (I’m not reading this one either) are strategically discussed by Editorial and Advertising execs as part of October Plan B to drive website traffic; NESN & FSNE viewership; and WEEI and Sports Hub listenership in an attempt to replace the bonus Fall revenue they have all become accustomed to – thanks, of course, to Theo and the Trio.

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