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The “blame Theo” train gains steam

Sep 20, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT

Carl Crawford Signs with the Boston Red Sox Getty Images

David Pinto flagged this Jim Donaldson post over at the Projo Sox blog. After detailing the failings of John Lackey, he lets this point rip, building on a comment Buck Showalter made last spring about the Red Sox’ payroll advantages:

Showalter had a very good point — it would, indeed, be interesting to see how smart Theo would be with the Tampa Bay payroll. And how smart are the Cubs, who supposedly are interested in bringing Epstein to the Windy City to throw around their major-market money?

To sum up: the GM who has given the Red Sox it’s greatest era of success in a century if not ever is all hat and no cattle and it would be a big mistake for the Chicago Cubs — the Cubs! —  to try to hire him. And we know this because Buck freakin’ Showalter says so.

Personally, I’d love to hear how upset Cubs fans would be if Epstein were allowed to ruin their team the way he has ruined the Red Sox. I bet they’d have a different take on it.

  1. cubsrice - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Theo Epstein, please ruin my team.

    • Bill - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:18 PM

      TV pitch: Rogue freelance GM Theo Epstein tours the dregs of the Major Leagues, turning around fumbling franchises with his unique brand of spunk, tough love, and hard-headed statistical know-how. He takes names, cracks skulls, and guarantees at least one World Series victory per highlighted franchise. Perfect for the 2am slot on Bravo.

    • 78mu - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:08 PM

      Epstein can’t ruin the Cubs by signing Soriano, Zambrano, Fukedome, and Bradley to long contracts.

      If Epstein is so smart he’ll have to figure out how to do it without the Hendry playbook.

  2. halladaysbiceps - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    This is getting silly. Last time I checked, the Red Sox are still in the Wild Card lead. In the offseason, Boston made the 2 of the biggest FA/trade aquisitions and had a pretty solid starting rotation going into the offseason. Epstein has done everything he can to make Boston a championship caliber ballclub. There is only so much depth a ballclub can have or prepare with.

    • lardin - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:40 PM

      The idea that Boston had a solid rotation going into this season is a joke. The Sox went into this season with one, maybe two starters that they could count on. Lackey and Wakefield were inneffective in 2010 and again this year. Beckett and Dicek were hurt in 2010, and Dice K is hurt again this year. The only time Buchholz has pitched more than 100 innings in his career was 2010. Jon Lester was the only sure thing at the beginning of the year. Beckett has been a nice surprise this year. I thought he would get hurt not Bucholz.
      So that leaves Doubront, Miller and Wieland as depth. In his six seasons in MLB Miller has a 5.80 ERA. Felix Doubront had never started a game in the Majors. Then he got hurt. Kyle Wieland had a 4.42 ERA in double in 2010 and 3.58 at AAA before being called up this year. He also has never had a winning record, since the best hes ever been was 3-3 in 2008. Thats great depth and a great plan…

      • halladaysbiceps - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:50 PM

        What did you want Boston to do? Sign Cliff Lee? They have large contracts that involve all of their 5 starters that they went into the season with. An opening season rotation of Beckett, Buchholz, Lackey, Lester, and Dice K. isn’t anything to sneeze at. Epstein isn’t a prophet that can see into the future. As I see it, he’s done a pretty good job.

      • spindervish - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        Spot on. lardin’s continual harping on Boston’s Opening Day rotation is utter nonsense. It makes no sense to compare the situation to some theoretical ideal. Compared to the actual rotations throughout the rest of baseball, the Sox looked to be in fine position in April. Not the Phillies, or the Braves, or even the Angels or Rays, but far from a disaster. Shit just went really, really wrong.

      • aceshigh11 - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:09 PM

        Actually I find myself agreeing with you.

        Anyone who said they expected Beckett to bounce back to form this year is kidding themselves. It was a very nice surprise but no sure thing.

        Buchholz is a great young pitcher but had unproven durability, despite a great 2010.

        Dice-K, Lackey and Wakefield ALL had Boston fans nervous.

        Lester was the one workhouse everyone was counting on, and he’s regressed to the mean the second half of this year.

        But I also agree with halladaysbiceps that Theo’s hands were tied. The FA market for pitching wasn’t strong, and their payroll was already bloated.

      • The Common Man - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:29 PM

        God help me, I’m agreeing with ‘cepts. But when you’re right, you’re right. Also, I feel a little dirty.

      • lardin - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:44 PM

        Spindersdish: How is it utter nonsense. This the problem for the Team. Here is 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 has has been 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.

        Has to Halladaybiceps points: Your right the rotation is nothing to sneeze at. But, again going into the season, there was One, maybe two pitches you could count on….

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:51 PM


        Have you figured out who signed Papi yet?

      • lardin - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:59 PM

        Big Leauges, I looked it up. You are correct. I was wrong. For some reason I thought Papi was signed the year before. But I stand by my original point. Theo has made some good moves. Most of them involved the young players the Sox have developed that we dicussed in the other post. For all the Pedroias and Youks and Lesters theres, Renteria, Lugo, Clement, Drew, Lackey, Crawford and Dice K.

      • Jack Marshall - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        Nonsense. Becket was a solid ace, as he has proved. Nobody expected Lackey to be worse than he was in 2010, which was certainly good enough to be a solid 4th starter. Yeah, Buchholtz had his first full, great season in 2010—he’s young. That doesn’t make him a fluke. Dice-K was a much better than the average 5th, the team had Wakefield as a back-up, and Aceves, who Francona decided was more valuable as a swing man. Who had more depth than that? Dubront was a AAA starter in waiting, and got injured. And Bedard was a smart addition. This is just miserable Monday morning quarterbacking.

      • The Common Man - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:51 PM

        A couple of points Lardin. One, Drew was not a bad signing. He’s been a solid to excellent corner outfielder for the Sox until this season. Regardless of what you think, his production has been strong. Epstein drafted (and stuck with) Ellsbury and Pedroia (and Reddick, though that was in the 17th round and he probably trusted his scouting director there). Keeping Kelly, who posted a 3.98 ERA in AA with a low K/9 would have done absolutely nothing to help this year. He would be overmatched in the AL East. Keeping Millwood in the minors wasn’t an option, given that he expressly asked to be released when he wasn’t promoted to the Majors.

        The Lackey and Crawford signings have been terrible so far, but there was no reason for anyone to expect this kind of drop off from either player. And any GM who feels has 7-8 viable starters at the start of a season, and who still feels like adding more probably should be laughed out of his job. These were the breaks this year, and they went against the Red Sox, but aside from your concern about Youkilis’ fragility, I don’t see a major design flaw on this team, just a failure to execute on the field and a disproportionate number of injuries at one position.

        Masterson might have helped, and he definitely had a strong 2011, but he also started 19 out of 32 times against teams below .500, so the quality of competition was way different.

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:12 PM

        Now I’m getting pissed because people who allegedly follow the Red Sox are giving credence to completely erroneous observations and rewrites of what has actually transpired this season.

        There were certainly some justifiable concerns over the Starting Rotation back in the Spring. But coming out of Spring Training, the general consensus was that the Red Sox had a much better Rotation than the Yankees who had one reliable SP, the hope of another in Burnett and whole lot of uncertainty beyond that.

        Now because of injuries and circumstance, Theo’s entire career is suddenly being judged on the performance of 3 substitute starters (Wakefield, Weiland and Miller) who have been or were deployed for far longer than anyone would have suspected.

        In a perfect world, Wake would have made a few spot Starts and spent the bulk of his season in middle reflief, Weiland would have only been making a handful of feet-wetting Starts in September and Miller would be pitching out of the bullpen as a LH power arm.

        That all said . . .

        1) Why does everyone keep discussing Wakefield as if he was part of the rotation coming out of Spring Training? He wasn’t.

        Not only that, but the Red Sox kept searching for someone other than Wakefield to serve as the primary fill-in. Wakefield made his first Start when the Sox lost Dice-K – and sort of just became a fixture in the rotation by default after Buchholz went down and the Sox hadn’t identified another viable option.

        2) Going into this season – it was NOT unreasonable to assume that a 26/27 year old SP would give you 32-34 Starts. It IS, however, unreasonable to operate on the assumption that he would go down in June and not be back for the rest of the season.

        3) Beckett has been very good this year. But last season was clearly awful, the result of injury, and not at all indicative of what should be expected from him heading into 2011. He had at least 16 Wins in 3 of his first 4 seasons in Boston and it was perfectly reasonable to expect Beckett to slot in with 14-15 Wins as a solid 2nd or 3rd starter.

        4) Jon Lester has been Mr. Reliable during the 1st four seasons of his career. While his K/9 is down, and he will end up with a few less Starts than he has had in his first 3 seasons, this year is no different despite the strained lat injury in July. Since Lester returned from that injury (and including his September slump) he has a 2.88 ERA (vs 3.31 ERA before injury) with no change in IP/S and a slight downtick in K/BB ratio. I’m really not overly concerned about Lester – nor should anyone else be.

        The bottom line is – this season is not over yet – and neither is Theo’s career in Boston.

        And the opportunistic criticisms coming from certain commenters ring hollow – particularly when the most prominent among them is unwilling to acknowledge or own incorrect statements of fact once he has been called out.

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:14 PM

        I hereby retract the final paragraph of my previous statement, as the record has been gracefully corrected.

    • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:54 PM

      It is silly, but Jim Donaldson needs to generate click-throughs for his insignificant blog. So . . . I’m not clicking through.

    • jeremysgordon - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:07 PM

      To piggie back on this one, 6 teams in baseball have a better record than the Sox (some only marginally better). So therefore 23 other GMs (Including the Rays) would love to be in his shoe’s right now.

  3. pellypell - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    It’s not a case of he who spends the most, wins the most. I can show you plenty of teams, in all 4 major sports that have huge payrolls yet struggle year in and year out. There are plenty of other factors in play when putting together a winning team.

  4. hep3 - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    Maybe Showalter’s time on ESPN has convinced him he is truly THE baseball expert. How come none of Showalter’s managerial stints has ever lasted more that four years? Could it be that he just irritates his bosses after a time?

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      Don’t diss on Buck. He turned Baltimore from a last place team to a last place team with a very-slightly higher winning percentage.

      • jimbo1949 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:03 PM

        Yeah, what he said. And look how he inspires his team, one that’s hopelessly mired in last place, to throw caution to the wind in a pressure free environment and sometimes win some games in September.

  5. The Common Man - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Theo Epstein, you should be ashamed of yourself for all that cancer you caused, for the failure of sub-prime housing market, and for canceling Firefly. You are truly history’s greatest, and most inept, monster.

    • kellyb9 - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:47 PM

      Epstein cancelled Firefly?! I knew the Red Sox organization was running Fox!

  6. kmgannon - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    It’s not Theo’s fault that John Lackey went from being Mr. Dependable to forgetting how to pitch (to say nothing of Lackey’s tough personal situation). And while the Sawx overpaid for Crawford, he’s not nearly as bad as he’s played this year. I’d put Epstein’s track record as GM up against anyone in MLB for the last 9-10 years.
    /Not a Sox fan

    • Joe - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:33 PM

      Yeah, well if Theo had done the right thing and re-signed Jason Bay to a huge contract, we wouldn’t have to worry about Carl Crawford.

      Oh, wait…

    • fanoredsox - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:38 PM

      You can blame Theo all you want but as a hard SAUWX fan I will say that Francona likes to hang on to players wwwwaaaayyyy too long! It took Wake ten months to get 200! Terry would be better off if he let passing talent go and really worked the farm system! Pedroia and Elsbury seemed to work out.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:46 PM

        Wakefield is like a stock you keep in your portfolio because you’ve held it for 50 years even though it’s now worth next to nothing. Theo generally tries to let his players go right before their predicted decline (see: Johnny Damon, although he didn’t guess right in that case)

  7. toosoxy - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    Theo’s doing something right. The Sox are still around…

  8. proudlycanadian - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    I have an off season trade idea for Theo. How about Lackey and Crawford to the Angels for Wells and a stiff to be named later. Wells usually puts up good statistics in even numbered seasons.

  9. thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Epstein has only was the World Series 22.2 bar % of seasons since taking over as GM give him an astounding 88.8% fucking loser percentage. And only a .577 winning percentage? What team is this? The fucking Pirates?

    • Kevin S. - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:18 PM

      22.2% + 88.8% = 111%. Just saying.

      • Kevin S. - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:19 PM

        111.1, actually.

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:29 PM

        You think you’re so smart just because you know how math works, don’t ya nerd?

      • jehzsa - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:35 PM

        Theo agrees with the math.

      • paperlions - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:04 PM

        Theo always gives 111.1%, even more than the standard 110%, he’s that good.

    • jimbo1949 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:08 PM

      Epstein has only was the World Series 22.2 bar % of seasons……WTF??
      English Major?

      • umrguy42 - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:12 PM

        jimbo, I wondered that myself – but I think he means 22.2 (with repeating 2s to infinity, a/k/a 22 and 2/9) % of the time. In math, the repeated 2 would be indicated by a bar over the 2.

  10. Reggie's Bush - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Can we blame the ‘blame Theo’ train on Beltran?

  11. tuftsb - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    If Epstein leaves, does this mean that Lucchino will depart to become MLB commissioner after Selig? I cannot see Lucchino leaving before Epstein due to their past history and making Theo look like he “won” the feud.

  12. APBA Guy - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    Billy Beane was on the tube last night to promote “Moneyball”. In his interview he singled out Epstein as one of the premier GM’s in the game. Billy doesn’t say anything he doesn’t mean, and maybe a compliment from the great and powerful Beane doesn’t carry the weight it used to, but if Billy went to the Cubs, I’d be happy if Theo took over the A’s. Of course, I’d be dreaming, so I’d be asleep, too.

  13. marshmallowsnake - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    You cannot ruin a team that is already ruined.

  14. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    I never understood Buck’s point aboit Theo and the Tampa Bay payroll. My understanding of Theo is that he is of the “Billy Beane school of thinking” but with more money to keep his star players. Pedroia, Youk, Lester, Bard, Pap, Reddick, and Ellsbury are homegrown. The farm was sold to pick up A-Gon. The only player he has bought is Crawford and if he didn’t pay him $142 mil somebody would have, and if he went on the not suck with a team other than the Sox people would be asking why Theo didn’t open his wallet. This “blame Theo” crap is really just that

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