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In defense of Theo

Oct 14, 2011, 10:15 AM EDT

Theo Epstein

The knives that have been out for Theo Epstein and Terry Francona over the past few days has been great fun.  Only problem is that it obscures the fact that, hey, those guys did more for Red Sox baseball in the past few years than anyone else had for the previous 80+.

The response to that has been “anyone coulda done it!”  Bah.  As Andrew Mooney of the Globe notes in his “In defense of Theo” story today, even if you’re a hardliner and believe that Epstein benefited from Dan Duquette’s work in winning that 2004 title, the 2007 title was authored by him and the people who worked under him.

I can’t help but think that everyone in Boston is gonna wake up one day and realize that they’ve let their manager and GM go a bit too easily.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Oct 14, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    I think John Henry has lost the plot so to speak….he is cracking under the pressure. With his recent acquisition of Liverpool FC, he is the principal owner for two sports teams that have passionate, rabid fan bases with tons of expectations. Couple that with the around 400 million dollars he has shelled out in the past year for the contracts of Gonzalez and Crawford and the acquisitions of Andy Carroll, Louis Suarez, Charlie Adam, Stuart Downing, and Jordan Henderson and you can see the pressure for titles mounting for him. Such pressure often lends itself to gross over reactions. Furthermore, dealing with whatever nonsense happened in Boston and dealing with spoiled, entitled footballers has to take its toll. I said at the time that his purchase of such a storied soccer team would be a gigantic downfall for the Red Sox. Being an owner of an English soccer team, let alone one with the tradition of Liverpool, requires a full time, hands on exhausting approach. The other franchise, in this case the Red Sox, is bound to suffer and I believe it has….mostly due to his own reactionary behavior.

    • Lukehart80 - Oct 14, 2011 at 10:49 AM

      I have to think the Liverpool ownership is all about attracting super-fan Brandon McCarthy to the Red Sox. Sure, hundreds of millions of dollars and the responsibility for a storied English institution seems like a lot to pay, but when you look at McCarthy’s FIP this season, you can understand why Henry sprung for it.

      • Old Gator - Oct 14, 2011 at 11:54 PM

        Theo has no defense.This isn’t a prosecution, it’s a persecution.

  2. mabunar - Oct 14, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    “the 2007 title was authored by him”

    To just say, hey he won in 2007 because it was mostly team is kinda glossing over the impacts of the Duquette/Interim guys, isn’t it? Beckett was the ace by far that year and
    only Manny and Ortiz had Lowell beat in OPS. The batting order was still almost half non-Theo guys (Manny, Varitek, Youk, Lowell)….so, this wasn’t a built from scratch team.

    Do they win by replacing some of those with more Theo guys…who knows. But I’d like to have a talk with Mr WAR after seeing Eric Gagne have anything other than a negative times infinity next to him.

    Also, in the 2007 section…where is Ellsbury? I think he would have gotten Theo some more Pos WAR for him, no?

    Look, Theo did some good things, mostly through the farm, and he made some trades that look good (Nomar, getting AGonz). But he also made lots of mistakes throwing money around, you can’t deny that either. I liked Theo, I thought he could win here again, but going to the Cubs was getting too tempting for him. So, it’s either work in an environment where all your moves are heavily scrutinized and the bad ones are beaten like dead horses….or go work in a place that thinks you’re the second coming right now. For as much as I distrust Sox ownership, they can’t be total dicks and say, “Sorry Theo…we know the Cubs want to talk to you, but we won’t let them. You must stay here!” Can they make sure they get compensation for that last year under contract? Sure, and they deserve something for voiding that last year. If there was no Cubs thing here, I don’t think they’d be firing Theo. They might have tightened his leash on moves, and made this last year uncomfortable…but I really don’t think they would have fired him. But of course, if they did….Theo would get his compensation then.

    • bigleagues - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:13 PM

      I’ve listed all of Theo’s deals that had a traceable impact on one title or the other. I’m not gonna do it again.

      Suffice it to say, all of the anti-Theo folks conveniently forget far too much of what he did.

      • mabunar - Oct 14, 2011 at 2:31 PM

        Suffice it to say I’m not an anti-Theo person. You conveniently need everyone to be one extreme or the other. He did a lot of good, he did some bad, I liked his performance overall.

        Being ok with Theo leaving doesn’t have to be considered kicking him out the door and saying he didn’t do anything here. I hope he wins 3 WS in a row with Chicago.

        What I’m not buying into was the notion that the 07 team was ALL Theo…that’s all. He took what was here, made some tweaks at first, then some big changes and the Sox got two championships and have generally been one of the better teams in the league. He was successful. I just don’t like labeling a WS team (at least these two) as being totally one guy. Same thing for Duquette, I don’t give him sole credit for 04…just credit for obtaining some of the key players.

  3. gmsingh - Oct 14, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    “The knives that have been out…has been great fun”? Is Snookie your proofreader?

  4. acheron2112 - Oct 14, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    “I can’t help but think that everyone in Boston is gonna wake up one day and realize that they’ve let their manager and GM go a bit too easily.”

    I, as well as all my friends who are Sox fans, think that driving out Tito and Theo was a terrible idea. It’s not “everyone in Boston”. (Ok, to be fair, I moved out of Mass. several years ago, so I’m not around anymore to see what it’s like, but I do still have friends there who are still being reasonable.) It’s mostly the CHB and his ilk at the Globe, and the type of moron fan that all big fanbases have who thinks he could be GM because he won his fantasy league or whatever. People are frustrated, sure, and there have certainly been missteps by Theo, which he would readily acknowledge. But I think most fans realize that Theo and Tito have almost certainly been the best GM and manager in the franchise’s history.

  5. drunkenhooliganism - Oct 14, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    We all want our owners to be fans. But we don’t want them to be talk overreactive sports radio caller fans.

    • drunkenhooliganism - Oct 14, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      I swear I deleted that “talk” before I hit send

      • 18thstreet - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:22 PM

        It’s hard to accept the word of a Drunk Hooligan.

      • kopy - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:33 PM

        “I swear to drunk I’m not God!”

  6. loungefly74 - Oct 14, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    i believe boston ownership is blowing it by over-reacting. its not like the red sox sucked. if it werent for an improbable start and finish, they would have made it. i think losing the 2 guys who brought them the most success in 80+ years is a big mistake. good for the cubbies getting theo. im sure terry will have no problem getting a job as well.
    not sure i agree with the Liverpool FC distraction idea. i mean, thats why owners get good GM’s. the GM’s do the brunt of the office work.

  7. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    It’s not like Francona was this huge success before he came to Boston. He sucked with the Phillies. Why? Because the team sucked and they didn’t go for his act. Fine. He refined himself as a manager and made himself more player-friendly and it worked with the “idiots” of 2004 and the talented 2007 team.

    But let’s not forget that in 2004, the Red Sox came back from 3-0 down in the ALCS and in 2007 they came back from 3-1 down in the ALCS. So there was a little bit of luck involved there too.

    Maybe Tito would have gotten back the clubhouse, but it was clear that by the end of the season, he had lost those guys. Not all of them, but enough to hurt the team. All the reasons for losing can not be found on the spreadsheet no matter how much some want to tell you they are.

    In the end, Tito’s time had come. And so had Theo’s. I don’t care what everybody is saying, Theo was good for the Red Sox and so was Tito. Those two brought two titles to the team. Even though I think the time had come for both to move on from the Red Sox, I don’t think their accomplishments can be overlooked.

    And who is to say that the next manager won’t end up being as good as Tito? The next manager can’t have a resume any worse than Francona’s was before he was hired by the Red Sox.

    • mabunar - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:19 PM

      It just doesn’t help with the way things are being handled with the exits though.

      What if they had waited a bit and had not fired Francona that first week after?

      What if they instead had started this Theo to Chicago thing first (see I think once Cubs needed a GM, this part was going to be pursued somehow no matter what) as a more amicable set of negotiations? Pretend Sox make and even win the WS. If I’m Theo, I might be even more interested in going to Chicago. Because a) I’d be leaving Boston on a high note and b) able to take on the next big challenge.

      Then they promote Cherington. Then they start discussing Francona’s future with team and if it can happen.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 14, 2011 at 1:28 PM

        They had the 2012 option on Francona that I believe they would have had to give him within 5 days of the end of the season…unless I am confused about the time-frame of when they had to make that decision.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 14, 2011 at 2:07 PM

        The option on Francona required them to pick up 2 years, not just 2012.

        But I don’t think money was really the driving factor here.

    • mabunar - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      And I didn’t thumbs down this. I agree about Francona being unproven and that another manager could be successful here. (of course, will the ‘next’ one be that guy?)

  8. 8man - Oct 14, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    I think the same thing. Everyone over reacted. Would have been easier to just kick everyone in the ass and say, “We get it done next year, or else. And we have some rules!”

    I was at that Orioles game and all during it, while the Sox were leading and the Rays were trailing, I asked myself, “Are they good enough to beat the Tigers or the Rangers?” I wasn’t sure of it.

    I’m just not sure you justify parting ways with a GM/Manager tandem that won two World Series in 4 seasons just because they missed the playoffs two consecutive years. Three consecutive years? Maybe. Maybe there is a lot we don’t know.

    And to the Yankees and their fans, as much fun as you had watching the Sox miss the playoffs, we are having the same fun knowing you have more free time to celebrate it.

  9. APBA Guy - Oct 14, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    De., I might buy the Liverpool FC as a distraction angle a little more if it weren’t for the Glazers over in Manchester. They’ve done pretty well with their hands off approach in Manchester, although their NFL franchise has been genuinely stinky.

    I think Henry’s issue is more that, unlike finance, where so much is rigged in his favor, top-level sports has a large element of random outcome variability. You just can’t control it down to the nth degree. Liverpool missed the Champions League last year, it isn’t guaranteed this year (though they have an excellent opportunity). Boston made the playoffs last year, but missed this year, barely. That’s damn good.

    But. If his expectation is to make the playoffs with Boston every year, or to win the WS every 5 years or so, then expect to start seeing the same kind of agitation he’s started in Liverpool, where he wants to have Premier League clubs negotiate their own foreign TV rights, like Barcelona and Real Madrid, a proposal that will destroy the Premier League as we know it, and for that reason is sure to fail in the owners’ meeting. So far he’s confined himself to turning over his team management in Boston, but when that doesn’t work, what will he do next?

    • drmonkeyarmy - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      The key difference between Liverpool and Manchester United can be summed up in two words: Sir Alex.

      • APBA Guy - Oct 14, 2011 at 1:19 PM

        One of two key differences. The other is that the Glazers have increased ManU’s commercial income (primarily apparel) by $ 150M (100M pounds). That revenue is not shared with other Prem clubs.

    • jimbo1949 - Oct 14, 2011 at 3:42 PM

      “Boston made the playoffs last year, but missed this year, barely.”

      If you’re saying Boston made the playoffs in 2010 you’re definitely wrong. How does that affect your thesis?

  10. Kyle - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    I just have a hard time believing that it’s possible to improve at the manager and GM positions after letting Francona and Theo go. There’s two instant organizational downgrades before the off-season even officially begins. But I guess the whole “avoid a ridiculous amount of injuries to key players and trust that superstars will play up to their talent level” plan for next season isn’t really going to fly around there.

    • mabunar - Oct 14, 2011 at 12:39 PM

      They certainly had injuries…but to blame the collapse in September on them…c’mon. There’s more going on there.

      Remember Sox almost had Beane as GM…Epstein was just the guy who fell into the spot when it fell through. As much as I am thankful to Theo for all he’s done, I’m going to wish him Good Luck with the Cubs, and I’m going to give this Cherington a chance. He’s been around Theo a lot of this time and was co GM with Hoyer (who seems to really endorse him as a good choice as successor).

    • hystoracle - Oct 14, 2011 at 1:07 PM

      Because it is so challenging being a GM for a team with an open checkbook? Have a hole just pay 3 guys to fill it.. Hopefully one will work out.

      I don’t think they will have a hard time finding someone to fill that job.. And it sounds like the clubhouse had pretty much tuned Francona out. Their play in September spoke volumes to that point.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 14, 2011 at 2:20 PM

        Go tell the Mets and Cubs that any team with a high payroll can win.

        Look, it doesn’t take a genius GM to sign CC Sabathia or Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez or Mike Mussina when you’re offering the most money.

        There’s been plenty of people who bring up the Millar, Mueller, and Ortiz deals. For that matter, I loved the Bellhorn signing.

        But every single trade and most low-dollar deals that a GM makes reflect on him (and his leadership team). But who has Theo really traded away, and who did he get back? The pieces that got Curt Schilling didn’t turn out to be worth anything, for example. Look, Justin Masterson is looking like a very good pitcher. But you’re not probably going to trade for Victor Martinez without giving something up. That’s where Theo is damn impressive to me. Masterson is the exception. He’s made a zillion deals and didn’t give up anything I wish the Sox still had. There were fans who were wailing about giving up Matt Murton in the Nomar deal. Where is HE now?

        I think Cherington is going to do a fine job. But people who are criticizing Theo have very, very short memories. Moreover, I think they fail to realize the kinds of mistakes that all GMs make.

        I assume these are the same people who are convinced that no one other than Tim Bogar ever got a runner thrown out at home.

      • mabunar - Oct 14, 2011 at 3:03 PM

        Theo just signed Colon too soon. (Pre Special Treatments)

      • mabunar - Oct 14, 2011 at 3:04 PM

        Well, and even if Rizzo, Kelly and Fuentes become good major leaguers it’s still a win as long as Gonzalez produces his normal output.

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