I love this blog. Last night, RC posted a link to a one-sided article about how Theo Epstein is overrated and I said that I wished someone would take a fair look at it. RC did just that and I'm glad he did. He was responding to this article from last year.
Since that ‘04 title run, Epstein has been looked at as a man among boys to Sox fans. He was a key cog in helping finally garner that elusive championship. However, he has not kept to that standard. In fact, he’s made some of the worst moves of any GM over the last seven years. Don’t believe me? Here’s a few guys he’s picked up and what it cost to get them: John Lackey ($82.5 mill), Carl Crawford ($142 mill), Mike Cameron ($15.5 mill), John Smoltz ($5.5 mill), JD Drew ($70 mill), Edgar Renteria ($40 mill), Daisuke Matsuzaka ($103 mill, including bid price), Matt Clement ($25 mill), Julio Lugo ($36 mill) and Bobby Jenks ($12 mill). That doesn’t even include the players he acquired via trade that did nothing for his team: Wily Mo Pena (cost: Bronson Arroyo), Eric Gagne (David Murphy) and Ramon Ramirez (Coco Crisp).
All of thiw is true. It's simply a fact and it's a part of what Theo has done over the years in baseball. I disagree that all these contracts were bad. Some were worse than others, but I rather liked the JD Drew signing, but that's irrelevant. The fact is that Theo has made a lot of mistakes. There's nothing wrong with pointing this out. To pretend it didn't happen doesn't get us anywhere. RC acknowledges that and adds this:
The 2002 Red Sox, before Theo took over, already had some superstars in Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Pedro Martinez. One could argue that Theo didn’t fix what wasn’t broken. By 2003, Theo had added David Ortiz, Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar to the mix, as well as a very talented reliever in Mike Timlin. Curt Schilling came over in 2004. And of course all Cubs fans know about Nomar being traded to Chicago while Boston won it all, with another impact player by the name of Kevin Youkilis (drafted pre-Theo but implemented during Theo’s tenure).
And finally we look at 2007, which was again almost completely ignored. Dustin Pedroia – drafted in 2004. Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett – acquired in trade (ironically featured on MLBTR today) in 2005. Jacoby Ellsbury – drafted in 2005. Jonathan Papelbon – drafted in 2003 (still Theo). Hideki Okajima – signed in 2006. Pedro Martinez was gone. Bronson Arroyo, oh he of the lamented trade, also gone. No Nomar, no Trot Nixon, no O-Dog, no more Johnny Damon. Can we at least consider that Theo built the 2007 team almost entirely from scratch? The only holdovers were David Ortiz (a Theo acquisition), Kevin Youkilis (who started playing under Theo’s tenure), Jason Varitek (the captain), Manny Ramirez (because he doesn’t suck), Curt Schilling, Mike Timlin, Doug Mirabelli (a backup catcher, yay) and Tim Wakefield (who doesn’t age).
This is fantastic. It didn't take an exhaustive amount of research to find the many things that Theo did that were great and productive deals for the team. There were many good decisions and many bad decisions. Even Theo acknowledged that's part of the game the first day he was hired when he said the best GMs get it right 55% of the time. That's a lot of times when they get it wrong.
There are some people, mainly Red Sox fans and random idiots, who would like to pretend all of these things didn't happen. It's no better to pretend these things happened than it is to completely ignore the bad things. Both create imperfect pictures of who Theo has been and is likely to be moving forward. Theo Epstein is a human being and as such, he's made many mistakes, some of which have been ridiculous (Lackey, Crawford, Dice-K come to mind) and some of them just didn't turn out well. Some decisions turned out better than expected and some just reached the expectations they were paid for.
Sometimes he got it right. Sometimes he got it wrong. That's just how it is being a GM. There's no such thing as a GM who always makes the right decisions or a GM who never does. If the best GMs get it right 55% of the time, the worst ones probably get it right 45% of the time. Think about it, some of these decisions could be made by braindead idiots. It's like a routine fly ball to center field. It's a player every damn CF would make. Most of the decisions the front office make are comparable to routine flies to the outfield.
Good GMs will get a lot of things wrong and bad GMs will get a lot of things wrong. To suggest otherwise is absurd.
Very well done by RC.