As a Yankee fan, I am often criticized for my partisanship when it comes to matters involving the Boston Red Sox. With a few exceptions, however, I like to think that I am a fair judge of the Sox.
I respect the team while rooting against them. My main complaints are with the fans (and yes, the same complaints hold true for Yankee fans as well). The sense of entitlement coming out of both camps is off-putting to say the least. But another aspect of the New England’s Red Sox Nation bothers me as well: The recent love affair with Theo Epstein is, in my mind, overplayed.
Across the Internet, Red Sox fans are jumping for joy. Let’s review.
- Three True Outcomes offers up a Casablanca quote.
- Zach Hayes at Fire Brand of the American League proclaims this “a beautiful sight.”
- Bob Timmermann at The Griddle wonders what this will do to Brian Cashman’s hair.
I think this enthusiasm is misplaced. Theo Epstein just can’t magically solve all of the Red Sox’s – or any team’s – problems.
Epstein is a very good General Manager. Only 33, he’s put together an impressive record working with the second biggest budget in the game. He brought a World Championship to a seemingly cursed franchise. Clearly, he has a development plan as the Red Sox now boast a potent farm system put together largely on his watch.
But at the same time, Theo is still a very young GM feeling his way around the organization. Much of the pieces of the 2004 World Series championship were brought in before Epstein’s time. Larry Lucchino, this winter’s villain, was as much a part of the Schilling deal as Epstein was. So the 2004 team was a bit of an Epstein/Lucchino/Duquette hybrid, as much as it pains the Red Sox to hear it. The parts secured by Epstein may have pushed the team over the top, but the foundation was in place long before Epstein arrived.
Meanwhile, in 2005, Epstein finally had the chance to put together his own version of the Red Sox. Many of the stars and spare parts that made the 2004 team a success were free agents, and most of them left for greener pastures. While Epstein put together a solid team in 2005, by the end of the season, the Sox flaw’s were on display for everyone to see. This was a team that, dare I say, relied a little too much on numbers and projections. The Sox scored runs by the bushel, but they were closer to the Yankees impersonal no-pitch, all-hit corporate feel in 2005 than they had been in years.
When the Epstein story blew up this off-season, the media latched onto it immediately. It became the cause célèbre in New England. Lucchino became the bad guy, and all of Epstein’s hard work unraveled at the hands of the four-headed and later two-headed GM monster in Boston. While Josh Beckett arrived, some of Epstein’s pet projects, Edgar Renteria among them, were traded. Others have seen their names in print for the past three months.
So as Epstein returns triumphantly to the fray, the Red Sox fans are excited. Here’s the man who will turn the seemingly dire situation at short and in center around. Here’s the man who can calm everyone’s fears that maybe the Sox won’t finish in third place this year. But I’m not so sure of that. Epstein is working within the same parameters of the existing Red Sox front office, and if you believe the rumors, he’s actually been working along side the front office for a few weeks now. So far that short stop hasn’t fallen out of the sky yet.
Epstein’s good; he’s among the top of the game. But he’s not good enough to wish away problems he, in part, helped create. I’m glad he’s back on the Sox just so the media outlets stop talking about it. But I hope Red Sox Nation realizes that Epstein may not be able to solve all of the problems right away. It gets lonely in Boston being charge of a rebuilding Red Sox team.