Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Theo Epstein...A Very Mixed Bag

I sincerely hope that Theo took Dave Roberts out to dinner every night this past weekend because his steal and subsequent 8 game run by the Red Sox dramatically changed the way Red Sox fans view our current GM. A review of his record show a very mixed bag at best yet his popularity remains very high because of their 2004 Championship where he is giving much credit for saving the season by trading Nosemar. Credit he should absolutely get but if Dave Roberts doesn't beat that throw by the slimmest of margins then the Sox would have been nothing but an also ran and Theo very well would not have a job right now.

Good moves by Theo?
Sure, he signed Ortiz for almost nothing and projected him as a backup for Jeremy Giambi. He traded for Schilling for a bunch of guys who haven't amounted to anything. He let Pedro walk instead of signing him for 4 years. He let Damon walk instead of signing him for 4 years. He hired Terry Francona as manager and while I still don't really like the guy I will give him his due as I think Terry has been very good and this season is by far his best managing job in my opinion.

Bad moves by Theo?
Free agent busts in Mendoza, Clement, Renteria, Bradford and Byung-Hyun Kim. Traded Cal Meredith and Josh Baird for Doug Mirabelli. He traded Josh Hancock for Jeremy Giambi. He traded Marte, Shoppach and Mota for Crisp, Riske and Josh Bard. He traded Freddie Sanchez, Mike Gonzalez and cash for Suppan, Lyon and Martinez.

Moves the jury is still out on by Theo?
Two recent ones that look awful so far are Lugo and Drew. Dice-K looks pretty good but it is still too early on all three.

Theo receives a ton of credit for reviving what most people perceived as an awful farm system when he took over. Really? He were the Sox top 10 prospects at that time:
Kevin Youkilis
Freddy Sanchez
Jorge de la Rosa
Kelly Shoppach
Hanley Ramirez
Chad Spann
David Murphy
Manny Delcarmen
Jeremy West
Juan Cedeno

There was some pretty good talent down on the farm when he took over although early returns do indicate that Theo has done a very good job of drafting good young arms and position players. Certainly Dustin Pedroia has exceeded expectations and I think Jacoby Ellsbury will be making a major impact on this team for years.

All in all a very mixed bag and one that doesn't mesh with his current popularity.


RedFish said...

Theo also let Bronson Arroyo go, which has been a good move so far, as he is having a horrible season for the Reds at 2-8, 5.24 era. He also let go of Alex Gonzalez, which we could argue good or bad either way. I personally would have liked him to stay, as he is still a gamer, hardcore. And the Hanley trade for Lowell and Beckett has turned out well for both the Sox and the Marlins. Hanley will be great for years to come, but Lowell is still rock solid, and Beckett is having himself a pretty decent season himself, and should be at the top of his game for the next 3-6 years, at least. All in all, I think Theo has done a pretty decent job with the Sox, World Series win or not. Since his arrival, they have been pretty darn competitive every year, and consistantly among the best teams in all of baseball.

Junior Gong said...

No, he traded Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena so I don't see how that can be classified as a good move. Arroyo was sorely missed last year when he has a great season for the Reds and the Sox badly needed pitching in the 2nd half of the season.

Theo was not running baseball operations when the Beckett deal went down so it is unfair to judge him on it one way or another.

Sox have been competitive every year except last year but Theo has had a ton more money to work with than his predecessors. As late as 1999 the Sox were 3rd in their division with a payroll of $59,500 and 10th in MLB. It went up to 77M in 2000 and then spiked to 109M when The Duke signed Manny. Theo has had payrolls above 120M for the last 4 years and this year they are spending silly money ($145-160M).

Adawg said...

JG -- Good post. One caveat to your last comment however. Having a big payroll doesn't necessarily make your job as a GM easier. In fact, I would argue that while it's nice to have oodles of cash, it also brings higher expectations and substantial pressure. Just ask Brian Cashman (1st in team payroll) or Kenny Williams (5th in payroll) how much having wads of cash has increased their Tums intake as their clubs sit 10 and 11.5 games out of first place in their respective divisions.

For what it's worth, I think both Cashman and Williams are extremely talented GMs and would do well irrespective of how much payroll they had to work with. However, when their teams struggle, outsiders can't help but look at their payrolls and say, "that's the best they could do?".

One other example of big payrolls complicating the measure of success for a GM is J.P. Ricciardi in Toronto. The jury is still out on whether he's good or not due to a slew of injuries -- something he should have predicted with Burkett but could not have with Ryan. Two years ago, the Jays had a $45M payroll (25th in the league) and JP was considered scrappy because he was able to at least put up a fight in the AL East (Jays finished in 3rd place that year albeit 15 games back). Now that he's moved up to an $82M payroll (16th in the league) and the Jays sit 11.5 games back, fans are calling for his head ( for not living up to grand expectations. Is it fair? Probably not but that's the nature of the beast.

Junior Gong said...

On what basis is Cashman a very good GM? I just don't see it. Ditto for Ricciardi.

In my informal rankings I would have Terry Ryan, Billy Bean and John Schuerholtz as my top 3. In a grouping just behind them I would put Jocketty, Dombrowski and Shapiro.

RedFish said...

I stand corrected. Didnt quite mean 'let him go' as in, ' for nothing, but Im glad he's not with us now. And forgot that Theo had a small hiatus with the club. Good correction, bad research by the Redfish. No chum for me tonight.

I would put Dombrowski at the top of my GM list, based on what he did with the Marlins in 97, how he left the Marlins in great shape in 2001 which helped lead to our 2nd WS win in 2003, and what he has done with the Tigers since. I mean, they lost 106 and 119 games in '02 and '03. Beane hasnt even made it to the World Series. And his succesor, Larry Beinfest has been solid, finishing up the 03 team, bringing in Jack McKeon, Juan Pierre, Jeff Conine, and Ugueth Urbina, and calling up Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Not to mention that the Marlins have an extremely low payroll. He was 2nd to Ryan in Exec. of the Year Award in 2006.

And if I can nitpick for all of our knowledge, Billy Bean is a former baseball player who came out as gay, only the second to do so. Billy Beane is the A's GM. The 'e', in the end, makes all the difference. But we all know who you meant.

RedFish said...

Bienfest also brought in Pudge and Joe Girardi. Not bad..

JS said...

Nice post JG. Have been thinking about posting something on that for awhile. I would say by far, by far, the worst move theo has made is the mirabelli for bard/meredith move. He totally hit the panic button on that one and ditched his whole philosophy of grooming young talent. You can't move guys like that for an aging catcher who's a career .235 hitter. If Varitek goes down now, we literally have nobody to step up.

The single worst thing about the Arroyo trade is that he permanently traded away the ability to ever sign another guy, with the "hometown discount". Now anyone knows that if you're stupid enough to do that with theo, then you're just making yourself tradebait. That was a horrible betrayal for a guy that did everything he could just so he could stay in a red sox uniform.

Lastly letting Orlando Cabrera walk has to be one of the all-time bone-head moves that he has made.

For kicks I put together a line-up of what this team could look like if you reversed out some of the moves:

C - Jason Varitek/Josh Bard
1 - Youk
2 - Freddy Sanchez
3 - Hanley Ramirez
SS - Orlando Cabrera
LF - Manny
CF - Johnny Damon (w/Elsbury waiting in the wings)
RF - JD Drew or David Murphy
DH - Papi
4th OF - Dave Roberts

Anibal Sanchez (maybe)
Bronson Arroyo

TheRooster said...

The one thing you have to give Theo his due on is building and drafting a pitching staff the likes of which we've never had here. It's the reason we have the best record in baseball instead of looking up at the Yankees in the standings. And if the Sox ultimately win the WS and enter next year with a stable of starters including Beckett, Dice-K (Theo signing), Lester (Theo draftee), Bucholtz (Theo draftee), Wakefield, and Schilling (Theo trade) with Papelbon (Theo draftee) in the closer role, who's kidding who? We're still sitting on Hanson (Theo draftee), lil Papelbon (Theo draftee), and Bowden (Theo draftee).

Junior Gong said...

Obviously if the Sox win it this year than you must change the formula for how you rate Theo. However, their two biggest holes right now are the 1 and the 5 hole and if they fail in the playoffs he has to shoulder the blame. His big money investments in Lugo and Drew have failed in a major way so far.

Adawg said...

JG -- I didn't say that Cashman was "good", I said he was "talented." There is a big difference. Gerald Green for the Celtics is talented but I don't think anyone would claim that he's good yet. I also did not claim that Ricciardi was good or talented. My point with him was that a larger payroll has brought increased expectations.

That said (and please know that I hold a disdain for the Yankees that is greater than any other team in professional sports), the Yankees have been in the World Series five times since Cashman joined in 1998. They won three of those WS. You may argue that Cashman "inherited" the team that won the first three WS but he also could have blown those teams up. He didn't.

Joe said...

People give too much credit to Dave Roberts steal. I was at that game, and Kevin Millar broke up a double play to put Roberts on first base. I put a star next to Millar's out in my scorebook when he broke up the DP. Why doesn't this get more credit?