The Continued Greatness of Theo Epstein

While some hipsters may argue for Andrew Friedman and his Dodgers think tank, Theo Epstein is still by far the most talented executive working in baseball today. The former Red Sox general manager didn’t necessarily build this current Boston team, but he certainly laid the foundations with astute draft picks and legendary signings. Meanwhile, in Chicago, he’s constructed a juggernaut that looks set to dominate for many years to come, affirming his reputation.

Theo Epstein

Epstein’s achievements in Boston are meticulously documented, to the point where people tend to forget the magnificence of his everyday maneuvering. The overarching narrative is intoxicating. Theo’s expertise in statistics and scouting delivered the first Red Sox championship in eighty-six years. As if that wasn’t enough, the wonder kid then plotted a further title run in 2007. The Red Sox were transformed from streaky contenders to serial winners.

Of course, things didn’t end particularly well between the Red Sox and Theo Epstein. Epstein felt pressure from ownership to make extravagant free agent signings that helped television ratings but hindered his vision for a sustainable baseball machine. Nevertheless, despite receiving some unfair criticism in recent years, Epstein left a strong legacy that we still see on the field every single day at Fenway Park.

The Legacy of Theo Epstein

Dustin Pedroia, the heart of this team, was drafted by Theo. So was Clay Buchholz, but hey, you can’t have them all. Theo also signed David Ortiz and Junichi Tazawa, two key pieces on the 2016 Red Sox. However, what many people don’t acknowledge is that Theo also drafted Betts, Bradley Jr., Swihart, Vazquez, Owens and Shaw. As for Xander Bogaerts, that guy playing shortstop and leading the league in hitting? Well, Epstein signed him, too.

Obviously, a lot has happened since Theo left Boston for Chicago, and Ben Cherington and Dave Dombrowski have made worthy tweaks to this team. But facts must be respected, and one such fact is that the fingerprints of Theo Epstein are all over this Red Sox team. Though it may pain some bitter fans, he deserves greater recognition for that.

How the Cubs Were Built

While Boston is a fine offensive ball club, the Cubs are in a different universe right now. Chicago is 44-19, and has a legitimate shot at beating the all-time record of 116 regular season wins. As a team, the Cubs get on base at a .347 clip, second only to the Red Sox, but every starter has an ERA below 3.00 and the bullpen has been solid. Oh, and the Cubs also lead the league in several defensive stats, as if they weren’t dynamic enough.

Perhaps most impressively, this team was built from scratch by Theo and Jed Hoyer, his trusty lieutenant. They inherited a mess at Wrigley Field, and decided that the best way to get better was first to get worse. Short term pain for long term game was the mantra. Epstein was given the space, time and revenue to execute his Utopian plan for the ultimate baseball team.

First, a young core was established, mostly in the minor leagues, courtesy of trades and brilliant draft choices. Then, once it had matured, external free agents that made sense were signed to compliment the homegrown nucleus. That’s how the Cubs wound up with such a formidable team, with elite players such as Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber primed to lead the North Side resurgence for perhaps a decade to come.

Theo’s Visions for Boston Carried Out in Chicago: What will the Future Hold?

Right now, we’re seeing at Wrigley Field what Theo Epstein once envisaged for Fenway Park and the Red Sox. Many people are quick to say that this fan base wouldn’t tolerate such an aggressive rebuild. Surely it was more purposeful than the general cellar-dwelling of recent times. Yes, the Red Sox won a World Series in 2013 while the Cubs tanked, but Chicago now has a window to win multiple rings while Boston’s future is very bright but far more uncertain.

Ultimately, Theo Epstein was the architect responsible for the two most potent offenses currently dominating Major League Baseball. While he certainly made mistakes in Boston, and developing pitching has always been an issue for his front offices, Red Sox fans must appreciate his continued influence on the team’s fortunes.

Perhaps the Sox and Cubs will meet in the World Series this year. After all, both teams are in strong positions. However, when the last generation of Theo players leaves the Red Sox, the true test will present itself. Can Dave Dombrowski match his forebear in creating a sustainable, organic winner? Only time will tell.

Hoping for some old (Dodger) trash to return to Fenway

return to fenway

Winslow Townson/Getty Images; Jim Rogash, via Getty Images, Ray Stubblebine, via Reuters, Elsa, via Getty Images, Mark J. Terrill, via Associated Press
Clockwise from top center, the Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and Carl Crawford for Dodgers first baseman James Loney.

For the Red Sox, Aug. 25, 2012 was like any other trash day. Well, except one thing:

The trash man handed the Red Sox a check for $270 million.

This trash guy wore LA Dodger Blue, and the money went to their purchase of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from the Red Sox. The Sox needed no special trash sticker here. It was legitimate trash.

Now, I want this trash to return to Fenway.

I just can’t help it. It’s all I’ve been thinking about lately – Dodger Blue. And I don’t think I’m alone.

While the Sox are battling Detroit for the American League Championship, I’ll be thinking of the Dodgers – and how badly I want them to win the National League Championship Series. (doesn’t look good so far as they lost Games 1 and 2 to the Cards).

Adrian Gonzalez. Carl Crawford. Josh Beckett. Those stinkin’ bums.

Admit it: you want them coming back to Fenway Park for the World Series, too.

To me, this would be poetry at its best. Three of the most hated former Red Sox of all-time, in all their pretentious, arrogant glory, coming back to Yawkey Way to battle for the Series. Self-absorbed professional athletes vs. self-less ones.

The Red Sox beating them would put the ultimate stamp on this 2012-Bobby-Valentine-last-place-amnesia-campaign that we call the 2013 season.

Last year’s Red Sox season, you see, was like having a motor-oil milkshake for 162 games. Sure, Valentine’s to blame for about 103 percent of it all, but it didn’t help we had to deal with Whiny (Crawford), Phony (Beckett) and Texty (Gonzalez).

They are what was really wrong with the Red Sox last year. Overpaid and under-performing, and just bad for the team. Not chicken-and-beer bad. I didn’t even mind that. They’re baseball players. They eat and drink.

Those Dodger guys served a self-imposed isolation last year. While Dustin Pedroia and Papi were on Yawkey Way trying to play baseball, those guys were on Deer Island. They just didn’t buy in, and once things started to get bad, they made it worse by being cold, distant and just downright bitchy.These guys – except Beckett in 2007 (kinda stinks he’s injured) – did nothing for us but make a horrendous season worse.

They were trash, one piece of trash I’d like to see again on Yawkey Way, just so we can tie it up and toss it out again.

365 Days Past the Blockbuster Deal

Josh Beckett Blockbuster Deal

Josh Beckett has the power to block this inclusion in the trade

Finally, the Red Sox versus the Dodgers in a three game series, at Chaves Ravine Stadium in L.A.  The Red Sox took it home, exactly 365 days after the Blockbuster deal between the L.A Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. The result after this Sunday’s match-up?  The Red Sox took it all the way to win two of the three games. Jake Peavy pitched a great game Sunday night at the Dodgers stadium for an 8-1 win.  Jarrod Saltilamacchia, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli all homered on the 1 year anniversary of the landmark trade.  The Red Sox remain on top of the AL East five games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Xander Boegarts made his 4th major league appearance and, as a result, Boegarts got his first RBI double.

So, the Dodgers lost to the Red Sox. Their first series loss since June 14. However, the Sox remain on top of the AL East while the Dodgers are not far from first in the NL West.

The “Megatrade”, back in the summer of 2012, was known as the ‘most one-sided deal’ in baseball history.  After all, the Red Sox shed 262.5 million dollars in salaries in one afternoon and placed it in the hands of the L.A Dodgers. The Dodgers took on players, Carl Crawford, Adrienne Gonzalez and Josh Beckett.

The question remains, one year later, which team made out?

Sunday marked the 1 year anniversary of the mega trade. One of the biggest accomplishments for the Sox was getting rid of last year’s clubhouse attitude.  The clubhouse went from an enraged team with no camaraderie to a clubhouse of respect and dignified players who work together in unison.

In the beginning, it didn’t look so promising for the Dodgers.  After all, Gonzalez less than performed, Crawford was recovering from tommy john’s surgery back in Houston and Beckett passably performed on the mound. Upon winning his first eight starts, Beckett’s season abruptly came to an end when he was forced to undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. The Dodger’s record was 30-42, last place in the National League West and things just seemed to spiral downward.  Gonzalez admitted to the Los Angeles Times his power hitting in the past was truly a thing of the past.

Although this may be, the season for the Dodgers began to take on a promising future.  Upon the Red Sox’ arrival to the Chavez Ravine stadium in California, the Dodgers had a stellar record; stats improved dramatically since the beginning of the season.  Since June 2013 the Dodgers proved successful with much help from both Gonzalez and Crawford.  At 42-10 their season has made a remarkable turnaround with hopes to make it to the World Series.

Although finances have been shabby in the past with Frank McCourt filing bankruptcy, the attendance this season at the Dodger’s stadium is also proof this Megatrade could be the best thing for the Dodgers.  45,000 people, on average, attend the home games, 22 games of which 55,000 came to watch in anticipation the Dodgers would outperform.

In my opinion, between the Red Sox clearing the negative energy that came from the clubhouse in 2012 and placing in the number one seat in 2013, and the Dodgers making a considerable mark in their debt (despite the 262.5 million dollar deficit) the Dodgers and the Red Sox both came out on top no matter the result by this season’s end.

Four Sox Players Traded to the Dodgers in 2012 to Improve This Season

players traded

How am I feeling right now?  At this point, after reading about the “Blockbuster deal” that happened last year between the L.A Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox, I feel invigorated and excited, yet nervous and slightly annoyed.  Although I am ashamed by not knowing about such an enormous event, I can look past it, and be taken aback by what I know now.  This truly is a huge and exciting trade.  So why haven’t I heard about it until now?  Here I sit in the quaint, quiet coffee shop called Pleasant Street Coffee House, in Gloucester, MA on the edge of my seat, as I read more and more into this extravagant and historical event.

The guys involved in the trade: Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto, James Loney, Allen Webster, Ivan de Jesus, Rubby Del La Rosa and Jerry Sands. Gonzalez, Punto, Beckett, and Crawford were all traded to the L.A Dodgers in 2012. It was a clean sweep for the Sox. After all, the Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine wanted to rid the players who ‘underperformed’ last season. With that said, the Red Sox threw approximately 260 million dollars’ worth of salaries at the Dodgers.  A trade is a trade.  So what did Boston get from it? The Sox acquired four minor league players and James Loney (a first baseman), as well as an enormous salary cut. When I say enormous, I mean it’s a ridiculous sum of money! The Sox now have to afford only 12 million dollars to the new prospects who have been sent to the minors (Triple A Pawtucket), leaving a lump sum of money to improve the team elsewhere. The 260 million dollar responsibility was left to the Dodgers when they signed the deal to gain Gonzalez, Crawford, Punto and Beckett. To me this seems like an impressive financial move for the Red Sox, but only if the prospects turn out.

Allen Webster, 23, and Ivan De La Rosa, 24, proved to have the potential the Red Sox seek for the 2013 season.  Sent to the minors this year the players are proving their worth, and expect to be on the team this season.  Both Webster and De La Rosa have strong right arms and deem stable for the defensive team.  Christian Vasquez, 22, (not a part of the deal), was also sent to the minors to improve the team’s status, and is also expected to come up to the big league this season.  Vasquez is known for his forceful throwing arm.

What a rush! I’ll be curious to see how things pan out.  This was a grave move.  Hopefully we see the results needed to craft a winning team.