Blog Entry

Epstein's track record screams winner

Posted on: October 12, 2011 12:15 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 5:07 pm
By Matt Snyder

In light of the recent movement that Theo Epstein is very close to becoming the general manager (or more) for the Chicago Cubs, let's try to balance things out a bit.

The amount of blame being placed on Epstein for bad contracts and recent failure in Boston is deafening if you look at our message boards, Twitter and elsewhere on the web. That's what happens when there is an open forum, and it's fine. All opinions are encouraged here and when the Red Sox collapsed like they did in September, it's only natural that the GM has to shoulder a large portion of the blame.

But all the hate and concentration on the failures is completely ignoring the good he did at Boston. So, just in case you've all forgotten, here are the good things he did in Boston:

• In terms of player development, the following current Red Sox were drafted and developed on Epstein's watch: Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard. Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester were in the low levels of the minors when Epstein took over. So by no means did the Red Sox of the past decade only "spend" to win. They developed stars internally, too. 

• Yes, the Red Sox traded Hanley Ramirez to get Josh Beckett. But do the Red Sox win it all in 2007 without Beckett? Nope. And don't forget, Mike Lowell came to the Red Sox in that trade, too. And if you want to blame Epstein for trading Ramirez, you can't. He was on hiatus at the time.

• Epstein traded for Curt Schilling after the 2003 season. There is no way Boston wins it all in '04 without Schilling anchoring the rotation.

• Epstein picked up David Ortiz and Kevin Millar off the scrap heap. Things seemed to work out well after both of those signings.

Epstein to Cubs?
• Epstein had the stones to deal All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 -- coincidentally to the Cubs -- replacing him with Orlando Cabrera and shoring up the defense with Doug Mientkiewicz at first base. The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series that season.

• Prior to 2004, the Red Sox were going with a closer-by-committee approach. Epstein scrapped that and signed Keith Foulke, who recorded 32 saves, a 2.13 ERA and the final out of the World Series in 2004.

• Time will tell if Epstein won the Adrian Gonzalez trade, but he gave up two 21-year-old prospects and a throw-in to acquire an elite first baseman on a team ready to compete now. That's a no-brainer. You have guys who might be great or might not pan out versus a player who is already great. 

• In nine seasons in Boston, Epstein's Red Sox went to the playoffs six times -- coming from the best division in the majors -- and won the World Series twice. Boston had won the World Series zero times since 1918 before he took the job. Even if you want to ignore everything above, I don't know how you can look at the track record in this bullet point and act like he's not a good general manager.

Add it all up, and he's nothing less than a winner. Painting a picture otherwise is ignoring the whole story.

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Since: May 4, 2009
Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:22 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

The position of GM is extremely important and yet almost impossible to value critically. There have only been a half dozen or so truly great GMs in the history of baseball. Not sure if McGraw held the title of GM but he ran the Giants club from the dugout even deciding not to let his team play a World Series, and it took pressure from all the owners in the NL to force him to play the Giants in the next one. He made all the player personnel decisions as well. The way he put together teams became the model for other ballclubs as baseball moved forward into the 20th century. Only Connie Mack could be said to have influenced the game's player management as much going forward. Branch Rickey and Larry Macphail to me, are the two greatest figures in upper basball mgmt. ever. They met and became friends at a young age and between the two of them, in the 30's developed and perfected for the Cards and Dodgers; the multi-tiered
minor league orginzational system of player development that is the method for building a team used by the vast majority of clubs today. Since then, Buvassi and Campanis followed and improved on the method within the same Dodger organization, adapting to the advent of free agency by devolping great players and filling holes with affordable talent, yet never overpaying for top tier players. Only Shierholz of K.C. and ATL has earned the status of great GM in the modern era as he is the only GM to develop 2 World Series Champions without ever resorting to the Yankee method of spending more than anyone else to buy the best and see what happens. Ed Weiss in New York began his tenure in pinstripes in 1921 and set up the Yankee Way of buying other orginization's best talent but the impact it had on the way other clubs did business was negligible, for until the last decade in Boston, no other clubs attempted tp spend as much money as the Yankees; which is the basis for their method. Weiss was the first and longest tenured in a long line of Yankee bagmen that has been spending, throwing money at problems, for 90 years, buying 26 world Series in that span. The majority of Pennant winners over the last 20 years have followed the Yankee method as more clubs have more money due to the rise of Sports in the entertainment industry as a whole. Yet, no club has been able to sustain this method nor does anyone have right to believe they can unless their clubs are in N.Y., L.A., or Chicago. It will be interesting to see if Boston will try under new management. I guess in the end, a GM must be classified by their methodology before they can be graded. Epstein most certainly must be graded for his achievements by the Yankee method and as such he has been exceptional. 2 rings in less than a decade are impossible to ignore and his aquisition of Gonzalez will reap benefits for the Red Sox faithful for years to come. Yet, he must be ranked behind Watson/Cashman(i consider them to be the same person) as they have tripled that title total. Ultimately it is only mid-season in the career of young Theo. If he is able to bring a title to Cubs fans he will join Gillick as the greatest check signers of the modern era. He will have plenty of money to spend in the next couple of years as more than 50 mil comes off the books from Soriano, Zambrano and other overpaids. If he wins more than two with the Cubs he will stand alone as the greatest out-yankier of the Yankees ever.

Since: Jan 18, 2007
Posted on: October 13, 2011 4:42 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

I don't think Theo did a horrible job, but I do think his non moves should be evaluated too.  He was saved by other teams on many occasions.  He ended up getting saved by other teams (most often the Yankees) by the other teams either making the trade he couldn't or coming up with a longer richer contract.  Now I know not every decision was completely made by Theo, but there are a collection of moves that did not happen and made his list of blunders smaller.  The Yankees were able to insulate Theo and the Red Sox from the following (these are the few that I remember that may have affected the WS years '04 and '07 in a negative way):

* Jose Contreras (signed by NYY prior to '03)
* A-Rod (traded with Texas prior to '04)
* Javier Vazquez (aquired from the Expos prior to '04)
* Carl Pavano (signed as a FA prior to '05 season)
* Randy Johnson (traded with Arizona prior to '05 season)

Another move that the Sox can thank the Mets for preventing the Sox from making on Theo's watch, the Sox offered Pedro Martinez a three year deal that never should NOT have been offered (too long a contract ~ ask Mets fans who came in with a 4th year).

Since: Aug 27, 2010
Posted on: October 13, 2011 3:44 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

Random responses:
  • Anyone putting Adrian Gonzalez on the list of Theo's "bad trades" is an idiot.
  • To non-Bostonians, Carl Crawford had a "bad year."  We recognize the signs of a player who is good elsewhere, but can't handle it here.  See Edgar Rentaria and John Lackey, for instance. 
  • Thanks to the author for pointing out the farm system successes.  It drives me insane when someone who calls themselves a Red Sox fan claims we haven't developed any players. 
  • By the way, the farm system was a wreck when the new owners bought the team, completely neglected under the Harrington/Duquette regime.
  • Yes, most teams will have the same NUMBER of farm developed players, but NO they are not all as good as Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Lester, Papelbon, Bard (September excepted).
  • Theo was not perfect.  But the odds that the Red Sox will end up with a worst General Manager is about 70%, I'd say.
  • Terry Francona may not have been perfect, but the odds of ending up with a worse skipper are about 90%, I'd say.

Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:01 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

Epstein didn't trade for Becket. He quit during that period.  Mike Lowell was a throw in, and Epstein had nothing to with him either. If you're talking about Epsteins accomplishments, why mention players that were already in the minors when he was here? He had nothing to do with them. You're whole article is a sham.

Epstein had a great team when he came on board. If you're going to look at his "accomplishments," don't you have to compare them to his failures? Since you neglected to talk about them, I've already dont it for you. You can see he wasnt a great GM

-fat albers
- jed lowrie
- nancy drew
- gagne
-david wells
- joel pinero
- dice k
- matt clement
-byun hyun kim
-david riske
-coco crisp
-javy lopez
-wily mo pena
-mark kotsay
-jay payton
-joey gathright
-chad bradford
-mike myers
-scott williamson
-mark bellhorn
-tony graffanino
-adam laroche
-billy wagner
-boof bonser

Since: Oct 13, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 8:01 am

Epstein's track record screams winner

he's a gm. he can't hit, pitch, field, or run. you have scouts, you have a farm system, use them and get rid of high paying jobs that mean nothing.

Since: Jun 11, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2011 8:34 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

That was Eric Gagne, sorry about that!

Since: Jun 11, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2011 8:31 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

Just remembered another bad trade, sent  David Murphy and 3 others to Texas,Gagne, Murphy while not an all-star, would have looked ok in rightfield,. at Fenway this year!  

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: October 12, 2011 4:56 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

Nice PR job, Mr. Snyder...But it takes more than spin, to win.

The Redsox (and Cubs) obviously not only subscribe to the Yankees business model,"Buy better to Be better", they prioritise to it.. To propose that Theo Epstein is otherwise gifted, is completely unproven.

No team goes without developing internal talent, and the facts are, the Redsox farm has produced no more talent (less than some) than many teams with a fraction of the Redsox budget over Epstein's term. His trades have been overwhelmingly more frequently for contracts untenable by former teams, than for unproven players found via his astute talent assessment. He has made both good and bad signings, although he HAS had the luxury of being able to absorb the bad signings, still sign others, and still win... Clearly, he has NOT won enough to satisfy expectations, however... and it is very arguable that he got fair value for spending the 2nd most money in MLB during his tenure.

In his defense, Epstein HAS won more rings in Boston, than any team not playing hockey or basketball over the last century. When Theo Epstein is mentioned, NO ONE thinks "Franchise Builder", but his strengths DO fit what the Cubs are looking for in a GM, if the Cubs are looking for a better "Director of Spending", or a "Curse Breaker"... Theo Epstein appears to have a solid resume for those roles.

He's got a bit more of a challenge ahead though...Epstein will NOT be inheriting a Cubs organization anywhere near as complete as the Redsox had when Epstein took over...AND, won't have the benefit of an elitely-cashed divisional rival like the Yankees, to keep the pressure on his ownership to maintain his budget at the highest levels of MLB every year. He won't be gaining a more highly motivated roster, either. What Epstein will inherit is an entensly loyal fan following that doesn't have to win to spend. In that regard, Epstein might "win" in the finding more appreciation, for winning less.      

Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2011 3:47 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

what good trades?
Curt Schilling trade was one of the best in franchise history.

Also, I still think they ended up with the better end of the Adrian Gonzalez trade.

- Matt

Since: Jun 11, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2011 3:38 pm

Epstein's track record screams winner

1227, what good trades? I will give you that he did a good job with player developing,but as far as trades go, he had a couple that were awful, Bronson Arroryo for Willy Mo Pena or Jeff Suppan for Freddie Sanchez who went on to win a NL batting title and the most stupid thing of all, moving Ellsbury to leftfield for a 37 year old Mike Cameron! Brutal!      

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