JUNE 15, 2004
Theo Epstein’s Hidden Message?
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com
On June 14, 2004, Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein penned a special column for The Rocky Mountain News in Denver. The feature was titled “Epstein says there's an affordable way to win.”
It is a very unique situation for a General Manager of a major league baseball club to author a column for a newspaper during the season. In fact, this writer cannot remember ever seeing this happen during the last 30-something years. Why would Theo put forth such an effort?
At first blush, Epstein’s column could be taken as preliminary ‘we cannot beat the Yankees’ excuse effort. October is only four and a half months away. Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today? And, in the column Theo does make mention that “the Boston Red Sox don't have resources anywhere near to what the Yankees have.” While that is an old sad song, it is not one that has found its way out of the Sox brass’ play rotation. Hearing it one more time now – especially considering the current American League East standings - would not be a shock.
Nonetheless, looking past that possibility, and focusing on the repeated themes in the column, it would appear to the naked eye that the purpose of the feature is to share (for some reason, publicly, in writing) Boston’s practice towards running its operations.
In the column, Epstein states that the Red Sox are “extremely aggressive” and they “look at every possible way to improve.” However, he adds that Boston aims to combine that aggressiveness with a sense of fiscal responsibility and discipline. And, this combined approach means that the Red Sox will be “walking away from deals when the numbers just aren't right.”
Theo sums this up with a quasi-mission statement of “We think in the end, aggressiveness and fiscal responsibility is going to be a winning approach.”
However, the scrawling on this scorecard says that two specific and tactfully placed statements made by Epstein in this column are the true valuable messages for the members of the Red Sox Nation:
I think almost every off-season, you're going to see us get involved with a player and walk away and then have a team go out and spend more.
Having grown up in Boston, I don't get swayed by the dramatic public opinion, the passion that will lead the fans to embrace a so-called good move in the off-season (the way) that it might some (general managers). And likewise, a negative move or missing out on a player is met with such unbelievable disappointment by the fandom that it also might make a GM lose perspective. I've seen that happen. I grew up with a team that went through a lot of off-seasons similar to the one we've been through, and life goes on.
Think about those two statements. Now consider that current Boston Red Sox stars Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, and Jason Varitek will be free agents after this season. Also consider that current and valuable Boston Red Sox players Bill Mueller, Mike Timlin, and Alan Embree all have “club" options that need to be considered after this season.
Could it be that Theo, with this column, is giving notice below the threshold of conscious perception that Boston is going to “walk away and then have a team go out and spend more” on their cadre of players?
Does it mean that the Red Sox will not pursue the lusty prize plums of this upcoming free agent class – players such as Carlos Beltran – as in “off-seasons similar to the one we've been through”?
Dare we consider that these statements by Epstein mean both of these situations are true?
It has long been rumored that baseball commissioner Bud Selig arranged for John Henry to become owner of the Red Sox to ensure that someone who favors “salary cap thinking” is in charge of a large revenue team.
If this supposition about Henry and salary administration is true, given Theo’s statements in The Rocky Mountain News, it appears that the stars are aligning in the Bosox universe to form a fate for the Red Sox faithful of having to endure a penny-pinching (or, in Theo’s political correctness-speak “fiscal responsibility”) approach towards acquiring and retaining players in Boston.
“Moe” Henry, “Curly” Epstein and (Sox President) “Larry” Luchinno may take the public pose of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil;” but, in truth, each of them is more likely working on replacing their present upper limbs with sets of alligator arms. (Arms too short to reach into their pockets and grab some cash.)
Instead of demanding to “Reverse the curse!” the members of Red Sox Nation should start insisting for Boston management to “Open the purse!”
Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com. Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season. Steve can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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