Red Sox fans will forever save Theo Epstein a spot in their hearts for bringing the Nation two World Series Championships in 2004 and 2007. Now the President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, Epstein undoubtedly takes credit for the acquisition of Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks and the free agent signing of David Ortiz from the Minnesota Twins. He also dumped fan favorite shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in a ballsy move that ousted the disgruntled shortstop to the Chicago Cubs in a four team deal which sent Montreal Expos' slick fielding shortstop Orlando Cabrera and Minnesota Twins' Gold Glove first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to Boston. Cabrera and Mientkiewicz beasted in the 2004 playoffs and helped the Sox win their first World Series in 86 years. The youngest general manager in Major League Baseball history also takes credit for acquiring pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell in 2006, who were the Sox most valuable players in the 2007 World Series winning postseason.
Curt Schilling was traded to the Red Sox in the 2003 offseason after the team was coming off a devastating loss to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship playoffs. Schilling was 36 when he was traded to the Sox and battled injuries in his 2003 season, but still posted a 2.94 Earned Run Average in 24 starts. Paired with future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson, the two formed a devastating one two punch for Arizona and were in the top three for Cy Young voting during Schilling's four year career as a Diamondback. In 2001, the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the World Series as Schilling went 4-0 in the playoffs with a 1.12 ERA. He and Johnson shared World Series MVP honors. As Schilling rapidly approached 40, Arizona, looking to get younger, accepted Epstein's offer of pitchers Casey Fossum and Brandon Lyon, who were both in their mid 20s in 2003. Fossum was a bust for Arizona in 2004 posting a 6.65 ERA in 27 starts. He lasted just one year with the club before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. Lyon has enjoyed a decent career as a journeyman relief pitcher, but posted a 4.43 ERA in four years with the Diamonbacks. Schilling, meanwhile, went 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 2004 as he helped the Sox Reverse the Curse and win their first World Series Championship since 1918. He was second in Cy Young voting behind former Minnesota Twins' ace Johan Santana. In the 2004 playoffs, Schilling was 3-1 with a 3.57 ERA. He battled injury and age over the next few years after 2004, but in the 2007 playoffs, Schilling went 3-0 with a 3.0 ERA as the Sox won their second World Series in four seasons. Schilling will be remembered for his incredible leadership, warrior mentality, and toughness on the mound. His strikeout to walk ratio of 3116 to 711 remains the best in MLB history. Schilling is a borderline Hall of Famer, but will likely make it in due to his three World Series Championships and top strikeout to walk ratio.
David Ortiz began his career in 1997 with the Minnesota Twins where he battled wrist and knee injuries in his young career. His best season with the Twins was in 2002 in which he hit 20 homeruns to go along with a .272 batting average in 125 games. After Twins' management gave up on the slugger in the 2003 offseason, Epstein gave Ortiz a shot and signed the then 27 year old slugger. Ortiz hit 30 homeruns and drove in 101 runs in 128 games as the Sox starting designated hitter. Often dubbed as the greatest cluch hitter in Red Sox history, Ortiz has developed a Hall of Fame resume with Boston which includes career totals of 401 homeruns, a .285 batting average, and a solid .380 On Base Percentage. Ortiz has played ten seasons with the Sox and likely wouldn't have been a starting designated hitter had he stayed with Minnesota. In the 2004 playoffs, Ortiz hit five homeruns, drove in 19 runs, and hit a whopping .400. In the 2007 playoffs, Ortiz added on to his legendary status in Boston as he hit .370 with three homeruns and drove in ten. Ortiz signed a two year contract over the 2012 offseason to remain with the Sox through 2014. Epstein without question scored a diamond in the ruff with Big Papi, as he remained a free agent until Epstein pulled the trigger in late January.
Before the 2004 July 31st Trade Deadline, Theo Epstein was bold enough to trade Nomar Garciaparra after a poor 2003 postseason in which "Nosemar" hit zero homeruns and struck out ten times against the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees throughout the ALDS and ALCS. Grady Little, Boston's manager in 2003, took a great deal of heat for not leaving Pedro Martinez in the 11th inning of the ALCS versus the Yanks in game seven, instead opting to bring in knuckleballer Tim Wakefield from the bullpen. Subsequently, New York's bum third baseman Aaron Boone jacked a walk off homerun off Wakefield which left Red Sox Nation depressed as the Yankees got the best of them again. They were so close this time, and Epstein ended up canning Little in the 2003 offseason in favor of the best manager in Red Sox history, Terry Francona, who managed the Sox during the 2004 and 2007 seasons. The 2004 season was a fresh start for the team and players instantly fell in love with Francona whose laid back, friendly style of managing allowed the Sox to be carefree on the field and play the game like kids. During the 2004 season Nomar had only played 38 games up until the Trade Deadline, so, coupled with his ghostly presence in the 2003 playoffs, as well as injury build-up, decreased statistics, poor defense, and an overall pissy attitude in the clubhouse, Epstein shocked the baseball world and traded the 1997 American League Rookie of the Year and six time All Star. Though it had some fans scratching their heads, other level headed savants saw the move coming and applauded Epstein for making a much needed change. Both Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz were well known for their defensive prowess in the field, but Cabrera was hitting just .246 with the Expos before the trade to Boston and Mientkiewicz, with the Twins, was also hitting .246. However, both had great years in 2003 hitting around .300 and played full seasons with no injuries. Addressing the controversial trade, Epstein stated,
If there was a flaw on this club, it was that the defense on this team was not championship-caliber. We might have gotten to the postseason. But, in my mind, we weren't going to win a World Series with our defense the way it was. We've acquired two players who have won Gold Gloves. You never want to trade a player of Nomar's caliber. I should start as saying as someone who has worked with the Red Sox [the last three years] and grew up a Red Sox fan, it is with mixed emotions we see Nomar go. He's been a great Red Sox [player], one of the greatest of all-time. I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future. I didn't want [the defense] to become a fatal flaw. We've been a .500 team for three months. I liked the club before, but I like it better now. We're a fully functional club (Ian Browne, MLB.com).In the Red Sox 2004 World Series winning postseason, Cabrera ended up hitting .288 and drove in 11 runs, while Mientkiewicz hit a whopping .444. The team's defense substantially improved throughout the season, and Epstein thus looked like a genius for aiding in finally breaking the 86 year championship drought the Red Sox had undergone since 1918.
In the 2005 offseason, Epstein made another huge trade sending top prospects Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez to the Florida Marlins in exchange for 2003 World Series hero Josh Beckett (47 strikeouts in 42 innings, 2.11 earned run average in the postseason and beat the Yankees) and all star third baseman Mike Lowell. Beckett had a bad first year with the Sox, posting a 5.01 ERA and serving up 36 homeruns. However, he was merely getting used to the switch from National League to American League and, in 2007, came second in Cy Young voting boasting a 20-7 record with a 3.27 ERA. In addition, where it counts, Beckett put together the best postseason pitching performance in Red Sox playoff history that year, leading Boston to their second World Series Championship in four seasons, going 4-0 with a 1.2 ERA.
Lowell had a solid 2006, hitting .284 to go along with 20 homeruns. His play skyrocketed in 2007 when he hit .324 with 21 homruns and 120 RBIs, all while playing Gold Glove caliber defense at the hot corner. In the 2007 playoffs, Lowell led Boston's offense and won World Series MVP due to his .353 average and 15 RBIs against the Colorado Rockies.
Clearly, Epstein's brilliant moves are what he will be known for during his tenure with the Red Sox. In addition, Nomar's play began to fall off after his career in Boston ended, playing an average of just 85 games per season which included stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics as well. Former top prospects Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez have enjoyed solid careers, though Ramirez was over-hyped as a Sox prospect from the start. Ramirez did win NL Rookie of the Year in 2006, but hasn't managed to stay healthy as of late and his sub par defense forced him to make the move from shortstop to third base. Anibal Sanchez is currently with the Detroit Tigers as their 3rd starter and posted a respectable 3.86 ERA in 31 starts last season. Both Ramirez and Sanchez haven't won a World Series Championship yet. Although they still haven't hit the prime of their playing careers and are still very talented, it goes to show that if you want to win a championship, you need to sacrifice the potential of young players in order to obtain established veterans. General management is the toughest job in sports and requires the individual to go with a gut feeling the majority of the time, even if decisions are controversial and undergo negative scrutiny. KJ RamseyKyle Ramsey 2/19/2013 05:28:00 PM Tweet