Negative Red Sox General Management

Since the 86 year World Series drought was ended in 2004, Red Sox fans across the Nation have been able to breath a sigh of relief, especially those who lived through the infamous 1986 World Series involving that Bill Buckner guy. Former Sox General Manager and current Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein made some fantastic moves during his tenure with Boston. His acquisitions of Curt Schilling, David Ortiz, Josh Beckett, and Mike Lowell, to name a few, allowed elder Sox fans who never witnessed a Boston World Series win in their lives to be able to live on peacefully. These players will eternally be Red Sox Gods for helping turn a struggling franchise around and winning it two World Series in four seasons.

The contributions Theo Epstein made to the Boston Red Sox organization will never be forgotten, but nobody is perfect. Though Epstein played an enormous part in structuring the Championship teams in 2004 and 2007, his blunders over the years must not be pushed aside. Professional athletes often go by the motto of never being satisfied. Every athlete wants to be part of a perennial dynasty or even be a member of the best team of its decade, such as the New England Patriots. Even so, Patriots fans still shake their heads over "What could have been?". The 2007 loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl was devastating, as was the 2011 loss to the hated "Kryptonic" rivals, and as was this past AFC Championship defeat at the hands of the Super Bowl 47 Champion Baltimore Ravens. Avid sports fans, especially Bostonians, just don't have it in their minds to be satisfied. They want more and live by a somewhat greedy code of "What have you done for me lately?". So, despite Epstein's success in crafting the 2004 and 2007 teams, there were mistakes he made along the way and bad judgments on players that largely go unnoticed due to the two World Series Championships he helped bring to Beantown.

Sure, every GM makes mistakes that get balanced out by good personnel moves, but some of Epstein's moves, especially through free agency, have screwed the Sox out of contention and re-building the roster in the years after the World Series winning seasons. After Epstein boldly pulled the trigger on the Nomar Garciaparra trade for shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Doug Mienticeiwicz at the 2004 Trade Deadline, and witnessing Cabrera's success in the World Series that year, the Nation expected OCab to be back for 2005. This was not the case as Epstein got greedy and tried to upgrade at the shortstop position by signing St. Louis Cardinals' shortstop Edgar Renteria to a four year $40 million contract, who ironically made the last out in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series. Epstein should have just stuck with Cabrera as "Rentawreck" experienced a terrible first and last year with Boston hitting .276 to go along with 100 strikeouts and 30 errors. The Red Sox won the 2005 American League Wild Card but were bounced by the Chicago White Sox in the American League Divisional Series during a three game sweep in which Renteria hit just .233. Renteria was shipped to the Atlanta Braves that 2005 offseason in exchange for third base prospect, Andy Marte, who has been out of the league since 2010.

Though many will forever be grateful toward him for hitting the "$14 Million Grand Slam" during Game 6 of the 2007 American League Championship Series, JD "Nancy" Drew is another Theo signing that had Sox fans cringing throughout the five year $70 million length of the contract. Praised for having a sweet, effortless lefty swing with the ability to hit to all fields, Drew did everything but. Despite his 11 Runs Batted In and .317 batting average in the 2007 playoffs, Drew couldn't manage to stay healthy during his tenure with the Sox and hit an average of .261 per season over the five years. Drew retired in 2011 after he played out his gaudy contract.

Still struggling to find a consistent solution at shortstop, Epstein signed Alex Gonzalez from the Florida Marlins in the 2005 offseason to a one year $3 million deal. Though not a great hitter, Gonzalez, like Cabrera in 2004, played Gold Glove caliber defense at short. That year, Gonzalez hit .255 with nine homeruns and 50 RBIs all while making just seven errors. Despite Gonzalez' solid presence at short, Epstein, again trying to find the perfect fit at short, let him go during the 2006 offseason and signed Julio Lugo from the Los Angeles Dodgers to a four year $36 million contract. Epstein, always enamored with speedy small ball players who can stretch doubles into triples and have the potential to be game changers on the basepaths, grossly overvalued Lugo. Like Renteria, Lugo underwent a disaster of a first season with Boston and played out two of the remaining three years which were even worse than his first, as the Sox had their hands tied with his ludicrous contract. He made 19 errors in 2007 to go along with an atrocious .237 batting average. Lugo did hit a decent .271 in the playoffs that year as the Sox captured their second World Series in four seasons, but only stole one base and struck out nine times.

Though Lugo and Drew both contributed in the 2007 World Series, there were other options out there who would have come much cheaper and yielded equal or better productivity. Epstein could have re-signed Orlando Cabrera after the team won the 2004 World Series and he would have been solid for the next few years, but Theo opted to continue to reach for what he thought was better. Though Drew smashed a grand slam in the first inning of Game 6 in the 2007 ALCS as the Sox faced elimination against the Cleveland Indians, he was incredibly overpaid and not close to a $14 million player. A player who could have filled the right field position more than adequately for the entire 2007 season was Jacoby Ellsbury, who was kept in Triple A too long and was finally brought up in late June after then centerfielder Coco Crisp got injured. Ellsbury hit .353 in 33 games and stole nine bases in 2007. In the playoffs that year, Ellsbury hit .360 in 11 games.

Much of Red Sox Nation was excited when the team was rumored to be making a push for Japanese ace pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Seibu Lions in the 2006 offseason. The perennial Nippon Professional Baseball All Star was a stud across seas and almost viewed as a movie star would be in Hollywood. He was the World Baseball Classic MVP in 2006 and his mysterious gyroball pitch made baseball fans in America curious as to how he could translate his seemingly dominate stuff to Major League Baseball. Looking to move on from his seven year NPB career, Matsuzaka voiced his yearning to become a free agent and his agent Scott Boras worked out an agreement with the Seibu Lions to allow teams to negotiate with the Japanese phenom. As clubs such as the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees lined up to bid for the right to even speak to Matsuzaka, no team came close to the Red Sox winning bid of $51 million. The ridiculous sum was three times the amount of the Seibu Lions' payroll and Epstein struck a deal with Matsuzaka signing him to a six year $52 million contract as the team ended up investing a grand total of $103 million on one player who wasn't guaranteed to be lights out in the MLB as he was in Japan. Matsuzaka had a decent 2007 going 15-12 with a 4.4 Earned Run Average. In the 2007 playoffs, he had a 5.03 ERA in four starts. The next five years of his contract, Matsuzaka went 35-25 with a 5.39 ERA. Obviously, many believed Daisuke would have a much more successful MLB career than he did, but Theo and co. (John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner) went way overboard with their extravagant bid and contract. The Red Sox scouts are also to blame for the unfortunate loss of money who did a poor job identifying Matsuzaka's control problems and his lack of consistent velocity with his fastball.

Coming off a three game sweep in the 2009 ALDS courtesy of the Los Angeles Angels, especially as Matsuzaka was beginning to show his true colors as an MLB pitcher, the Red Sox were in need of another starting pitcher for the 2010 season. Angels ace John Lackey was set to be a free agent after the 2009 season and shut the Sox out in Game 1 of the ALDS as the Angels won 5-0. Lackey had a 2.29 ERA in his three postseason starts. Epstein, intrigued by Lackey's success against the Sox in Game 1 as well as career-long ascendancy versus the Yankees, signed the free agent power pitcher to a five year $82.5 million contract to pair him with ace Josh Beckett and budding ace Jon Lester. Lackey went 14-11 with a 4.4 ERA in 2010 and in the midst and the chicken and beer scandal in 2011, went an atrocious 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA. Lackey, Beckett, and Lester were rumored to be drinking alcohol on days they were not pitching, taking advantage of then manager Terry Francona's loose, carefree style of managing. This was largely done behind his back, and Francona was fired due to the antics of the team largely led by Lackey. Lackey also dealt with lingering elbow problems throughout the year, and thus underwent Tommy John surgery in the offseason on his right elbow putting him out for the entire 2012 season. As the team's integrity and morals were largely broken due to the circus Lackey brought along within his boozehound, party animal personality, Red Sox fans across the nation shook their heads in dismay as Epstein overpaid for yet another bum. This coming 2013 campaign for Lackey is still up in the air as he can redeem himself and have a solid year, but he has been nothing but a $16.5 million counter-productive cancer to this point.

Most recently, Epstein has undergone a good deal of criticism for acquiring first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres in the 2010 offseason. Gonzalez was thought to be the perfect hitter for Fenway Park, boasting a beautiful lefty cut coupled with Gold Glove defense at first base. However, Gonzalez was not a leader for the Sox and didn't stand up for the good of the team during the chicken and beer waterloo that ripped the team apart. His numbers were great in 2011 hitting .338 with 27 homeruns and 117 RBIs, but the Sox were hoping for more homerun totals from Gonzalez who struck out a good amount (119 Ks) and didn't hit well with runners in scoring position in clutch situations. It may be nitpicking as the overall numbers certainly don't lie, but Epstein really expected more homerun power and better leadership from his All Star first baseman, who quietly played for three teams before the Sox after being drafted first overall by the Florida Marlins in 2000. Who Epstein traded for Gonzalez should have Sox fans shaking their heads, and they will undoubtedly get to know these players (luckily playing in the National League) within the next year. 23 year old first baseman Anthony Rizzo was the main blue chip prospect traded to the Padres along with pitcher Casey Kelly, also 23. Rizzo has made the most of his opportunities in the majors by absolutely tearing it up with the Chicago Cubs. The 6-3 240 lb Italian slugger was acquired by the Cubs after Epstein dipped to Chicago following the aftermath of the chicken and beer fiasco during the 2011 season. Epstein always had a man crush on Rizzo and stole him from the Padres in a trade for two scrub prospects January 6th, 2012. Underneath it all, San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes worked under Epstein in Boston back in 2005. So, doing his old buddy a solid, Byrnes gave Rizzo to Epstein only to watch him flourish in Chicago. After playing just 49 games in 2011 for the Padres, Rizzo blew up in 2012 when he was called up in late June hitting .285 with 15 homeruns and 48 RBIs. He hit seven homers in July to go along with 17 RBIs and a .330 average, good enough numbers for Rookie of the Month. Rizzo is a natural power hitter who would have been the Red Sox cornerstone first baseman of the future. In late August, the 30 year old Gonzalez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and his numbers with the Sox up until that point were 15 homeruns and 86 RBIs in 123 games. The 23 year old Rizzo hit 15 homeruns in 87 games.

Casey Kelly is a bit more of a question mark as it pertains to future stardom, whereas Rizzo is a guarantee. Even still, Kelly was the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system at the time of him being traded to San Diego, and has solid stuff which includes a low nineties fastball with deceptive movement and a potential wipeout 12-6 curveball. He also mixes in a developing change up and demonstrates mature composure on the mound for being a former shortstop. Kelly's control with his pitches is scouted as being excellent. Though there is still room for improvement, the 6-3 220 lb Kelly went 2-3 in six starts with a 6.21 ERA in 2012.

With Epstein now the President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, former assistant GM to Epstein, Ben Cherrington, has taken over the duties as Boston's GM since the 2011 offseason. His first brilliant move of his brand new tenure that offseason was trading away up and coming right field prospect Josh Reddick, promising first base prospect Miles Head and pitching prospect Raul Alcantara to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for 28 year old closer and 2009 AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey. Feeling a need to target a talented closer immediately after Jonathan Papelbon left to go to the Philadelphia Phillies on a four year $50 million deal, Cherrington made a mistake level with Epstein's Rizzo/Kelly for Gonzalez trade. Bailey, whose stuff when healthy is fanstastic, unfortunately underwent reconstructive surgery on his right throwing thumb after he injured it in a freak collision at first base during Spring Training in 2012. Bailey was racked in 19 appearances from this past mid August to late September posting an ugly 7.04 ERA. Throughout the So abhorrent 2012 season, Alfredo Aceves took over closing duties and was equally bad in more games putting up a 5.36 ERA while blowing eight saves. Hoping Bailey can get back to his dominant 2009 1.84 ERA 26 save form, the Sox re-signed Bailey in the 2012 offseason to a one year $4.1 million deal. Nevertheless, Bailey's luckless first season with the Sox does not take away from the exported talent that was successful in Oakland in 2012. 25 year old Josh Reddick won the Gold Glove award for right field and drilled 32 homeruns to go along with 85 RBIs this past season. Though his batting average at .242 and On Base Percentage at .305 were subpar, he is still young, has present pop in his bat, and plays a great right field, all while coming at a cheap price as he has only amassed 299 games in his career. Miles Head, the aforementioned first baseman prospect in the trade, didn't make it to the majors in 2012, but the 22 year old hit .333 with 23 homeruns and 84 RBIs between the Athletics' Single High A and Double A affiliates in 124 games. It may be too early to tell if Head will be a solid major leaguer, similar to the verdict on Casey Kelly, but he is very young at 22 to be playing in Double A and has some serious power potential. Yet another first baseman prospect in which the Sox are kicking themselves for giving away.

Outfielder Carl Crawford always held a soft spot in Theo Epstein's heart during the years in which the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were bottom dwellers of the American League East Division. Crawford consistently led the MLB in triples and steals, while maintaining an average around .300 and playing Gold Glove caliber defense. A Julio Lugo in many aspects, Epstein was always infatuated with the outfielder and signed him to a seven year $146 million contract two days after trading for Adrian Gonzalez. In 130 games with Boston in 2011, Crawford hit .255 with just 11 homeruns, 56 RBIs and 18 steals, by far the lowest amount of thefts for his career (highest was 60 in 2009). Vowing to do better for 2012, Crawford unfortunately injured his wrist that January, underwent successful surgery, and was placed on the 60-day Disabled List. In addition, Crawford was also experiencing discomfort in his elbow which turned out to be a sprained ligament. Crawford tried to play throughout July and August when he was called back up from Triple A Pawtucket off the DL, but underwent season ending Tommy John surgery on his elblow August 23rd. A couple days later on August 25th Crawford was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Gonzalez and Josh Beckett.

General management of a team is a taxing occupation and it should be known that it is nearly impossible to strike on every personnel deal made. It goes to show how much money is thrown around in the MLB nowadays for little production even if during a given player's contract his team wins the World Series. GMs must be weary of how certain players may fit in a city and with the media. Some players have crumbled under the pressure Boston brings with on and off the field issues, while others have flourished in the Town. Background checks must be made on players' team histories including research on past disputes with teammates and coaches, and thorough analysis of any injuries throughout their careers. There comes a point when big market teams have the ability to spend a lot as certain contracts come off the books, but the smart teams and GMs realize it's not about what you spend, it's how you spend it. Teams such as the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals don't have enormous payrolls, but build their teams mostly from their farm systems and add useful free agents along the way. The time can call for a pricy slugger or ace pitcher, but having multiple expensive players is useless on a 40 man roster. GMs must not lose sight of the will to stay competitive despite any recent success. Throwing money offhandedly or getting trigger happy with big contracts after recent championship wins sets a team up for discontinued success. Money given to star players must be balanced with present talent that has been groomed in the farm system from the draft in order to sustain a team's relevance in the playoffs and to maintain the potential for future championship runs.