Today In #BlameEpstein

Yesterday, I brought your attention to a Jeff Passan article in which the Yahoo! Sports writer shoved blame down the throat of Theo Esptein for the Boston Red Sox poor play of late, like it was a viral video titled Two Shovels, One GM.

The blame train keeps rolling today with an article by Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal (whom I assume would cause the world to cave in on itself if he were to ever meet the Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin). Donaldson has been on a year long tirade against the five year $82.5 million contract that the Red Sox handed Lackey ahead of the 201o season, and with good reason: it’s a terrible deal.

However, to paint Epstein as a poor general manager based on one bad signing is to conveniently forget that the Boston Red Sox have represented the American League East in the playoffs in six of the eight years that Epstein has been in charge and that this team, the one that Epstein put together, went on a tear winning 70 of 103 games this season between April 16th and August 9th. Wow. What a failure!

Yes, the Lackey contract wasn’t a good one, and neither was the Daisuke Matsuzaka one or the terms given to J.D. Drew, but get over it. Those deals have nothing to do with Boston’s recent struggles. It’s far more complicated than a mere mistake made by a general manager.

Here’s what’s really happening:

  • Dustin Pedroia is struggling;
  • Carl Crawford has had a terrible season;
  • Kevin Youkilis is playing hurt;
  • Daniel Bard has struggled at times; and
  • Including Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz (both suffering from long term injuries), five pitchers have missed starts due to injury this month.

While a good GM will have an understanding of a player’s ability to remain healthy, there’s a ton of luck involved, and even the best front offices can’t predict the timing of injuries.

However, what bothers me the most about these #BlameEpstein articles is that no one is mentioning the Tampa Bay Rays, who have played very good baseball of late, going 21-11 since the middle of August. The Boston Red Sox don’t exist in a vacuum that excludes the play of other teams.

I feel like I might need to record myself under a blanket, wearing mascara, imploring people to leave Theo alone. That should work, right?

Comments (34)

  1. Again, as I replied in the previous post, shouldn’t Boston with all the great baseball minds, and huge payroll, have better depth in the farm system? The media has been fawning over Boston’s minor league system and player development program for years. Now that they need guys to step up, it’s apparent they aren’t ready. Focusing on a few bad FA signings misses the point.

    • Most of Boston’s depth and quality is in the low minors. The top prospects they had in the higher minor leagues, like Rizzo and Casey Kelly were part of the Gonzalez deal. That doesn’t mean Boston has a bad system or develops talent poorly.

      Again, it’s not Theo’s fault most of Boston’s starting pitchers have been hurt. No team would look good if they had to start the #10 guy on their depth chart, which someone like Weiland is. Even Tampa’s starting pitching wouldn’t look so hot if Price, Shields, Niemann and Davis all were hurt, despite their pitching depth in the minors.

      • You named the Rays top 4 pitchers – Boston lost its #3 starter.

        • Beckett, Lester, Bucholz and Dice-K have all been hurt this year. Until just recently, all of them were out of the lineup. Nice try though.

          • And only Bucholz was a guy they were counting on and been out during the current swoon. So you think Weiland and a 45 year old is what a team with a great farm system should plug in when a guy goes down? Nice try

          • My mistake, it was only Bucholz and Dice K that have missed the entire bad stretch. Beckett missed one start and left early from his Sept. 5 start against Toronto during that time. Lester started but pitched poorly during the September swoon.

            So, the #3 and #4 starters being hurt most of the year have resulted in a weaker rotation. The #2 (or #1 if you believe Beckett is that) missed one start and part of another putting a lot of pressure on the bullpen. The #1 has pitched poorly, but that’s totally Epstein’s fault, right?

            I guess he should have anticipated losing his 3 and 4 starters for most of the year, his 2 being hurt for a bit in September and his ace having a few bad starts at the worst time.

            Maybe Epstein should have traded for Verlander, Weaver and King Felix if he was so smart.

          • I’m convinced. The fact they are saddled with underperforming free agents and no depth despite a huge payroll has nothing to do with Epstein.

          • The injuries sustained by the Red Sox would have crippled a lesser team. It’s a credit to Epstein that Boston is still leading the Wild Card race despite numerous injuries to key players. It might be due to the fact that Epstein has compiled some depth by picking up guys like Aceves, Miller, Aviles, etc. during the season.

            As for the free agents, they are only saddled with 2 underperforming free agents, Lackey and Crawford. Lackey is overpaid because he was the best starter available on the free agent market when he was signed and in case you hadn’t heard, his mind isn’t exactly 100% on baseball this year. Crawford is in year 1 of his contract, let’s see if he’s still so bad next year. Those two could still provide value over the remainder of their contracts.

            I don’t like the Red Sox either, I find them to be the most detestable team in the league. However, I don’t let my dislike of them get in the way of realizing that they’re a well run ballclub.

  2. I’ve decided that the real problem with this team are the fans….and the New England sports writers who are still little fanboys at heart.

    Move the team, solve all the problems.

    • Boston fans are the worst. Even one of their notorious ringleaders, like Bill Simmons, has made comments about how bad they are.

      Nobody has suffered like Boston fans, according to them.

      • “@sportsguy33 Inside the park homer for Ellsbury! That might be the most exciting play in sports. I’m fired up.”

        Unbearable whining and complaining when they lose, overwrought hyperbole when they win. Imagine being in a relationship with a Red Sox fan?

  3. Oh, and a lot of their currents key parts are from their own system (Ellsbury, Papelbon, Lester, Buckholz, Pedroia, Youkilis, Bard), so I think barraging the farm system misses the point, too.

    • Of course every team has some of their home grown talent playing. I am talking about when you get injuries, and all teams have them, you need your farm system to step up, and they aren’t. They have big holes on that roster that have not been addressed. Losing your #3 starter isn’t the whole story.

      • You need your farm system to step up and replace someone as talented as Buchholz? Those are unfair expectations.

      • This “stepping up” thing is sort of a weird ….they have a good farm system that produced some of their top talent and they signed some big free agents where they needed them.

        What else was Theo supposed to do? No team has a farm system that has players that step into holes and performs as well as their established big leaguers. It doesn’t work that way, even if you have the greatest farm system around.

        • Theo is also probably the most successful GM in MLB of the past decade, so Boston needs to step away from the ledge.

        • Wow, lots of Bosox love here. That is weird. I guess all the years I have followed baseball I missed where a good team with a highly touted farm system and and huge payroll shouldn’t expect that some prospects could step up to fill the void of injured/under performing starters.

          • I hate them and their annoying players (Ortiz, Youk, Pedroia, Papelbon) and their annoying fans and their annoying ballpark with all my heart. As I’ve mentioned, there have been players that have stepped up. Are you just going to ignore Reddick’s emergence like I’ve mentioned? Are you just going to keep ignoring the lack of depth in the high minors due to trades, as others have mentioned?

          • My guess is you’ve missed a lot more than just that.

      • Not to mention that Aceves has given them over 100 IP of sub-3.00 ERA pitching and Reddick has been productive.

      • And Andrew Miller. I know some of those guys aren’t really minor leaguers but I think they’re the kind of emerging journeymanish types you’re referring to. To me, the free agent signings are obviously the biggest errors and what’s worse is that they feel they have to leave Lackey in the rotation because he’s making so much damn money, so the problem becomes magnified.

        • I hate them too, at least we can agree on something.

          I am simply pointing out that a team that has been revered for years for being well run with a great farm system is now getting just criticism. If you think that a team doesn’t deserve criticism because they don’t have anyone ready in the minors, then we’ll never agree.

          • You do realize there is more than one level in the minor leagues, don’t you? Not everybody in the minors is at AAA, ready for a call-up to the bigs. The strength of Boston’s minor leagues lies in short-season and A ball. Just because a prospect is farther away doesn’t mean a team has a weak system.

          • You’re being way too results-oriented and you’re clearly ignoring some of the points that have been made already. And again, the problem with the botched free agent signings is that they’re GOING to play. Carl Crawford is not coming out of the lineup because he’s sucking, so the talent in the high minors is somewhat irrelevant when the highly paid guys will always play unless they’re hurt.

  4. Funny how fans get spoiled after a decade of success. I hope Boston goes the next 20 years without a sniff at the playoffs so that their fans can once again appreciate a 2 game lead in the wild card race with a week left to go in the season.

    • Amen.

      Boston over the last 10 years is like a kid on Super Sweet 16 that gets a Beemer, cash and massive blowout party but is still disappointed when Kanye doesn’t show up to perform.

  5. “I Blame both coaches and the players mostly the coach because he needs to keep his team hungry and motivated and I believe the coaches have taken their foot off that throttle!” — facebook commenter


    I mean, guys, he took his “foot off that throttle”. I don’t know what it means, but I imagine it’s true because it sounds so good.

  6. Yeah, I , the writer of Hum and Chuck, where one of my claims to (minor) fame is mocking the blowhards at (aka SOSH) am a massive fan of the Red Sox.

    I love those guys so much. I wish nothing but the best for their fans.

  7. How are the “poorly-formed thoughts”, to steal a phrase from Parkes, of a few idiot sportswriters reflective of the fanbase as a whole? I get much more frustrated by Jays fans using any excuse at all to stereotype Sox fans than I do of the whole overwrought Sox fan act. And even if Sox fans at large were criticizing Theo (which, as far as I’ve seen, they’re not), who likes being hampered by bad contracts? What would be the difference between complaining about the Lackey or Crawford contracts, and, say, the Wells or Rios contracts?

    Also worth pointing out that their season isn’t a bust until they’ve failed to make the playoffs, and according to Baseball Prospectus, they still have a ~86% chance of doing so. If not for their rough, anomalous, start to the season, they’d already have sewn up the AL East quite handily.

    • Have you read SOSH? Have you read the comments on any of the articles?

      Not all Sox fans are drama queens at best or racist assholes at worst, but it’s not something Jays fans made up.

      • Have you ever listened to JaysTalk? Judging a fanbase by those who frequent message boards or call in to talk radio is silly. I won’t deny that many people, particularly SINCE 2004, have bought into the media manufactured lore of Boston sports and that it’s annoying as all hell. I just don’t see what relevance the fans have to this particular discussion, other than people wanting to trot out the same old tired tropes.

  8. The thing that is different (though the Jays Talk people are awful) is that the Jays last won 17 years ago, the Leafs 43 years ago and the Raptors never. The Boston fans have had winning teams in all the major sports in the past decade, and are still acting like put upon “why can’t we ever win?” drama queens.

    That’s why this is worthy of mocking. And the reason it’s relevant is because the New England media both manufactures and feeds into this tired “Why are we so hard done by?” narrative, probably because they grew up in the whole “put upon” sports fandom.

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