FIRE JOE MORGAN: There Have Been a Lot of Stupid Things


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Sunday, November 06, 2005


There Have Been a Lot of Stupid Things

written about the Theo Epstein departure. Here's one -- not by any means the worst one, but one -- from's Page 2 scribe Jim Caple:

The saddest part of St. Theo leaving the Red Sox? Had he only made his decision just a few hours earlier, he would have been available for a Supreme Court nomination.

Okay, so, his sarcastic point is that the Theo hagiography got a little out of control.

Or, had Theo made the decision just a week earlier, he could have been named Alan Greenspan's replacement at the Federal Reserve.

Right. We get it.

Or better, had he made the decision during spring training, the College of Cardinals could have elected him Pope.

How long is this going to go on?

Or, based on the breathless tributes, he could have taken any other similarly high post befitting someone who has been a baseball general manager for almost three whole years.

The last snarky example you gave is generic? Really?

It's hard to know for sure, because of the way the mainstream media, talk radio and blogosphere have buried this story, but Epstein apparently left the Red Sox because he didn't always see eye-to-eye with team president Larry Lucchino. This is a startling development, of course, because it makes him the first person in history who did not get along with his boss.

And who can blame him? After all, Lucchino only hired Epstein a decade ago, then made him the game's youngest general manager, then gave him the second-largest budget in baseball to work with, and then offered him a $4.5 million contract to stay. The gall! Imagine working for such an ogre. That is so much worse than what Brian Cashman or Terry Ryan ever have to deal with.

Well, okay, you could make the argument that Brian Cashman, despite all the insanity, doesn't have to suffer the slings and arrows of the most oppressive sports media in the world. (Yes, Boston is worse than New York -- I've lived in both places.) Nor does Cashman have to pretend to talk on his cell phone when he goes out to Starbucks to keep people from running up to him and launching into trade ideas and autograph requests -- as Epstein does. Nor did Cashman have to deal with an 80+ year-old championship drought, and the pre-scientific-era perception that his franchise was "cursed" by the ghost of a fat man who died many years ago -- a theory that was actually espoused by many members of the local media, one of whom fucking invented the theory in order to sell books.

But: point taken. Epstein, on paper, had it pretty good. However. Just because someone's mentor brought him along and offered him a lot of money doesn't mean they can't have a bad relationship. People are all over Theo for "walking away from $4.5 million," but what if the guy just wanted to do something else? What if the relationship was fractured beyond repair? What if he wanted some privacy? The guy had his reasons. I'm sure they were good. And the fact that he was offered a lot of money is irrelevant if he didn't want the job anymore. Shouldn't we be praising a guy who cares about more than money?

Yes, his departure is sad but at least we're finally learning the true story behind the Red Sox's success. For a long time, I was under the impression it was David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez who hit all those home runs, and Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez who pitched all the games, and Jason Varitek who caught all those pitches. But now I understand that it was all Theo. And he's leaving! No wonder Red Sox Nation is grieving!

If you're going to make this sarcastic point, do yourself a favor and only cite players who predated Theo's reign. Picking Ortiz off the scrapheap three years ago was one of the greatest GM moves in history. Did Epstein know Ortiz would be this good? No way. But he got him for $1 million because he saw value in his stroke and batting eye. Then, even better, Epstein locked him up for roughly $6 million/year for three years. Do you understand how amazing that is, Caple? He makes less than 25% of what ARod makes, and their offensive numbers are nearly identical.

Schilling would not be wearing a 2004 Sox ring (and neither would anyone else on the team) had Epstein not flown out to Arizona two years ago, had Thanksgiving dinner with the fam, and used his unique blend of statistical analysis and interpersonal skill to convince Schilling that Fenway was a place he could be effective (he won 21 games) and that the city and team needed him to put them over the top. And do you remember whom Epstein traded for Schilling? No, you don't, because it was all junk. (Casey Fossum, anyone?) One of the great trades of the past few years.

Varitek, maybe the most important single guy on the team, might be gone if Epstein didn't make him the team's #1 2004 off-season priority. Manny and Pedro are Duquette guys, but so many pieces of the championship team are Epstein's (Schilling, Foulke, Millar, Mueller, Timlin, Ortiz, etc), trying to minimize his importance is just dumb.

Yes, Theo is an intelligent guy who did an excellent job as the general manager and he can probably do many other things very well in life. But he still was a baseball general manager for crying out loud, not the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, the director of Habitat for Humanity or the guy who developed Google.

There are few things I hate more than a sports columnist telling people who discuss sports to "calm down." We are all aware that sports is not as important as politics or international relations or whatever. It is so disingenuous suddenly to chastise people who talk sports for being too intense or for over-magnifying the importance of sports in the world. Drives me nuts.

Also, it's "Joint Chiefs of Staff," not "Joint Chief of Staffs."

I mean, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams just accomplished the exact same thing as Theo and with a much smaller payroll. And I don't see anyone anointing Williams as an irreplaceable genius.

That's only because people are too focused on anointing Ozzie Guillen as an irreplaceable genius. Also, Williams does things like trading Carlos Lee and picking up Scott Podsednik. And yes, I still think those are terrible moves.

Personally, I agree with a friend who thinks Epstein was simply smart enough to get out while he was still revered. With a questionable pitching staff, yet another Manny trade demand ("And this time I really mean it!") and a probable team makeover that does not involve Carson Kressley, the likeliest short-term direction for the Red Sox is down. Perhaps Theo shrewdly decided to leave now as a saint rather than wait until talk radio started complaining that he was a moron.

First of all, nice "Queer Eye" joke. Very good work on that. Fresh. Second of all, this rationale is so dumb it's almost blinding. Epstein has drafted a slew of guys who are right on the brink of coming up and making huge contributions to the team. Craig Hansen, Jon Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Annibel Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez, Edgar Martinez...why in the world would Epstein walk away from the team just when his guys are ready to break through? Because he's worried that the team might be worse next year? This is the brightest future this franchise has had in years.

We may never know exactly what cocktail of unhappiness and contention led to his walking away. But I think it's likely that this was about his relationship with Lucchino, his desire for privacy, and his desire to pursue other things. I do not think it was about money or concern that the team is going to be bad. Or about talk radio. Or "Queer Eye."

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