FIRE JOE MORGAN: A Meta-Post (Original Title: "Dan Shaughnessy Still Hates Theo Epstein")


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Monday, August 21, 2006


A Meta-Post (Original Title: "Dan Shaughnessy Still Hates Theo Epstein")

I'm torn. Genuinely so. At around 6 pm PST today, I put up a post called "Dan Shaughnessy Still Hates Theo Epstein." It was okay. A little light on hard analysis, perhaps. A lot of digs at Shaughnessy. Mainly, I felt the need to respond to Shaughnessy's most recent column because he took some fairly cheap, name-calling-style shots at the Red Sox front office, most of them in the computer-nerd-bookworm-cyber-spreadsheet vein. You know, he entered the Plaschke zone. That kind of stuff boils my blood.

But then I got to thinking: sure, Shaughnessy didn't write a good article. I disagree with the way he went about attacking Theo Epstein (basically, through insinuation, strange veiled threats, and schoolyard name-calling rather than substantive roster move analysis). That said, isn't the Red Sox front office partly responsible for what's happened in the years following the 2004 championship? If you're a Red Sox fan, you have to start considering the 2005 and 2006 (barring a miraculous turnaround) seasons as failures. Why? The team has an enormous payroll and a core group of talent that theoretically could be built around to form a championship-level team. I'm speaking mainly of two MVP-caliber hitters performing at peak or near-peak levels and a near-Cy Young-caliber starter. And yet for whatever reason, championship-level ballclubs have not been assembled. Essentially: shouldn't Red Sox fans be worried that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez' remaining superstar-type years are being squandered on teams with next to no pitching? And shouldn't some blame for that lack of pitching be placed at the feet of Theo Epstein and those working with him? I think these are legitimate questions, so I'm a little concerned about whether my defense -- if you want to call it that -- of Epstein in the post below is completely fair. If a front office is failing to do a competent job, they should be criticized, no matter if they're using sabermetric methods or picking players' names out of badly soiled stovepipe hat.

Let's not forget, however, that (let's get horribly, stupidly nerdy) the philosophical telos of this site isn't to assess whether front offices are doing a good job or not. It's to lambaste bad sportswriting and commentary. And I think this Shaughnessy piece is unequivocally bad. Am I bending over backwards to defend Theo because he doesn't claim Moneyball was written by a three-headed robot made of tin, wax and papier-mache? I don't know. Tell me what you think.

Here's the original post.


You're Dan Shaughnessy. For years, you pay your bills selling the idea of a magical curse dooming a baseball franchise forever. The more famous the curse becomes, the higher your profile. You write a book about the curse. Documentary filmmakers come to you for your curly-headed opinions on the curse. You're pretty much known as Dan Shaughnessy, That Curse Guy.

Then, sudddenly, it's all over. You write your cash-in book about the end of the curse. But uh-oh, now no one cares about the curse anymore. It's done. It's almost like this supernatural curse was never real to begin with.

There's a guy who a lot of people are cheering as the non-player most responsible for reversing the curse. He's young, handsome, and he has used a computer before. Perhaps numerous computers. He hasn't paid his dues. He's not a "baseball man." And he's a pretty boring quote.

Do you a) hate this guy or b) really, really hate him and take every opportunity to needle him in your columns whenever possible?

I see you have phrased your answer in column form.

The Red Sox brass set sail on John Henry's big boat last night. The owner held a party to celebrate the engagement of his star general manager, Theo Epstein. Nice gesture. Toasts all around, no doubt. A three-hour tour.

Funny stuff. I remember that show. If the Professor could build a radio out of a coconut, why didn't he just build a boat? Am I right, people? (general silence, the soft clinking of glasses)

It was undoubtedly nice to get away for a few hours, but there is no safe place for Epstein and Sox management at this moment -- not even on the high seas. The SS Red Sox is sinking fast in the American League. The sun no longer shines on the handsome head of young Theo (wonder if he's signed his much-celebrated contract yet).

I only mentioned that Theo was handsome earlier because Shaughnessy really likes bringing it up all the time. Also, did you know that he's young? Shaughnessy would like everyone to know that.

The computer-geek management style has been thoroughly exposed in the last two days and there's a perfect storm brewing upstairs on Yawkey Way.

Ah. Here we go. Get those claws out, Shaughnee! These geeks can't run a baseball team! They don't even chew tobacco or drive mud-splattered pickup trucks to minor league games in the boonies. What exactly has been exposed in the last two days, no matter how horrific they've been for the Red Sox? A lack of pitching? That Josh Beckett is severely underperforming almost everyone's expectations? That the Yankees' lineup is capable of feasting on chumps like Jason Johnson and Kyle Snyder. I think we knew these things? I don't see a lot of solutions to these problems, and I didn't see too many at the trading deadline. If you want to go back further in time, the Beckett trade doesn't look all that great now, but I don't recall too many people objecting to it at the time. Hardly anyone projected Beckett to stink as much as he has. Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena? Still doesn't look that bad. Maybe what's being exposed is that Matt Clement was a terrible signing? Is Shaughnessy still misty-eyed for Pedro and Lowe?

The way things are going, Young Theo --

He's young.

-- might don that gorilla suit again, but this time he might need it to hide from an angry Nation of paying customers who want to know why nothing was done at the trade deadline and how you try to win a pennant with no lefty in the bullpen and a collection of dead arms and dead presidents (Mr. Van Buren, I presume) posing as major league pitchers.

Get it, "Nation"? You should be angry! Angry at Theo Epstein! Not angry at Beckett for being terrible or Wells and Wakefield and Foulke for getting hurt or Seanez and Tavarez for totally falling off from what they did last year. Did anyone think Seanez and Tavarez would both pitch this historically badly? Or that Ramon Ortiz would have a better ERA than Beckett? I see a few hands raised. Fine. Congratulations.

Three of the five crucial games against the Yankees have been played, and the numbers are more ghastly than snakes on a plane.

NICE. That'll get the kids on board. First hit 'em with Gilligan, then boom! SoaP. Dano, my boy, you've still got it.

The first three games of this series have been equally hideous, and young Theo,

Not old.

who was unavailable after yesterday's carnage, is getting his lunch fed to him by one Brian Cashman as the Sox threaten to suck all the wind out of what's left of summer.

Brian Cashman, who personally drove in 23 of the Yankees' 39 total runs. Brian Cashman, who led the team in pitches per plate appearance, eating up the Sox' bullpen. Brian Cashman, who hid in Jason Varitek's wine cellar for weeks before sneaking into his bedroom and inserting a time-release poison capsule into his left knee, causing its cartilage to rapidly deteriorate.

I'm not saying that you can't talk about the construction of these ballclubs when you see one beating up on the other so thoroughly and devastatingly. But is the story here that the Red Sox front office has unconscionably failed? I haven't seen any actual analysis yet. Wait, here we go:

Oh, and is anybody rethinking that Johnny Damon decision now?

Sort of? I think it's pretty clear that the problem here is pitching, not hitting. Even after those three amazing performances by the Yankee offense, guess how many more runs the Yankees have scored than the Sox this season? Seven. I'm pretty sure that as recently as about four days ago, the Red Sox led the majors in runs scored.

Then Shaughnessy has a quote from Larry Lucchino. Hmm. The article bashes Theo and includes thoughts from Lucchino. Anyway, the quote is boring. Let's skip it.

Manager Terry Francona, ever the company man, will not state the obvious and tell us, ``How am I supposed to beat these guys with this pitching staff?" but he is clearly as frustrated as a lot of Red Sox fans. Yesterday he watched the talented and hard-headed Josh Beckett walk nine (most by a Sox pitcher since Rogelio Moret in 1975) while giving up a career-high nine earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

So ... maybe Beckett is at least partially to blame for what happened?

Beckett's ERA is 5.35 and he looks like he needs to stop listening to Dave Wallace and Al Nipper and go see Dr. Phil.

Another sweet reference, man. The Shaughn-man is on fire.

To his credit, Beckett answered all questions and assumed full responsibility for his outing (``unacceptable, brutal").

To his discredit, his performance so far is one of the biggest reasons you're bashing Theo Epstein.

The last time the Yankees scored in double digits in three games in one Fenway series was in 1927 when the Pinstripes had guys named Ruth and Gehrig in the lineup. The Yankees have batted around five times in three games. One wonders if perhaps even cyberowner Henry has seen enough spread-sheet baseball for one season.

That's what I call bad pitching. Spread-sheet baseball. Ooh, that John Henry! Maybe if he would stop hitting on girls on MySpace all day he would learn how to build a damn baseball team! Computers bad! Computers make baseball team lose!

Odd that Henry would be celebrating Epstein's engagement at a time when the honeymoon is officially over for the most popular and bulletproof general manager in Boston sports history.

What exactly is odd about this? Odd that John Henry likes Theo Epstein and wanted to do something nice for him? Odd because you're forcing a false connection between an actual engagement between two humans and a theoretical "honeymoon" that you made up in your brain? It seems like you're angry that Theo Epstein seems to be "bulletproof." Is it really so strange that people sort of like a guy who was the general manager when the team finally won the World Series after 86 years? This paragraph has too many rhetorical questions in it. In fact, this whole post is infested with them. I apologize. I'll try to do better the next time.

The cruise is over and so is the free ride for Theo. No disgrace in that, it happens to all of them, but the Sox need a quick turnaround to keep Epstein out of the shark-infested waters that devoured the likes of Lou Gorman and Dan Duquette.

The crazy, crazy, crazy thing about this concluding paragraph is that Dan Shaughnessy is one of the very sharks in the "shark-infested waters" he's writing about. He's basically saying, Hey Theo, you better watch out -- if the team doesn't start winning more games, people are going to try to get you fired. In fact, watch: I'm doing it right now. Me, Dan Shaughnessy. I am one of the sharks I'm talking about here.

Isn't that neat?

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posted by Junior  # 2:41 AM
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