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Theo Epstein on D&H: ‘We’re disappointed’

09.30.10 at 2:20 pm ET
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Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein joined the Dale & Holley show to offer his thoughts on the 2010 season. In a wide-ranging interview, Epstein touched on a number of topics including the performances of Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jonathan Papelbon and J.D. Drew. (A complete transcript will be posted shortly).

“We’re disappointed,” Epstein said of the season. “We’re proud of the way the guys hung in there and played really hard to the end, but I’m disappointed that we’re going to fall short of our goal every year to get to the postseason and do some damage in October.”

Yet Epstein thinks that the Sox are not far away from returning to a championship-level club. “It adds up to an organization that’s in really good position and not far away from a championship,” Epstein said. “In fact we could very well win one next year and that’s the goal.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Asked if he could identify one thing that went wrong, Epstein said, “It’s always hard to identify one single factor. It is definitely is multi-factorial. We felt like we had a really good team, a legitimate chance to be on the best teams in the league. We thought we had a balanced club, one of the top two or three in the league scoring runs and one of the top two or three in pitching and defense. That’s the balance that we strive for. Some things went right and some things went wrong.

“The way things went offensively kind of went according to plan,” Epstein continued. “Given that, you can really isolate a lot of the issues to our pitching and defense where we underperformed pretty dramatically. … Our starting pitching was a bit of a mixed bag. [Jon] Lester and [Clay] Buchholz both had dominating years. The rest of the rotations didn’t really live up to expectations and then the bullpen turned out to be our major weakness.”

On why the Sox didn’t make a move for a reliever at the trade deadline: “Not for lack of effort,” Epstein said. “Coming into the year we knew we needed a third guy emerge to go with Pap and [Daniel] Bard. … Trust me we looked all year.”

On expectations for [John] Lackey and [Josh] Beckett: “To be top of the rotation type guys and pitch up to previous levels. Those are still my expectations for those guys going forward,” Epstein said. “Josh, the injury really cost him. He clearly wasn’t himself all year. With John Lackey, it was a mixed bag. He did some good things. He’s leading our club in innings pitched and tied for the club lead in quality starts. That said, there was definitely an adjustment period for him.”

On the handling of the Jacoby Ellsbury injury: Initially when he had that first injury, looking back on it and maybe it’s something we learned a little bit about it, we probably could have taken the cat-scan sooner. We’ve already made an adjustment in our policy going forward. It wouldn’t have gotten him back any quicker but it would have helped manage the perception of the injury. Jacoby took some unwarranted heat from a lot of different sources because it wasn’t clear from the get go that the ribs were fractured. All in all it became a lost season for Jacoby. Importantly, I don’t think there’s any residue of this going forward.”

Epstein declined to offer specifics on how the team would go about the process of re-signing its own free agents, but did say, “I have a strong interest in retaining those players.”

On J.D. Drew: “I think it was just an off-year for him,” Epstein said. “Certainly the year he had didn’t live up to expectations and didn’t approach the quality of his previous two seasons.”

On Papelbon’s season: “Two things you can certainly say about Pap: He didn’t perform this year at the level that he performed early in his career, especially in those peak years when he was far and away the best reliever in baseball,” Epstein said. “I think you can also say he’s still good and he still helps us win. It was a tough year for him at times.” Epstein went on to say that the team still considers him a very good closer.

On the future of the team: “This offseason presents us with a lot of challenges but at the same time, it also presents us with a lot of opportunities,” Epstein said. “You have to be reasonable about everything. In a year that ends like this sometimes there’s a tendency to look at all the issues and all the problems and think that you’re nowhere close to a championship team.

“We have to completely fix the bullpen. We do have a lot of important position players that are eligible for free agency. We have to either keep those guys or replace them or some combination thereof. You can’t let the way things played out this year could your judgments about what you have.”

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