Theo Epstein: Solid Red Sox offseason ‘will all come down to starting pitching’
|02.01.12 at 11:08 pm ET|
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Speaking at an event at Sacred Heart University, Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman both gave some insight into what offseasons are like for them when it comes to making deals to improve their ball clubs. Epstein also reflected on his 10 seasons in the Red Sox organization and the impetus for his departure to become president of baseball operations with the Cubs following the 2011 season.
For general managers, the offseason is all about improving their teams for the next season and beyond. Epstein and Cashman would know better than anyone what this process is like. The two agreed that sometimes the deals that get the most publicity and public approval rarely pan out as planned.
“As a GM I get buyer’s remorse on every move that I make,” Cashman said. “When trades get resounding [approval] it is like you’re getting set up. I do cringe every time there is positive publicity. You don’t win on deals — you win on the field.”
Epstein agreed, citing the example of the Carl Crawford signing last offseason.
Crawford signed a seven-year, $142 million contract in December of 2010 and in his first season with the Red Sox he batted .255 (the lowest of his career) with a .289 OBP (again, the worst of his career), .691 OPS, 11 home runs, 56 RBIs and just 18 steals.
“Ultimately [it] comes down from the players. The moves that get the most approval from the fans and media sometimes don’t work out,” Epstein said. “Last winter was good example. Crawford had a tough first year. The more public the move, the less likely it will work out in the long haul. Organizations are made through lower level moves and through the drafts. … In reality you’re not building a team for one season; you’re building an organization. It does take years and years of slow grinding and building work.”
Epstein’s belief that sometimes the smaller moves are the better ones might explain his take on the Red Sox’ offseason thus far, in which the Red Sox have not been as active in the free agent market as in years past.
“[The Red Sox] did pretty well. They are probably are not done yet,” he said. “I think [Red Sox GM Ben Cherington] did a great job executing a strategy of acquiring a couple cost-control, impact pieces for their bullpen in [Andrew] Bailey and [Mark] Melancon. That frees them up to experiment with [Daniel] Bard as a starter and maybe see what [Alfredo] Aceves can do there as well, given they didn’t really like the options in the free-agent starting pitching market,” said Epstein. “The position player group is really solid and with some of the creativity they’ve shown in building the bullpen it will all come down to the starting pitching, but Ben did a really nice, creative job.”
The former Red Sox general manager went into detail about what exactly took place back in 2005 when he resigned as general manager of the team on Halloween and sneaked out of Fenway Park in a gorilla suit. Later he went to South America for five days.
“That was a time of conflict of what organization stood for. I didn’t agree with the values the ownership had of running the Red Sox. You have to be all in when you’re a general manager. You use up a lot of energy and sacrifice your personal life. If you’re not all in you can’t do it,” he said. “Due to an internal conflict, I didn’t like what the organization came to stand for. There were a lot of internal politics. I didn’t want to sign a long-term contract with an organization [where] I didn’t stand for their values. I said no thanks and took some time away.
“The owner got more involved and we discussed what we wanted the organization to stand for. We talked through the process, the values and we got on same page and it was great. In hindsight I could have accomplished the same thing without leaving, but at the same time I am glad I did what I did.”
After winning two World Series titles in Boston and rebuilding the organization’s minor league system, Epstein was ready to move on and face a new challenge in rebuilding the Cubs organization.
“The [Cubs] job represents a great new challenge. That is just the way I am wired; I tend to get a little bit restless in places. I believe in change, rebirth and new challenges,” said Epstein. “The experience in Boston was so meaningful to me in so many different ways that I felt like I couldn’t go just anywhere as I looked around the baseball landscape. The fact that you only live once and try to be in a lot of different places and do different things, I couldn’t find many places that carry that type of meaning. I didn’t want to go anywhere because it was a nice situation, or because the weather was nice. Because the Cubs haven’t won in 103 years and have a fan base that wants a winner, the job connected with me. That is what makes it fun.”
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