The Red Sox have seemed discombobulated since September and that didn’t change once the statuses of manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein were resolved.
(If you were in hibernation, they both left.)
There’s an air of dysfunction remaining as the continuity of maneuvers that was there under Epstein is gone.
Who’s in charge?
Is it new GM Ben Cherington?
Is it CEO Larry Lucchino?
How much say is new manager Bobby Valentine having in the team construction?
Does anyone know?
Epstein deserves a large portion of the blame for the way the team came apart in 2011. Going back as far as 2007, Epstein was purchasing products to impress his neighbors rather than adhering to a plan of attack. It worked in 2007 as they won the World Series, but in subsequent years it became a case of diminishing returns. They literally and figuratively got fat with a bloated payroll and disinterested demeanor.
Regardless of how you view Epstein’s tenure with the Red Sox—whether you think he received too much credit as a media creation backed up by money or was a true front office visionary—there was no question of who was in charge. Following his tantrum-fueled resignation after the 2005 season and eventual return, he won the power struggle with Lucchino.
It was Theo’s team.
Once Epstein left, Lucchino wasted no time in asserting himself with Cherington and whispering in the ear of owner John Henry.
The simplest question as to whom is truly running things was answered when Valentine was hired as manager.
Ask yourself this: Had Epstein stayed, would the Red Sox have hired Valentine?
Cherington was Epstein’s protégé and he would’ve wanted to hire a manager who had less personality, a closed mouth and did what he was told by upper management.
That’s not Valentine.
This is a clear salary dump and the speculation has centered around freeing up money to sign Roy Oswalt and fill a glaring need in the starting rotation.
You may ask, why would a team like the Red Sox, with a $160 million+ payroll, be worried about the relative pittance that Scutaro is making in 2012, $6 million?
It’s clear by now that the vault is closed. Partially due to the new luxury tax rules that are coming into effect and partially due to the failures of the high-priced signings made by Epstein—Carl Crawford, John Lackey and Bobby Jenks—they’re not going to toss more money into the air to fix it anymore.
It comes down to this: they have enough offense to cover for a lighter-hitting shortstop than Scutaro and can get by with a combination of Mike Aviles and Nick Punto as long as they’re not utterly inept with the glove and bat. They need an arm and needed to clear some cash to get it, so they dumped Scutaro.
Some have suggested that they might shut their eyes and play rookie Jose Iglesias for his glove. I can tell you right now that Valentine is not going to play an untested rookie shortstop while he’s under the mandate to win and working under a 2-year contract.
It’s going to be the veterans Aviles and Punto and the Red Sox are going to make a move on a pitcher.
Would Epstein have done this?
It doesn’t really matter, does it?
Because he’s gone.
But that’s not the problem.
There biggest issue with Epstein’s departure isn’t that he’s irreplaceable; it’s that no one seems to know who’s in charge.
And it doesn’t appear as if the Red Sox know either.