Panic abounds in Boston as the prospect of a trifecta of organizational dysfunction beckons. Following the humiliating collapse and requisite sniping, backbiting and blaming one another has come the departures of the two men who were out front of the Red Sox revival, manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein.
Never mind the fact that many managers could have and would have won with that roster full of talent; ignore that there are GM candidates everywhere and no one is irreplaceable, it’s a triple shot of torment to an organization that had grown so used to success that they’ve forgotten how expectantly painful it was to be a Red Sox fan.
Here are the facts with Epstein and the Red Sox: they were gutsy; they were lucky; they filled the front office with smart people; and they won.
Will Epstein have the same success with the Cubs?
The Dodgers drafted Hochevar…and failed to sign him.
So the Red Sox got Buchholz.
They were lucky with David Ortiz, whom they signed as an “oh him” guy.
They were lucky that no one ever took them up on the multiple times they tried to dump Manny Ramirez.
They were lucky that the exalted genius Billy Beane turned down the offer to be GM after initially accepting. (Be funny if they hired him now!)
They were smart in ignoring conventional wisdom—Moneyball and otherwise—and wound up with the likes of Dustin Pedroia.
The key for the Red Sox was the utter ruthlessness with which they dispatched players who either wanted too much money or too many years as free agents or were no longer performing and were traded.
The dealing of Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 was an act of heresy; without it, they likely would not have won the World Series that year.
There never would have been a trade for Josh Beckett had Epstein not resigned in a power-grabbing snit after 2005; and with that trade came the MVP of the 2007 World Series, Mike Lowell—whom they were forced to take!
Letting Pedro Martinez and Jason Bay leave turned out to be prescient decisions that didn’t work out well for the players in any aspect aside from their pockets and has ended positively for the Red Sox.
The era of the rock star GM has created this concept of the all-seeing, all-knowing expert at the top of the pyramid. It’s nice, neat, salable and a load of garbage.
People don’t want the truth that Epstein was hired as a face of the franchise in part because Larry Lucchino didn’t want to do the GM grunt work. But the puppet started tearing at his strings quickly as his reputation grew and the struggle became an uneasy truce.
The Red Sox will get someone else if Epstein leaves. Presumably it will be someone intelligent and willing to listen to others—something that perhaps Epstein no longer wants to do.
It could be an inspired maneuver like the Rays decision to hand control over to Andrew Friedman; or it might be as disastrous as the Jack (Amazin’ Exec) Zduriencik tenure as Mariners GM.
Who deserves the credit or blame? The person who wrote the song? The guy who sang it? The producer? The background musicians or the promoters? Is it a combination?
Without Ed Wade and Mike Arbuckle, there’s no appellation of “old school baseball genius” for Pat Gillick with the Phillies.
Without Bobby Cox laying the foundation for the Braves of the 1990s, John Schuerholz is not heading for the Hall of Fame.
Without Gene Michael, there’s no Brian Cashman.
The line between genius and idiot is narrow and has little to do with the individual, but chance, circumstance, courage and support.
It could be terrible decision for Epstein to leave. Or it could be one for him to stay. But it can’t be judged now.
And life will go on.