October 2, 2006


Epstein says he's ready to make things right (SEAN McADAM, 10/02/06, Providence Journal)

In the wake of the Red Sox worst finish in the standings in nine years, general manager Theo Epstein acknowledged the club has "a lot to address," and vowed to be "active" in upgrading the starting rotation, the bullpen, power and depth of the lineup and outfield defense. [...]

Lefty Barry Zito and righthander Jason Schmidt are seen as the two best starters on the starter's market. The relief list is spotty, but the Sox may have to take a chance on an reliever-turned-starter (Miguel Batista) or a closer coming off an injury-plagued season (Eric Gagne).

Epstein confirmed that the Sox intend to use Jonathan Papelbon, who saved 35 games as a rookie, as a starter next season so as to lessen the stress on his right shoulder. Papelbon, bothered by subluxation -- or partial dislocation -- of the shoulder joint, didn't pitch after Sept. 1.

The GM was less forthcoming about the team's plans for Manny Ramirez. Asked to confirm that Ramirez's agent, Greg Genske, had recently asked that the club try to trade Ramirez this winter, Epstein said, "Issues like that should remain private. That type of business is best handled behind closed doors."

Asked about his decision to not execute a trade at the July 31 deadline, when the Sox held a lead over the Yankees in the A.L. East, Epstein said he no regrets.

"At the trading deadline," he said, "we did everything we could do to acquire a player or players to make us better. We worked very hard to make some impact players available. But in the end, no matter what we did, we came close to prying them free but we couldn't. In the end, we had a decision -- we could have made some moves that were largely cosmetic, to cover our backsides a little bit. But that's not the way we want to do things.

"In hindsight, from that point forward, the team sputtered. I really think that based on our injuries and based on our performance the rest of the way, there was not a deal that we could have done or a player we could have acquired that would have made a difference. I thought it was the right decision (to stand pat); in hindsight, I'm convinced it was the right decision."

Epstein did admit that, in retrospect, the club erred when it sent Josh Bard and Cla Meredith to the San Diego Padres for Doug Mirabelli on May 1. Bard was a standout for the Padres as the backup catcher and Meredith was a key bullpen contributor while Mirabelli, reacquired to help knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, hit just .191.

"We got impatient there," said Epstein. "We have to balance immediate need with the long-term picture and I don't think we dealt with it the right way. I think we got impatient when patience really serves you better in the long run."

The one big thing they have going for them this offseason is that they can score a windfall by sending Manny to the Angels and then just plug Wily Mo into Left. But rather than pursue that pitching lunchmeat, they ought to target guys like Brett Tomko, who have demonstrated a capacity to dominate in the bullpen after floundering around as starters and would come cheap. Then be ready to bail on them if they struggle, because relievers are so erratic from season to season.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 2, 2006 12:00 AM

Always look on the bright side of life.

Posted by: Peter B at October 2, 2006 9:17 AM

What, no mention of your hat-size yet (or maybe I just need to scroll down)?

Anyway, I'll order the sombrero for you today amigo.

Losing the Ramirez bet is a small price to pay for watching Les Sawx finish in 3rd -- as I predicted, I might add.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 2, 2006 11:12 AM

7 7/8ths

3rd place would have been fine had they not played so far over their heads in the 1st half--but the stretch where Ortiz & Lester had life-threating health issues was scary.

The only truly bad move all year, but it was the killer, was acquiring Javy Lopez instead of a catcher when Veritek went down.

Posted by: oj at October 2, 2006 11:36 AM

Say it with me, now, OJ: Twins-Padres World Series.

Only this time, will the NL team try to get at least one win in the Dome?

Posted by: Brad S at October 2, 2006 12:07 PM

You have to wonder if the Twins youngsters can cope with the post-season. I'd be starting Garza and Bonser after Johann, but they're as likely to get shelled as dominate.

Posted by: oj at October 2, 2006 12:12 PM

Yeah, Veritek's loss was a killer. Without him or Damon, the team lacked a team leader. The Yankees and Mets in the series.

Posted by: Tom at October 2, 2006 4:01 PM

No, the Varitek injury afforded an opportunity to get the young guys a real catcher. They wasted the opportunity by bringing in Javy. Note that Beckett excelled under Mirabelli.

Posted by: oj at October 2, 2006 4:43 PM

So it was a coincidence the team fell apart after Veritek went down?

Posted by: Tom at October 2, 2006 11:09 PM

Hardly. They just managed to find an even worse catcher.

Neither is it a coincidence that all Beckett's losses came with Varitek or Lopez catching him, nor that so many other pitchers have worse numbers with Varitek catching them.

Good guy, bad game caller.

Posted by: oj at October 2, 2006 11:18 PM