Sunday, October 3, 2010

Buying It

I think as far as the playoffs go, Pat will take the Yankees (obviously) and I'll try my best to provide some commentary on the Rest of Baseball. Should be an intriguing postseason. Go Phillies. By the way, this comment is mostly for the Gunn, but I was happy that at least for a little while this September, the Braves and Giants were fighting it out for a playoff spot again.

I haven't read this; I have only heard it secondhand because I was eating five potatoes and drinking Guinness with every meal last week (that's a shoutout to the Tank's comment on Monday). But word on the street is that Theo Epstein gave his annual "hey I'm really smart" address. Instead of harping upon JD Drew's OPS, he clarified the "bridge year" comments from this spring. He said that the "bridge" is between the title run year of 2009 and the apparent title run year of 2012. The fact that the short-term signings of Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro, and Mike Cameron happened is further evidence that there is a long-term plan to tread water with decent but not good players for a few years, then when the top prospects are ready, that's when you make a run at it.

And yes, this means that to a certain extent, Theo Epstein is punting the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Part of the convenience of having a $170 million budget every year is that you can have a competitive team while rebuilding. And that's what this team was. You saw it on July 3rd: if a team of this caliber gets a break now and then, it can contend for anything. This team did not get those breaks. In fact, they got a couple of bad ones with the injuries.

But unlike Theo's conference with Felger and Massarotti last year, I buy what he was selling. Not that this is much of a change in opinion: I said I was okay with them punting on two separate occasions last winter. Now that the punt is halfway done, I'm not overly mad at the general manager for executing, once again, a "coolly rational" business plan instead of going after the shiny things and short-term gains at the expense of the long-term interest of the team, where it can potentially succeed with the players it already has plus a few key additions to fill certain holes.

The fact that I read 75% of the George Steinbrenner biography on the plane also helps with this opinion. His emotions and insistence on winning every year cost his team the 1980s and the 2000s.

Bottom line with Theo Epstein and the Red Sox is they gave themselves roster flexibility with this "bridge year" philosophy, and in 2012, when they have a serious shot to be good again with or without a lot of luck, we will be happier for it.

Not that he's executed it perfectly. The fact that there is no flexibility in the rotation - with Matsuzaka, Lackey, and Beckett taking up three of those spots - is troubling. But on the aggregate, he's done a pretty good job. He deserves criticism for the rotation flexibility, not patching a hole in the bullpen when they were close to contending, and for mistakes that have happened in the past. The good years may have been able to happen before 2012. But to be honest, nobody's blocking the first base prospects. Nobody's really blocking the outfield prospects (Reddick and Kalish are both still very young). And nobody's blocking the shortstop prospect like Edgar Renteria did.

You also must remember, the crippling moves of December 6, 2006, once this team is a likely (as opposed to possible) contender again in 2012, will be completely irrelevant.

5 comments:

TimC said...

You can buy it, DV, but I like to keep in mind that Theo did create his own mess to force this rebuilding project. I thought you were gonna ask me to check my math on a 730 day bridge year. And I do this while acknowledging that it does take some sacrifice in the future to make runs in the present. The whole point of my stance, though, is that he could have made the '07 WS run without getting the team into this situation.

At least we seem to have this good news that Theo is no longer in the business of borrowing resources from the future to fund his ego in the present.

the gm said...

Tim C,

Exactly (regarding your last paragraph). There is no doubt that some of Theo Epstein's previous mistakes, including the mistakes of December 6, 2006, trading Hanley Ramirez, and getting his ass kicked in the most recent Varitek negotiation got him into this mess. Although, I will admit that losing the Varitek negotiation kinda saved this team to an extent. Beyond that, though, which moves to fortify the 2007 team have screwed the 2010 team? I can't really think of any.

Plus, that's a trade-off that always has to be made. If you're going to make a real concerted run at a title (probably for three years), you will make moves that work up front but then might bite you in the butt toward the end. Like Teixeira. Arod. Sabathia.

Neither of us are Theo guys, and that's been well-documented here. A lot of it is due to his continued assertion that he's smarter than anyone else despite the fact that he loses big-time in negotiations and that he made a handful of devastating moves that have made our last 4-5 years fun because we've had something substancial to complain about. But the fact that he really is punting these next two seasons and that in doing that, the chips are all being lined up for a good 2012 season--as well as the fact that many of his sins of the past have almost completely run their course (Lugo is officially off the payroll as of tonight)--means that you can't go into this offseason as a complete hater.

Anonymous said...

DV

Appreciate the great work coming out of you half a world away. It's impressive and I think you should know that.

As for this post, you've basically said everything I would like to have said--the idea of 'rebuilding' and maintaining competitiveness was put in place this year and really could have worked. They won 89 games. And that was losing basically every good player they had (save Beltre) for an extended period of time and having neither Youkilis nor Pedroia after August 2.

The bigger issue, is the one that you pointed out--it's not that the idea of a 'bridge year' is necessarily bad, but if you're doing that, why sign John Lackey? He wasn't a 'must-have' guy and his is a long-term contract. That play makes no sense.

But beyond that--and I'm not the first to mention this--the Sox battled all year. They never quit and that has a lot to do with the character of the guys on the field as well as the strength of their manager. At times, we've all scratched our heads about Francona's decision to use so and so out of the bullpen, but he really is the best manager in Red Sox history and one of the best in the game today.

Lastly, Papelbon couldn't even have a quick and easy ninth in a five run game that really didn't matter. I don't know what's going to happen with him this winter, but it should be interesting.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

DV,

Exactly (regarding your last paragraph)! "Not a Theo guy" might be a bit of an understatement but it hits the point. I am not a THEO guy but that should not be confused with being entirely against the method or the plans.

Gunn brought up Lackey, which is a good point. My take is that this is just the kind of move he might make to screw up any idea of a rebuilding plan because he can spin it so there is no risk to his reputation. If Lackey pitches well, Theo looks brilliant and the Sox have the #1 rotation in MLB. If he pitches poorly, he hides behind his laptop and takes no blame because the philosophy dictated that he sign Lackey. I'm sure he is preparing the numbers, as he did with Drew, to make some kind of defense of Lackey.

Ross Kaplan said...

As the son of one of NY's finestTrust and Estate attorneys I believe my knowledge of the subject will finally come in handy, and yes this does have a point.

As we all know, Steinbrenner passed away earlier this year, but what you may not know is that he couldn't have picked a more opportune time to die at least from his family's perspective. That is because this year the Federal Estate Tax aka the Death Tax was repealed so Steinbrenner's massive estate was not taxed. Compare that to next year when the estate tax will return to its 2001 rate of 55% and couples will only be allowed to shelter $1 million a spouse not to mention the state estate tax which is 15% in NY so I'm guessing it's even higher in Taxachusetts. That means that instead of 70% of Steinbrenner's unsheltered assets going the government considerably less of it will now go to only Florida, NY or wherever he was domiciled at his death.

So my point is that if the Red Sox intend on contending any time soon they better make sure to amend the Death Tax. Until then, the rich get richer.