Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Like Justice

As part of the infamous "I thought you were gonna ask me about JD Drew having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders" interview, Theo Epstein said he wasn't necessarily tired of defending Drew, but said "I like justice."  (Follow along to roughly 6:05 of the interview.)  I also like justice.  Therefore, Theo needs to move on.

As much as I like to postulate, and as much as I read and have read over the HYD Baseball era and before, I cannot pretend to know the infrastructure of the Boston Red Sox' front office.  But I am under the impression that stuff like Spooky World at Fenway (scheduled for the day after the World Series conclusion, God forbid there's a rainy day), Schooled (my GPA was a gillion!), the Bridal Festival (September 25th, last weekend of baseball season), and the overaggressive sales of personalized concourse bricks (what is this, a high school athletic department?) are not Theo's fault and are not Theo's business.  Those things are heinous, but due to space constraints, they might not even make it to Friday's full-blown assault on Henry, Werner, and Lucchino. 

I am, however, under the impression that anything that has anything to do with baseball is Theo's responsibility.  This includes the medical staff (which should have been canned after the 2010 season), the strength and conditioning coaches (the twelve-ounce PBR curl does not count as exercise), the training staff, major league scouting (including Carl Crawford's private investigators), minor league scouting, amateur scouting, and coaching.  I do know for a fact that the organization occasionally emphasizes certain aspects of the game (when I worked in there in 2008, baserunning was emphasized), so I can also attribute overall organizational attitude to Theo, and this includes the attitude of "never get too up, never get too down," "build a team that will work in October," "RBIs don't matter," and anything to do with Carmine the Computer.

Theo is on the hook for the following.  I'm going big to small to big:
1.  Overall Dbaggery.  Sure, not the most eloquent way to put it, but the most accurate.  I've gone over this before, but I cannot imagine the Red Sox have a very good reputation across baseball.  The botched negotiations with several free agents, including Teixeira, Damon, and going way back Kevin Millar made the organization look bad, as did the gentlemen's agreements surrounding Bronson Arroyo not being traded and Junichi Tazawa bypassing Japanese baseball.  The Crawford private I's.  The treatment of Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Damon, Jason Bay, Victor Martinez (2 years, $20 million is EMBARRASSING) and others.  His own childish departure/temper tantrum in 2005.  And, most recently, the awful handling of the Terry Francona (deserved) firing.  This guy's inability to handle anything tactfully have made the Red Sox look downright foolish.  This is beyond 2010.  And this is something that must fall on the general manager.

2.  Minor League Development:  A torpedo:  Clay Buchholz and 46 were brought up in 2007.  Since then, the Red Sox farm system has developed Daniel Bard.  You can give them modest credit for Masterson, Murphy (would have been useful in right field this year!), and the Reddick/Kalish cocktail, and I guess you can give them credit for the stocks of Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly, because they brought God's Will to Boston.  Otherwise, the Red Sox' prized prospects have been Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront, Brandon Moss, Yamaico Navarro, Tazawa, and Jed Williams.  Ew.  What happened?  Re-emphasis of high school prospects?  Maybe Moneyball was right on the less-cinematic aspects of the A's operation.

3.  Big-name major-league acquisitions:  Stuff like Renteria is under the bridge.  But Drew, Beckett, Lackey, Crawford, Matsuzaka, the FPT Bobby Jenks, and God's Will were all deciding factors in the collapse of the Best Team Ever.  I don't know what this team does with major league scouting, either guys from their own team (how about keeping Victor Martinez) or guys from around baseball with perfectly accurate, quantifiable stats?  It did not really require an astrophysics degree to realize that Bobby Jenks was on a downward trend, Drew has underperformed his entire career, and Beckett couldn't last an entire season.  It does not require a rocket scientist to throw a lot of money at Adrian Gonzalez.  It does not require cleverness and tact to BLOW OUT the field on free agents.  He's struck out spectacularly more than he's connected, and it really came back to bite him with the Best Team Ever.

4.  Sabermetric insanity:  When HYD started, I loved sabermetrics.  I have sworn off of them because they have gone in the wrong direction and have glorified minutia.  Defensive metrics, in my opinion, are crap, and the 2010 Mariners proved that.  The devaluation of the RBI like it's Brazilian currency is a disconnection from understanding the game of baseball.  JD Drew proved that.  Theo Epstein picked and chose when to use sabermetrics (Carl Crawford's not exactly a Moneyball player, nor is Julio Lugo), and to ignore other things about a baseball player's game.  Youkilis began a sabermetric player, then decided that it was his responsibility to knock players in.  So he stopped walking and started hitting.  If your philosophies are getting outsmarted by Kevin Youkilis, you're doing something wrong.  Saying that JD Drew after 2009 was worth "a tick above" $14 million a year is downright insulting.  Carmine the Computer should have a date with Peter Gibbons, Michael Bolton, and Samir Nayeenanaja in an open, grassy field.

5.  Marathon:  I fully appreciate the idea of now years versus rebuilding years.  I actually didn't even have a problem with the "retooling" 2006 year and "bridge" 2010 year.  But the entire organizational philosophy from the baseball operations standpoint is one of patience, playing for October, getting ready for October, and never getting too panicked if you lose a couple (or ten of twelve) in April, lose a couple more (against Pittsburgh and San Diego) in June, and lose a couple (or twenty of twenty-seven) in September.  If you do not have any bit of urgency, which Theo used to have (hence many ill-advised panic moves like Renteria and even my boy Coco Crisp) but no longer has, that attitude bleeds down.  Thanks to Theo's acquisition and Theo's organizational philosophy, this team turned into twenty-five JD Drews, never really caring about anything because if you aggregate everything, a walk is more valuable than a sacrifice fly.  Guess what?  If you don't have any sense of urgency in April through September, maybe there won't be an October.  Maybe the Yankees, who play hard the entire time instead of resting for October, can rest their starters and throw ten minor league pitchers on the last game of the season.  News flash:  The Red Sox could have done that if their overall philosophy wasn't one of six months of coasting.

5a.  Injuries.  It's Theo's business model ("we tell our players in the minor leagues, you need to be honest with us," around 7:00 into the interview linked above), it's okay to speak up if you're a little bit injured for the best interest of the team being in October.  It's better to sit out than aggravate your injury.  So if you have a stiff neck from sitting on the plane or getting benched against David Price, if you have an impinged shoulder from realizing you're hitting .219, if you have a sore finger and sore neck from your minor league rehab, if you have a sore ankle from taking off your warmup clothes, or if you have sore ribs as a result of not getting an MRI on your back, you can sit out as many games as possible, because it's not a sprint, it's a marathon.  Good philosophy.

6.  Second Base Cup.  This ties in very closely to the previous point.  The team's preparation was apparently not up to Theo Epstein's standards, as he admitted thirteen days ago.  Well, he saw it through the entire way.  In spring training, were they working on their fitness or were they working on their chip shot?  Were they eating correctly or were they having a Heineken after a round of eighteen after practice?  Were they working on fundamentals or were they competing in a closest-to-the-pin competition on NESN?  It's good that I have a real job:  If I didn't, I might still be on tilt enough by February that I might take a trip down to Fort Myers, sneak into the clubhouse, and snap every single five-iron I see.  The entire "season's a vacation until October" philosophy affected the way they prepared on the field.  And the guy in charge of baseball operations, who has seen this go on for years now, should have put an end to it.
7.  Accountability!  Wow, this seems to be a problem everywhere!  Remember when How Youz Doin wrote a post called "Theo Patrick Epstein?"  JD Drew sucking was not true!  Theo didn't have to take blame for it!  It's because JD Drew was a hideous embarrassment for his entire time here, it's because fans were too stupid to appreciate this stiff!  The team sucked in 2006?  Wasn't because you split and let the organization blow up the previous offseason!  It's because Jason Varitek got hurt!  The team sucked again in 2010?  Blame it on the injuries!  Unbelievable!  When the ship was sinking in September, wow, isn't this special?  Peter Gammons, Theo apologist and Theo close friend, announced on NESN that there was a "disconnect" between the GM and the manager.  In other words, "Hey, this collapse is on Tito, not on me."  What a wimp.  I appreciate fully the balls it took to trade Nomar on that Saturday afternoon, July 31, 2004.  But you lost them.  Like the players, who had the balls to convince the umpires to play on a wet field the day Arod and Varitek fought (one week before the trade) and the team came back with a Bill Mueller home run, you changed.  You had balls then, and so did your players.  Now your players blame the rain and how hard it is to grip a baseball, and you hide behind Peter Gammons to stab your manager in the back.  If that's not the 2011 Red Sox, I don't know what is.

8.  Organizational Arrogance:  True, Theo helped bring a championship to Boston by trading Nomar for two .246 hitters (Cabrera and Mientkiewicz).  He thinks he's smarter than you are (and this will be addressed further later on when I crush the ownership triumvirate).  You can be really smart, have all the sabermetrics and Heat Charts and Carmine the Computers at your disposal, and tell people in such a smug, arrogant, condescending way like saying "I thought you were gonna ask me about JD Drew having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders" how much smarter you are then they are.  But when a year like 2011 happens and you look like a complete jerk, you deserve to be under a little more scrutiny.

You like justice, Theo Epstein.  Now it's time to serve it.  The Red Sox shouldn't get compensation from the Cubs when you split (and hopefully bring Carmine with you).  You should be fired.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

I'll comment further on this, but it appears Epstein is close to leaving for the Cubs. Maybe the Sox can get them to take Lackey's contract with him as compensation for letting him out of his contract?

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Bandi was absolutely correct yesterday when he pointed out how ahead of the curve he was regarding sabermetrics as a guide - just one part of the analytical equation - and not a rule. I can remember a lot of chatter, in particular, before the 2008 season, when I took a strong opposition to him. I was wrong and have reversed course, and he deserves credit for being out in front of baseball being more nuanced than just a certain set of stats on a page. There's a human element to this game, most notably getting the job done.

Speaking of getting out in front of things, DV similarly deserves credit for a lot of the stuff, particularly the team culture/attitude element, he writes about in this post. And this is important. A lot of people are writing similar rip jobs now, and it's accurate and the team deserves it. But it's a lot easier to do it now after we know the results.

DV was honing in on these things long before. I mean, I feel like there was an indictment of second base cup the day it happened. More than that, is there a single thing in this post, or in anything you've seen DV write since the season ended, that you hadn't seen months before on this site? These are themes and topics that DV has been on since earlier in the season and even previous years.

DV can be over-critical. We all know this to be true, himself included. Part of it is him being an emotional fan (like a lot of us), part of it is him being annoyed by certain repeated themes, and part of it is intentional to illicit reaction, which is part of having a site where people debate sports. You have to start debate. To a certain extent, I think sometimes because DV is so consistently critical, when his criticisms are spot on they are sometimes lost on people as DV just being critical again (even if it only loses 10% on people, they still aren't seeing the full accuracy of what he might be saying).

Not here. DV is spot on, and has been spot on for a long time. You could even say he called this one. Saw something like this coming for this team since the first day of Spring Training. You could tell, reading his work, there was just something about this particular team (from ownership to management to the players) that made him uncomfortable. Those things that made him uncomfortable are the very same things he's talking about in this post. It's just that he's been talking about them for a lot longer than most. And he deserves a lot of credit for that. If his work was more mainstream, people would be looking back now saying he had it all along. Good spot from him.

- PF