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$170 Million Reasons Theo Epstein Messed Up, Really Bad

September 17, 2010

As the date stamp of this post indicates, the baseball season has officially entered the stretch run. It’s an off day for the Red Sox, and raining, so I figured now is a good time for me to vent. I’m venting because, unfortunately, the fan base of the team with the second highest payroll in all of baseball just yawned. The only thing that can perk up their ears is talk of Tom Brady and his glorious arm heading to New York to play the rival Jets. Man-crush aside, the reason Tom Brady is the only worthy sports story in mid-September is because the Red Sox management decided this would be a “bridge season.”

Thank goodness you're so dreamy Tom, or New England sports would be f*cked right now

You probably just thought to yourself, “damn Tom looks sharp” then you remembered the last paragraph I actually wrote and said, “wait, WTF is a bridge season?” The answer to that is actually quite simple. The “bridge season” can be defined as a season in which a team is put together that everyone pretty much knows will not be able to compete for a title (without the help of a ton of luck). If you’re not following, think of this Red Sox season as something along the lines of a girl in between boyfriends, who needs SOMETHING to fill her time (since she doesn’t like sports, most likely) so she fakes interest for a while until something better comes along. Secretly, that’s what Red Sox fans have done all year. We have talked ourselves into liking the 2010 Red Sox even though they are a 6 on the 1-10 scale (and nobody settles for less than a 7.5 long-term).

Essentially, Theo Epstein took $170 million dollars, and built a figurative bridge into next season. Don’t believe me? He signed Adrian Beltre to a one-year deal in which the only upside would be Beltre has a monster season (he did) and the Red Sox lose him next year, or pay him a ton of money long-term (unlikely).  He hoped that David Ortiz would have a bad enough year where he could let him walk next year, only, a funny thing happened and Big Papi was the Red Sox best hitter. He signed John Lackey, a soon-to-be 32 year old to a contract worth over $17 million a year until he turns 36, then realized he had to give Josh Beckett, who is younger and has led the Red Sox to a World Series, even more money. Between the two, the Red Sox have gotten 17 wins, 14 loss, and an ERA near 5 combined. Sound investment, Theo.

Don’t confuse this anger towards any of the Red Sox players. Guys have down years, guys get injured (or in the 2010 Red Sox case, everybody got injured), and guys have career-best years. The problem with the 2010 Red Sox is that with $170 million dollars invested in players, a team should compensate for everything from injuries, to up-and-down seasons, to random position players having Lohan-like drug and alcohol problems (and that last one never even happened!)

Don't worry, Lindsay, you're not as big a mess as Theo this season...

The fact of the matter is, Theo Epstein, the Red Sox supposed genius GM just got outplayed for the playoffs by 10 other GMs with less money at the table. When it comes right down to it, Epstein has never made a significant free-agent signing that worked. You can go try, but don’t waste your time looking it up. Outside of David Ortiz, who was signed as a platoon DH, (and was a few days from being released by Epstein) and happened to turn into the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history, Theo has struck out since then.

Maybe i’m nitpicking. Maybe two World Series (although I’d also argue 2004 was mostly Dan Duquette’s team) is enough to give most GMs a free pass for a while, but I have a hard time building $170 million dollar bridges to nowhere. Because, if you think the Red Sox are going to be considerably better next season, you might want to think again. There isn’t much available in free agency to help the cause. Besides, Theo is 0-free agency so far in his GM career. I guess he’s due? More likely, this could be a drawbridge going up and letting the Yankees yacht pass through for a little while longer.

On the bright side, Tom Brady just signed a five year extension for less money than John Lackey. Wes Welker also makes less money in an entire season than JD Drew does in one month. See you next post, gotta go spit the mouth-throw-up out.

Editor’s note: This entire post could prove to be a reverse-jinx that sees the Red Sox make up 6 games on the Yankees with 15 games left in the season (a 3.6% chance according to the playoff predictor). In that case, good job Theo.

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