Looking ahead to the 2011 season, the Red Sox appeared to be on their way to a solid dynasty of several consecutive great seasons. Now, just after that season, they’ve missed the playoffs, released their coach, and their General Manager appears to be on his way out the door as well.
Theo Epstein is rumored to be on the cusp of signing with the Chicago Cubs. He still has a year remaining on his contract with the Red Sox, so there would be compensation for the Red Sox if they allowed Epstein to move on. It’s expected that the Red Sox would receive a combination of minor league players and cash in exchange for Epstein.
It’s been the complete turnaround for the Red Sox. Just months ago they were expected to rival the 1927 Yankees for the top team ever to play in the Majors, and as recently as August still had their sites set on a 100 win season.
We all know the story of how that went, and we’ve all been dissecting the reasons the Red Sox imploded such as they did. What we didn’t see coming was the General Manager jumping ship quite this quickly.
Whoever would take over in Boston still has a decent team on the surface. Carl Crawford is probably going to be better than he was this year, and there’s still the core team of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkillis, etc to keep the lineup strong. JD Drew is coming off the books, David Ortiz probably will as well, and Jonathan Papelbon is most likely going to riverdance his way out of town. Jon Lester is still an ace, and Daniel Bard is still a force out of the bullpen.
At the same time, Beckett is going to be another year older, Buccholz is coming back from a broken back, John Lackey is still under contract, and the bullpen still needs some major work. The minor league system appears to be pretty stripped, or else there would have been some more shakeups to prevent their September collapse.
You’d better believe there is work to be done with the Red Sox. Normally the GM would buck up after that sort of a season, and plan ahead for how to prevent it next year. Instead, the new GM is going to be left with the bad contract for Crawford, the bad contract for Lackey, and holes up and down the lineup to patch with the free agent migration out of Boston.
In Chicago, Epstein would find himself on a team equally despaired, but without the expectations in Boston. While Boston expected an annual repeat of 2004 and 2007, the Cubs fans are still mad at the Goat and trying to find where Steve Bartman went to. There’s a general feeling of “we’d like be able to expect to win.” In Chicago he’d also find himself in a situation where he had more control over the team and less people critiquing his every move.
Of course, it’s still Theo’s team that he’d be leaving behind. For all it’s good and bad parts, it’s the team that Theo created and built to win in the AL East. Now just a year removed from acquiring Agon, Crawford, and others, Theo appears ready to slink away and leave somebody else the problem of beating the Yankees and Rays.
Theo Epstein once left Fenway Park wearing a Gorilla suit. This time he’s leaving there looking like a jackass.