Are the Boston Red Sox becoming more like a Theo Epstein-built team without Epstein on board? The signings of Cody Ross and Nick Punto have the ghost of Epstein’s signature written all over them. By all accounts, Punto and Ross are great clubhouse guys — something the Sox need after the chicken-and-beer fiasco of last season.
It seemed at the heart of Epstein was the desire to go after players who were the right fit for the Red Sox and not necessarily the highest priced, sexiest names on the market.
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Manny Ramirez was the work of Dan Duquette. David Ortiz, then a low-priced fill-in, the work of Epstein. The duo worked, and it worked big time. Boston dominated for five years with the Ramirez-Ortiz combo in the heart of its lineup. But the sexy name at the time was obviously Ramirez — not an Epstein guy.
Theo traded the oh-so-sexy Nomar Garciaparra for Doug Mientkewicz and Orlando Cabrera. He also tacked on Dave Roberts in a separate deal. This was Theo’s defining moment. He got rid of the sexy ‘Nomahhh’ for the functional Cabrera and Mientkewicz. It worked. It worked big time.
But then something changed. Theo started wearing gorilla masks and following Pearl Jam around the world. Ownership made a big splash without him by acquiring Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell for Hanley Ramirez. The Red Sox were back in the sexy-name market, and Theo was nowhere to be found.
But now, Boston is leaning on Ben Cherington: a pre gorilla-mask Theo in the making. No excess. The Theo who knew what he was doing.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, “A couple of agents are frustrated after dealing with the Red Sox front office/ownership lately, as compared to what they were used to in the past. However, there has been quite a bit of praise for GM Ben Cherington.”
Red Sox fans have to wonder what that really means. Did Theo convince ownership to become such free spenders toward the end of his stint with the Red Sox he forgot who he really was? Theo was feeling sexy. Or maybe he was feeling dirty and ashamed.
Red Sox fans have grown accustomed to big-name acquisitions during the offseason. Last season, Epstein gave Red Sox Nation Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. What it didn’t give the Sox was a playoff berth.
This past offseason felt different. The Red Sox addressed needs rather than targeting big names. Instead of paying Papelbon a monster contract the Phillies may ultimately regret, the Red Sox took Josh Reddick, a free-swinging right fielder who was scary in Fenway’s right field, and turned him into a potential dominating AL East closer named Andrew Bailey. In the same deal, they added Ryan Sweeney, a scrappy outfielder with a reliable glove who grinds out every at-bat. This trade was a steal. Boston fans can only hope Cherington is creative enough to continue these kind of moves to fill out the rotation for the coming years.
Cherington is giving the Red Sox exactly what they need: functionality. He has the task of rebuilding a dysfunctional group of stars who never truly became a team last season. Red Sox fans can only hope all the gorilla masks are hidden.
Contributor: Brian Hendrickson