Theo Epstein Should Be Remembered More for Successes With Red Sox Than Mistakes

by abournenesn

Jun 15, 2012

Theo Epstein Should Be Remembered More for Successes With Red Sox Than MistakesIt was likely an awkward feeling for Theo Epstein.

On one hand, the Cubs president of baseball operations took pleasure in his team’s ability to blank the Red Sox 3-0 in Friday’s win. On the other hand, Epstein — the former Sox general manager — was forced to watch the continuation of Boston’s swoon.

After all, he crafted the majority of that team before Ben Cherington filled the vacancy last October and added more pieces. And since leaving, Epstein has insisted that a piece of him would always stay with the Red Sox.

Speaking with the reporters in Chicago, Epstein expressed regret about succumbing to the urge to sign expensive free agents in Boston. He never indentified a specific transaction, but the five-year, $82 million deal to John Lackey stands out as an example.

While many are shifting the blame of the Red Sox’ recent woes — an aging roster and bad contracts — to Epstein, he shouldn’t be remembered for those errors. Yes, short-term memory tends to overtake legacy, but he did much more.

Epstein should be heralded for bringing two World Series titles to Boston. Before his hiring in 2003, the Red Sox were mired in a title drought and regarded as Major League Baseball’s loveable losers alongside the Cubs.

Then he started making moves.

Epstein wisely plucked Terry Francona to replace Grady Little. In eight seasons with the Red Sox, Francona wound up tallying a 1,296-744 record en route to the two aforementioned championships.

When it came to molding rosters, he was a wise architect. Leaning on sabermetrics, he discovered and signed David Ortiz, a little-known slugger in Minnesota who wasn’t on anyone’s radar.

That acquisition, along with other transactions, helped the Red Sox snap the 86-year championship drought with a World Series win in 2004. Then, his drafting acumen gave Boston a bevy of budding youngsters that carried the team back to the title in 2007.

Under Epstein’s administration, the Red Sox churned out young star after young star — drafting Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie over the years and most recently, Will Middlebrooks.

And there could be more of Epstein’s gems on the way. Before exiting Boston, Epstein played a key role in drafting pitcher Matt Barnes and outfielder Jackie Bradley, who are each shining in the minors, in the 2011 MLB Draft.

If they continue that pace, Epstein’s draft-day decisions could pay off handsomely for the Red Sox in the long run. Barnes and Bradley have the potential to be cornerstones for the organization down the road.

And in the end, Epstein properly groomed Cherington as his successor. He didn’t have to take that route.

Considering he was plotting his exit for some time, Epstein could’ve selfishly cruised to the finish line without offering ownership advance notice. But instead, he wanted to bridge the gap for the Red Sox and took Cherington under his wing.

That’s why Epstein should be heralded for his contributions — ones that will be more appreciated in the future — not for his recent mistakes.

Have a question for Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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