The start of a long season?
Yesterday’s 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers was painful. The Sox bullpen squandered a terrific outing from Jon Lester and a gutsy comeback in the 9th inning by the offense. And it feels like a harbinger of the year to come.
The 2012 Red Sox have a nice core of great players, but the rest of the team has been put together with bailing wire in an economy move to keep the team under the luxury tax. This may prove to be necessary to keep the team competitive in future seasons, but it is sure to make this a frustrating season.
And, of course, it all stems from stupid free agent signings by the boy genius Theo Epstein. Right now the Red Sox have over $50 million in payroll from Theo’s free agents sitting on the disabled list:
- John Lackey (about $16 million)
- Carl Crawford (about $20 million)
- Bobby Jenks ($6 million)
- Dice-K ($10 million)
Sadly, however, most of those players, even if they were in uniform, would not improve this team. That’s how unfortunate those signings are.
But let me propose that Theo’s worst free agent signing was Mike Cameron after the 2009 season. Forget the $15.5 million Cameron was paid for less than 250 at bats over the parts of two seasons. Theo signed Mike Cameron to play center field because Theo didn’t have enough confidence in Jacoby Ellsbury to field that position. Ellsbury moved to left field, had a notable collision with Adrian Beltre that caused him to miss most of the 2010 season. Had Ells been playing center, that collision would not have happened and it is likely he would have had a very good season, perhaps not yet the MVP-caliber season he had in 2011, but still very good. Imagine that. Then ask yourself if Theo would have signed Carl Crawford the following off-season to an idiotic long-term deal worth over $20 million per year, a move that is certain to mean the Red Sox will not have the cash flexibility to keep Ellsbury once he reaches free agency.
I used to think that Theo Epstein was a good general manager, just not the boy wonder he was originally made out to be. But now I’m thinking that he was a sub-par GM who had the crutch of a big payroll and a little luck on his side. He has certainly left a wreck of a team in his wake, one hampered with too many bad contracts and a farm system that hasn’t contributed a single useable player since Clay Buchholz came up.
At the trading deadline last year Theo needed to add a solid pitcher to the rotation. Quick. Who was it that he traded for? If you can’t remember, you’re not alone. A couple of weeks ago, I was amused listening to an interview with the Mariners GM who was talking about the two pitchers he traded away last summer. He mentioned Doug Fister going to the Tigers, but then couldn’t recall that he’d also traded Erik Bedard to the Red Sox. Bedard went 1-2 in 38 innings of work for Boston before going on the DL, not very memorable.
Maybe Ben Cherington will out shine his mentor, but so far I’m unimpressed. His two “shrewd” moves this off-season were his trades for Andrew Bailey from the Oakland A’s and Mark Melancon from the Astros. Right now neither of those moves seems shrewd at all, as the oft injured Bailey is on the DL and Melancon lost yesterday’s game and didn’t look too good in spring training. Of course, it is still very, very early. Melancon might pick up his game and Bailey may return from thumb surgery in the summer to anchor a revitalized bullpen. I just am not that confident in hanging my hopes on “might.”