Does the Providence Journal’s Jim Donaldson really believe the Red Sox would’ve been better off overpaying for the aging, noodle-armed Johnny Damon? Is the trade of David Delucci the one single move that will kill the Texas Rangers this season? Either Donaldson really believes one or both of these things, or he takes bizarre pleasure in a tired, anti-intellectual stance.

A strange scenario has been running through my mind the last two days while watching the revamped Red Sox take on the restructured Rangers in Texas.

I kept picturing (plug in the name of either Theo Epstein or Jon Daniels (above) here; they are, in this case, interchangeable) pausing for a moment while in the midst of — all at the same time — studying statistical analyses of the optimum time to bunt in the middle innings of night games played on the West Coast after the Fourth of July with a lefthander on the mound when trailing by one run, poring over the collected works of Bill James, scrolling through their e-mail online, checking their BlackBerrys and talking on their cellphones.

Suddenly, young Theo and/or even younger Jon looks up, slightly startled, perhaps even momentarily overwhelmed by information overload, and inquires of the stat geeks diligently crunching numbers (and whole grain cereal) nearby: “Has anybody seen my Rotisserie League roster?”

This, naturally, touches off a flurry of activity from the eager-to-please young aides, some of whom are pushing 25 and figure if they don’t get a general manager’s job in the next two years they’ll be past their prime, over the hill, considered to be codgers compared to the next hotshot fresh out of the Ivy League, and will have to leave the good life of Yawkey Way for a dismal life working on Wall Street.

“Never mind,” says Theo. Or Jon, as the case could be. “I’ve found it.”

At which point, one of the aides peers over his boss’s shoulder, and what he sees causes his eyes to widen.
“Excuse me,” he says hesitantly, “but that’s our starting lineup.”

For a moment, there is stunned silence.

Then Theo — or Jon — explodes: “Darn it! When I was dealing all those guys, I thought it was my ‘Rot-ball’ roster! I didn’t think it was our real team!”

OK, call me weird if you will, but does it seem to anybody else out there in this brave, new — and supposedly now steroid-free — baseball world that these youthful general managers — Epstein is 32; Daniels, 28 — approach the game like it’s a Rotisserie League?

That they trade players as if they were baseball cards, instead of flesh-and-blood athletes?

That only the numbers, the statistics, are real to them — not the people?