The Red Sox are not playing well. Their pitchers are pitching to the worst ERA in the American League, they’re in fourth place in the AL East, their aging players have not mysteriously become younger, and Victor Martinez is slugging under .300. There are also a host of other things wrong with the team that I don’t know as much about because they don’t directly influence any of my fantasy teams. But suffice to say that the Red Sox are not currently playing like a team that’s made six of the last eight postseasons.
There are plenty of people to blame for this, and one of them, at least in theory, is GM Theo Epstein (above). Given that Epstein went public with “run prevention” — which is a fancier way of saying pitching and defense — as his offseason goal for the team, the fact that the Red Sox have allowed more runs than any other team will doubtless bring some bleak joy to the cold and joyless hearts of people who hate post-Branch-Rickey baseball management strategies. And it could lead to some understandable-if-premature criticism of Epstein, by that token — he built the team, the team isn’t winning; he evinced a philosophy, the team is falling short on those terms. This barely even needs explaining.
But it seems pretty reasonable when the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo defends Epstein against charges that his attending a Pearl Jam show on Monday night, instead of the Red Sox game, indicates that Epstein’s not taking the team’s issues seriously. Criticize Epstein for favoring grunty, dated contempo-classic rock, if you want, but let the guy go to his concert in peace, right? Even by the standards of Red Sox superfan anti-perspective, criticizing Epstein for not being at the Red Sox game would seem to be above and beyond the call of trollish duty. If, you know, someone were to actually have done that.
Cafardo mentioned that “some” were unhappy with Epstein’s choice to the show, but didn’t quote any emails or commenters or radio show callers to that effect. A quick perusal of the comments under Cafardo’s piece — the things I do for curiosity’s sake — reveal one commenter comparing Epstein to Obama (given that the guy’s handle is ObamaLiedTheEconomyDied, it may not surprise you to know that he’s pretty critical of both) and no one accusing Epstein of lacking anything but musical discernment in going to the show. The most rec’d comment on a Dan Shaughnessey column suggests that Epstein knowingly putting himself in a position to hear “Evenflow” “shows that even he knew this year was a waste, or he is simply professionally immature…take your pick.” But even that criticism is buried in a comment that’s mostly the usual bummed-sports-fan overstatement, demanding firings and chair-throwings and public criticism from management and the like. (Perhaps Epstein should take off his shirt and try to fight Darnell McDonald or Marco Scutaro?)
No columnist I could find at the Globe or even the Herald or CSNNE or WEEI suggests that Epstein going to the show was a big deal. All of which maybe makes Craig Calcaterra’s rhetorical questions at Hardball Talk seem a bit less rhetorical:
“The only question I have is who was actually criticizing Epstein over this? I value my brain cells so I don’t listen to Boston talk radio, but were people actually considering this to be some sort of issue? I’d wager $10,000 that Theo Epstein works more hours and is better at his job than every single person who considered this to be a legitimate problem.
Probably true, but given that no one has run a quote from someone — even an unidentified WEEI caller — who thinks it’s a legitimate problem, this one seems kind of manufactured to me. Although I, too, would not listen to Dennis and Callahan or whatever for research purposes even if I were getting paid to write here. But overblown does seem an accurate word to me especially, as Ted Berg writes at SNY, when you consider context a bit.
Even with their team underperforming this season, Boston fans should wake up every morning and give thanks for whatever series of circumstances brought them Theo Epstein… And the funny thing is, that™s sort of implicit in any anger toward Epstein for taking a night off. As mad as they are over their team this season, Sox fans still want their GM working to try to better the club. I have to imagine there™d be plenty of Mets fans excited to hear that Omar Minaya was at a Pearl Jam concert if it meant he had his hands off the controls for a night.