This has not been a good year for the Boston Red Sox. Not surprisingly, much of it can be traced to the decisions made by their general manager, Theo Epstein. His off season moves appear to have gone a long way towards shaping the disastrous conclusion to the Sox' 2011 season.
1. Carl Crawford- The obvious one. I doubt that the 2010 version of Carl Crawford was worth the money Epstein paid him, but certainly not the 2011 version. In ten seasons Crawford has never hit 20 home runs or driven in 100 runs. He strikes out more than twice as often as he walks. His career OPS is .773 and his career batting average is under .300. While he's fast, left field in Fenway doesn't even take advantage of that. Why exactly should he be the highest paid outfielder in baseball?
2. Jacoby Ellsbury- His success was perhaps the brightest spot in the Red Sox' season. Yet even this is hurt by Theo's maneuvers. Last season, Theo brought in Mike Cameron to play centerfield, moving Ellsbury to Left. Adding insult to injury, the Sox' medical staff misdiagnosed his injury that season, hurting him in the eyes of Red Sox Nation. So while Ellsbury played like an MVP this season, he's unlikely to give Epstein a hometown discount in negotiations with his take-no-prisoners agent, Scott Boras.
3. Adrian Beltre-Talk about the one that got away. While Kevin Youkilis fumbled around at third base and had a mediocre year at the plate for the Sox, Beltre hit .296, 32 home runs and drove in 105 runs while playing golden glove quality defense at the hot corner. While the Sox have ended their season in ignominy, Beltre's Rangers won their division.
4. Victor Martinez- While Jarrod Saltalamacchia probably plays defense at catcher better than Martinez, is it good enough to compensate for not having access to his numbers this year? He hit .330 and drove in 103 runs. Even if you answered yes, wouldn't you rather have signed him instead of David Ortiz' He's three years younger and gives you multiple defensive options, while Ortiz can't really do anything defensively. This season Epstein seemed more focused on wowing Sox fans with new acquisitions, than resigning the stars he already had in-house that had already proven they were solid Fenway performers. Like Beltre's Rangers, Victor's Tigers also won their division this season.
5. Adrian Gonzalez- Another bright spot for the Sox this season. Consider the chain reaction of his acquisition. First, it meant that they needed to find a new position for Youkilis. Second, it meant that first base wasn???t available for Martinez either. Instead of resigning either Beltre or Martinez, Theo gave up some of Boston's precious farm hands to acquire Gonzo. It also meant that the Sox didn't have a spot for Ortiz defensively at National League parks. While Gonzo is definitely seems worth wait Epstein gave up for him, it's not like Epstein was competing with lots of other GMs to make that deal and it still doesn't excuse his related decisions.
6. Kevin Youkilis- After the disaster of moving Ellsbury to left, you'd think that Epstein might have learned his lesson. Coming off a career high .307 average while hitting 19 homers in only 102 games, Boston moved Youk to third base. He had three times as many errors and his worst fielding percentage since 2004. His batting average dropped to .258 and he hit two less homers despite playing 18 more games.
7. David Ortiz- The other seemingly good move by Theo was resigning Big Papi. While his numbers were impressive, it's still hard to make a case that he was more valuable to the Sox than Martinez would have been, especially over the next couple years.
8. Bobby Jenks- Like the Yankees, the Red Sox spent big on a big name reliever this off season. In the case of Boston though, the GM actually thought it was a good idea. Jenks only gave the Sox 16 innings and a hideous 6.32 ERA.
9. Dan Wheeler- Not too much better than Jenks: 4.38 ERA in 49 innings.
10. The Boston conditioning and medical staff- After last season was completely derailed by a parade of injuries and the problems with Ellsbury, Epstein probably should have considered shaking things up with his medical staff and conditioning coaches. Instead, Boston's pitching staff was torn apart by injury all season long and Youkilis and JD Drew were also bothered by injuries for most of the season.
The Sox have already parted ways with their two time World Series winning manager, Terry Francona, within days of completing their season ending choke job, but perhaps they should really be taking a hard look at whether they still have the right general manager.