Theo Epstein has always had a knack at making the right moves. Granted, it doesn't work all the time -- because really, how can it? -- but nine times out of 10, you can count on Epstein making a move that will undoubtedly help the club.
I'm starting to think 2009 may be his worst year yet.
It seems like every year since, say, 2004 or so, the Red Sox have just needed to acquire the "puzzle pieces" to cap off a great team. It's getting that one middle piece with a sliver of blue on it and a chunk of a red -- kinda looks like a flower -- to put it all together and complete that 25-piece puzzle.
This year's puzzle pieces have that blue and red, but they just ain't the right shapes.
Since the Sox have started to make mid-season moves, there's been a lot of head scratching.
First there was Adam LaRoche. That was an understandable move for the most part because the Sox needed offense -- even more-so than they do now.
LaRoche was still a wonder though because he's a starting-caliber first baseman and the Sox, no matter how bad the offense was, couldn't start him. Unless there was an injury, LaRoche would find a lot of his time occupied by spitting sunflower seeds from the top bench in Fenway.
That fact that puzzle piece did not fit was quickly realized as he was traded nine days later for Casey Kotchman. That's where we find another oddly-shaped puzzle piece.
Kotchman is an upgrade over LaRoche in terms of fitting in the offense, but it's still not a great solution. Kotchman is considered a better "bench player," per se, because the word is he'd take to that better than LaRoche. OK, sure. He automatically is a better fit in the roster, even if he isn't a better hitter than LaRoche.
I want to point out that just because a player isn't regarded better than another, it doesn't mean that it's a worse fit. Remember the greatest puzzle piece in Red Sox history? Sure you do, because now he's one of the hardest-to-listen-to broadcasters in Sox history.
Dave Roberts. Roberts didn't do anything too amazing, but he was fast. He played solid defense, but he couldn't really hit too much. But he worked in the offense just beautifully. And while I'm on it, thanks again for '04, D-Rob.
So Kotchman is a better fit, but it's still not a great fit. With Kotchman on board July 31, plus the addition of Victor Martinez on the same day, an instant logjam is created at first base.
As of right now, the Sox have four players on the current roster that can feasibly play first base: Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Martinez and Kotchman. While Youkilis and Martinez have versatility, that's still too many damn first basemen.
We can also talk about players like Brian Anderson, Chris Woodward and Alex Gonzalez (while they do seem to fit a tad better), the bottom line is that Epstein is making moves and they don't seem to be panning out.
So why is our genius GM making these moves? The only thing I can really think of is that someone's desperate.
The Sox have struggled all season long, really. I can only remember one really good stretch and that came at the beginning of the season. But it seems like once one thing got off on the wrong foot (maybe that could be the LaRoche-Kotchman situation), everything else just followed slipping down the hill.
Moves like trading for Gonzalez or designating John Smoltz for assignment could, in some way, cry of desperate measures. Epstein is trying to build a winning team, but it seems like everything that he's tried has had no effect on the club.
It's like having 10 dumb kids all in the same class -- it doesn't matter where they sit in the classroom, because they're still 10 dumb kids.
Epstein can shuffle the lineup all he wants. He can call up whomever from Pawtucket to try and make a spark. But at this point in the season, nothing has worked. This, of course, doesn't rule out the fact that a combination could work. While it's possible -- and has seemed to work in previous years -- I just don't think it's very likely.
However, there's still time. I want to see Epstein use his magical powers to somehow bring a shortstop to the team that can hit the ball. I'm sure he has a magic wand or something that can do that. Maybe he could bring in a starting pitcher that pitches like Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, but isn't Beckett or Lester.
In the meantime, I say we jam those freakin' puzzle pieces in and make them fit.