As a long-time Red Sox observer I recently started to reconsider if Theo Epstein should get credit for most definitely the World Champion in 2004 and perhaps 2007. My apologies, if there have threads out there about this and I invite anyone to correct me if I am mis-guided in my assessment.
First I would like to say that it seems to me that GM Dan Duquette deserves the lion share of credit and secondarily the fact that Theo was lucky in two major moves and lastly we cannot run away from the issue of steroids. Looking at the Baltimore Orioles and the job Dan and Buck Showalter are doing there gives me pause and consider an alternative view.
Although Theo, closed the deal on Curt Shilling, I think his ability to do that was a direct result of the achievements of the previous two years; teams largely built by Dan Duquette. Wea also need to face the fact the David Ortiz (even if one does not consider steroids) was not the David we thought we were getting; in fact he was not even the starting DH on opening day as that was taken by Jason Giambi; in addition he was a platoon player until he started to take off. After 2004, I think we also got lucky with Mike Lowell as he was a throw-in to close the Josh Beckett deal. This is not to discount the fact that Schilling and Beckett (Theo moves) were not HUGE for the Sox in their world championships.
It should also be noted that Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller were not opening day starters either and it was not until we see Meuller production that we traded "all-star" Shea Hillenbrand. Fact is the core of the team, Pedro, Manny, Derek Lowe, Nomar, Damon, Wakefield, Veritek, Nixon, and others were in place. Duquette, signe, big time free agents (Pedro and Manny) and made shroud trades, Lowe, Wakefied, Lowe, in addition to home grown talent (Nomar and Nixon).
The truth is the when some of those big names in key positions moved on, we have struggled to fill them. Let's start with Nomar (we have been searching for a short-stop since he left); next Manny (we thought we solved it with Gonzo's bat or perhaps Crawford); we finally filled Damon's position, but after a misfire on Coco Crisp; I don;t think anyone was pleased with the JD Drew replacement for Trot Nixon and possibly Cody Ross is that answer; we thought Lester and Beckett were the replacements for Perdo and Schilling, but we are now scratching our head. And let's not forget the quality innings we got from Lowe and Wakefield at the bottom of the rotation that we are still looking for. Theo cannot take credit for Kevin Youkliis as he was in Dan's find and while Theo did spend a ton for Dice-K, we are again left wondering.
Yes we give credit for the farm system that produced Pedroia, Ellsbury, Lester, Papeblebon, but under closer look it was Dan that set in motion a complete restructure of the farm system infrastructure that reaped dividends in years to come. And as much as love Terry Francona, now or after his calm performance down 3-0 to the Yankees in the 2004 ACLS (at that point he did not better than Grady Little, perhaps worse being on the brink - with the Schill investment), who can say that we whiffed on Joe Maddon and looking at what he has done with much less in Tampa Bay.
And now to steroids, while not going to talk about Manny and Ortiz (for now), but I had always felt that Veritak, Millar, Muellar, and possibly Damon, dipped in the juice, looking at their power numbers in 03 and 04 and then the precipitous drop-off in years since.
The point is Theo a good scout or a GM who can put a team together. I know some of this is revisionist history, but could we (or was I ) missing a basic point all this time. Could this have led to some of the front-office friction in that the brass was really trying to tell Theo not to soak in his own press and that he was not in-fact responsible for all the glory being heaped upon him.
It will be interesting in the days and weeks ahead there is some school of thought that we need to re-do Theo's work, if Ben is now his own man, or if Theo and ownership really don't how to run a team, or Dan Duquette somewhere smiling at the irony of it all.