Theo Epstein helped bring the best of times to the all involved with the Boston Red Sox.
If there was ever someone in the Boston Red Sox organization that could truly relate with us, the fan, it was Theo Epstein. Theo was one of us. Born and raised in Brookline, Epstein didn't need to to learn about the history, pride, and heartbreak associated with the Boston Red Sox because he was born into it. In 2002 the "Boy Wonder" became the youngest GM in baseball history at 28, I was a few years younger than him at 23, and Theo represented a lot to me. He embodied hope, youth, and change. Epstein didn't play baseball in high school, but with hard work, luck, and smarts - he became the General Manager of the Team he grew up worshipping. Could there be a better story?
Theo didn't run the club like a fan-boy, and was a shrewd and smart businessman. The nega-fans that seem to pervade Boston will be quick to point out the swing and misses Theo had with Free Agents, but there's not one GM in baseball who hits 1.000, and when it's all said and done, I wouldn't have wanted to have anyone else at the helm other than him. Tom Yawkey was a fan as well, but he ran the place like a racist country club, Fenway Park was basically Augusta North. Theo helped usher in a new way of looking at baseball, and with the help of some great minds and talent, he changed the way the Red Sox viewed and played baseball, and in the process became Champions.
There's no way Dustin Pedroia is drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft if it wasn't for Theo and his Crew. They saw the intangibles that Pedroia possessed, and the little runt everyone questioned may end up being the greatest legacy of Theo's tenure, and is on pace to be one of the best Red Sox players of all-time. Epstein didn't do too bad in other drafts either. Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon, and Clay Buchholz were all drafted under his watch - and it's safe to say we wouldn't have won the 2007 Championship without any of them. Sure he also brought in the likes of Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, Eric Gagme, John Lackey, and Matt Clement - but like I said, you can't name me one GM who hasn't made bad Free Agent signings, it's part of the territory.
As I said in a recent post, I don't blame Theo for leaving at all, and I actually think it's best for both the Red Sox and him. It's obvious that a mutiny occurred this year, and I think having new leadership is needed to help right the ship and start anew. Ben Cherington, Theo's likely successor, is going to have some awfully big shoes to fill - and is going to have quite the challenge on his hands. Not only because the organization is in complete disarray, but also because the bar's been set so incredibly high by Theo. I wish him nothing but luck, and as long as it's not against the Red Sox, I hope he brings a Championship to Chicago and the Cubbies. The Cubs are our National League cousins, and if he had to go anywhere, I'm glad he went there.
It's already one hell of an interesting off-season for the Red Sox and it's not even half way through October. Our ownership is suspected of leaking yesterday's cover story to the Globe, David Ortiz is threatening to play for the Yankees, and our Manager and General Manager are no more. It's a brave new world, but so was 2004. The Red Sox had just lost the most heartbreaking game of my lifetime and had no Manager
or GM. Granted, they had a united clubhouse, but sometimes you need to hit the bottom to make it to the top - and there's no denying the Red Sox are at the bottom right now, but that's where we used to always be, Theo helped show us the top, and for that - I tip my cap.