With the Red Sox having lost nine of their last 11 games and trying to hold off the Rays for the American League wild card, general manager Theo Epstein joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday to talk about his team's struggles.
Asked he had an explanation for the Red Sox' September swoon, Epstein replied: "We were asking ourselves the same questions in April. It's odd, the way we've done this -- open the year 2-10, then have the best record in baseball for over four months, and now we're 3-10 all of a sudden. It's never one factor. There are a lot of things that we're not doing well right now, and those are all contributing."
Epstein said the Red Sox can look to the start of the season for inspiration.
"The thing we have going for us here -- beyond the fact that we're a really good team, just not playing like it now -- is that we've pulled ourselves out of this before," he said. " April was no walk in the park. … That was not fun, and this team did a great job of pulling itself out of that. We certainly can do it again, and we have to. We've been punched in the mouth here a little bit. It's how we respond that matters."
Here are some other highlights from the conversation:
On what the GM can do or say to right the ship: "For me, the message is -- and obviously I think this pervades the clubhouse -- is it's not what happens to you. Every team is going to stumble, every team is going to get kicked in the mouth. It's how you respond. It's incumbent upon us to respond the right way. If we don't respond the right way, there's going to be night after night after night that all of us, and every single one of our players, is going to wake up and saying, 'Gosh, we were 3 1/2 games up with 17 games to play and felt like it was slipping away from us. Why didn't we just come out and play great baseball the way we had for most of the year?'
"As much as this seems like a massive problem, this is also a tremendous opportunity. We have a tremendous opportunity to respond for the second time in one regular season to a stretch of horrendous play with great opportunity ahead beyond that. If we can right the ship, and we will, not only will we be where we want to be at the end of the regular season, but we're going to have great momentum heading into the postseason.
"I'm glad we play the Rays four times coming up. If we can't right the ship against these guys, if we can't do what we need to do, we probably don't deserve to get into the postseason. As much as this looks like a crisis from the outside and obviously hasn't been fun from the inside, this is an opportunity. If we are what we think we are, to quote somebody else, then this is a great opportunity for us."
On the struggles of John Lackey: "I think it's a number of factors. We were pretty hopeful for a while there that he was pulling himself out of it, had run of good starts, throwing the ball better. There's been a bit of a regression here lately. That's what makes it frustrating. If it were that easy to pinpoint, obviously he would have made an adjustment by now. It's a continual struggle to try to pinpoint what exactly is going on with him and make adjustments so he can help us."
On Josh Beckett: "Today's an important day for him. He's going to throw. The best-case scenario for Beckett, if all goes well today, would indicate a pretty quick return to the rotation, which is good news. And [Erik] Bedard hopefully soon after that. That would be a big boost. The starting pitcher does matter. Earl Weaver says, 'Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher.' So, that's pretty important. I think for the short term, we're pretty locked in. We're going to try to get good news from Beckett today and go from there."
On Clay Buchholz: "We can't accelerate his return. We laid out a timetable about four weeks ago that would represent a best-case scenario. So far, he's exceeded every goal. It has been the best-case scenario. Knock on wood, it will continue to be so. He hasn't been off a mound yet, which is a big step, so it's hard to get too excited until he actually gets of a mound, because that's what slowed him down in the past. Once he gets past that hurdle, then we can start to get a little excited that he can help us. It's not going to be in lengthy outings. He just doesn't have time, certainly in the regular season, to get stretched out for any kind of significant long outing."
On J.D. Drew: "J.D.'s got a broken finger, for what that's worth. He has an avulsion fracture of his middle finger. He needs to heal, and hopefully he can come back from that. We haven't ruled anything out with him. He wants to be out there. … He's doing the best he can, and we want to try to get him back as soon as we can. Same is the case for a number of other guys that we have out, that we've had out for a long time here."
On the future of Jonathan Papelbon: "Since we drafted him back in 2003 and he proved himself in the minor leagues and came up and made the transition to closer, he's been a huge part of this team. He's always been a part of our plans, obviously. We haven't been able to sign him to a longterm deal throughout his arbitration years. Now, the different scenario is with free agency coming up. But there's never been a lack of interest in keeping him here. ... Whether it can be done or not, who knows. Free agency's always interesting."
For a transcript of the conversation, check the Full Count blog later in the morning. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at www.weei.com/teams/red-sox/home">weei.com/redsox.
Consider this: if we manage to back into the WC slot, we will be swept in three games, most likely. But if we complete the CHOKE JOB and the Rays, the more deserving team, get into the playoffs, then there is a decent chance that we can finally get a competent GM and manager. This would NOT happen if we make the playoffs. If this team completes the MONUMENTAL CHOKE JOB that is already well underway, we can start rebuilding. Maybe in 3 years or 4 we can again have a competitive club. Enjoy the football season fans; the baseball season ended today.
Posted by pumpsie-green