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BOB RYAN

It's end of error after only year

Edgar, we hardly booed ye.

Well, that's not exactly true. Edgar Renteria did hear it from the fans last season. And he was nicknamed Edgar Rentawreck. If he ever writes his memoirs, I think we can safely say that the 2005 chapter will not be entitled ''My Favorite Year."

So, who was that guy, anyway? Where was the ballplayer in whom the Red Sox were happy to invest as much as $48 million (had he gone into a fifth-year club option)? Where was the two-time Gold Glove shortstop? Where was the guy of whom Theo Epstein said the following barely one year ago?

''Normally, when you make a four-year commitment as a general manager, you don't sleep at night because you wonder, 'I hope this guy shows up to play every day.' This guy is so reliable that I slept very well."

Actually, that turned out to be the problem. Edgar Renteria did show up almost every day. He played in 153 of 162 games. Fans might have preferred him to show up for the nine and miss the other 153.

''He's going to show up and make us better, and be a big part of this ball club," Theo had said. One out of three ain't good, in this case.

But I have not come to flog Theo. I like Theo. But by dumping his marquee 2004-05 offseason acquisition after one year, and swallowing $11 million in walkaway money so Atlanta could take him, the Red Sox are the ones dissing Theo in a major way. And they may not be done purging themselves of Epstein guys, since we hear they have been offering Matt Clement to everyone but the Hosmer Chiefs.

More Theo from a year ago: ''Edgar Renteria has proven himself to be not only one of the best shortstops in baseball, but [also] one of the most complete all-around players in the game. His blend of speed, power, defense, durability, and leadership make him a terrific addition to the ball club."

Sounds great. Who wouldn't want a player like that?

Since Nomar started going south two years ago -- we're still waiting to find out how he hurt his Achilles' -- the Red Sox have been working to get this shortstop thing right. Their first solution appeared to be The Answer. Orlando Cabrera was a great fielder and timely hitter. They couldn't have won the World Series without him. But, as luck would have it, they got him on a year when his contract was up.

He was looking for a big score and they were more inclined to accentuate the negative, claiming he wasn't a pitch-count kind of guy, and thus not appropriate long-range Red Sox material. Rather than signing the known quantity who had given them great service in the biggest games, they made the goo-goo eyes at the new pretty girl on the market.

Were the overall résumés comparable? No. Edgar Renteria was perceived by everyone, not just the Red Sox, as the superior player, someone who would be well worth the $40-plus million it would take to get his signature on a four-year contract. He was going to come in and play a great shortstop and he would also be a perfect No. 2 hitter who, playing 81 games in Fenway, might also have a career power year. That was the assumption.

A year later, the judgment looks pretty bad. Last season, Cabrera, playing for the Angels, continued his gaudy fielding while coming up as big as anyone on his team in the postseason when they placed a bat in his hands. Renteria got off to a bad start, a really bad start, though he posted somewhat Renteria-like hitting numbers (not that the effect could be seen). He never found himself in the field.

This man, who won Gold Gloves in the National League in 2002 and 2003, had veteran Red Sox observers going as far back as Don Buddin (of whom it was once written that ''his license plate should be E-6") some 40 years ago to find a shortstop as inept. Renteria, who had 16 errors in 2003 and 11 errors in 2004, committed a career-high 30 errors in 2005, and in the mind's eye of the faithful, there was hardly a one that wasn't damaging. Was there perhaps some kind of reverse Joe Hardy thing going on?

If it's permanent, the problem is now Atlanta's. But the Braves, traditionally one of baseball's savviest organizations, clearly feel that 2005 was one of those oddly aberrational years that sometimes infest the careers of good players (the Red Sox are making the same assumption about Mike Lowell). As good National Leaguers, they have warm memories of the Renteria that was, as opposed to the out-of-sorts fellow for whom everyone in Boston kept waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting to play even one week at an All-Star level.

He could have been hurt, you know. He has a history of back trouble, and that could very well have accounted for his creakiness in the field. But if we know this, the Braves must also know it and they are ready to embrace him.

Did Renteria underestimate the intensity of baseball in Boston? That could have been the problem. They love their baseball in St. Louis, for sure, but they love it in a far different way than we do. They are, at heart, forgiving Midwesterners, not aggressive New Englanders, for whom baseball is not so much a pleasurable pastime as it is a family curse. Get this: The people in St. Louis actually go to the ballpark to have a good time, not to get in touch with their inner Cotton Mather.

Tony La Russa hinted that Edgar was far too sensitive to thrive in this diamond hothouse, didn't he? The Cardinals' skipper could have been unable to resist taking a gentle swipe at the team and town that had stolen his shortstop, or he could have been telling the gospel truth. If he was, then Atlanta is a great spot for Renteria. It will be June before someone even notices that Rafael Furcal is gone.

As for us, now we're being told Alex Gonzalez is the shortstop in waiting. It's OK, Alex, we don't bite.

(OK, so I lied.)

I would assume Theo's still sleeping well. But that's another story.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is ryan@globe.com.

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