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Epstein on trade deadline, Ortiz, and more

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 13, 2009 12:48 PM

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A few of Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein's more candid comments during his conversation with the hosts of WEEI's "The Dale and Holley" show this afternoon:

On whether this is the most hectic stretch he's ever been through during his time as Red Sox GM:

Epstein: "Yeah, it's right up there with a few other [times] the last seven years. It's been pretty crazy. We were going through a stretch there where we had at least one roster move every night just to get some healthy bodies to fill a team. We were playing worse than we normally play, at a bad time, against the wrong team. What we were really looking for, and what I hope we've found heading out on this road trip now, is some stability. We're a good team, and when things start to go wrong all at the same time . . . in the American League East, there really is no margin for error. Your whole season can be compromised by a few weeks of instability if you're not careful."

On whether the team was close to acquiring Jays ace Roy Halladay before the trade deadline:

Epstein: "I never got the sense that we were close, but we were pretty aggressive. We actually made J.P. [Ricciardi, Toronto's GM] an offer -- we actually made several different offers -- but our last offer was the most aggressive. It came the day before the deadline, and he said that it was a good offer, it was probably the best offer he had received, but that it wasn't . . . he was looking to get blown away, and it didn't blow him away. I thought it was really aggressive, but it didn't work out. You know, I think it would have been hard for J.P. to make that trade in the division, and he was upfront about that . . . I would have loved to have added a bat and a starting pitcher, but it didn't happen that way."

On the factors that went into the decision to have Kevin Youkilis accept his five-game suspension for charging the mound Tuesday against the Tigers:

Epstein: "A number of different factors. First and foremost, there were indications from a number of different sources that the suspension would not be reduced. . . . Most times when you charge your mound and throw your helmet, you end up [suspended for] six games. Kevin, as a first-time offender, was lucky to get five . . . and there were some scheduling factors, health overall as a club, and the depth that we have right now where we can handle it. And mentally, it's hard for some players to play knowing they're going to have five days off coming up. So it was better to get it out of the way now."

On the David Ortiz situation:

Epstein: "I think it depends on who the player is and how well you know the player. In David's case, we know him really well . . . and we know his position against steroids. We've talked to him about it a lot over the years. So I think the first thing you do is go to the player and you find out everything you need to know that you don't know, and you get that side of it. And if it's someone like David Ortiz and he's got a credible story and you believe him, you offer your support and try to help. In David's case, what he told me right at the beginning resonated with me. He said, 'Look, this report is shocking to me. I haven't taken steroids and I want to find out what the heck I tested positive for. I need to talk to the union, I need to find out what's going on. As soon as I do . . . I'm not going to hide from this, I'm going to answer every single question.' When a player says something like that, which is refreshing given a normal response . . . hiding behind excuses or some sort of technical legal situation to not address the question head on . . . you want to stand behind him. David was hoping he would be able to talk the next day, and we were hoping he'd be able to talk the next day, not taking more than a week. . . . But that was beyond David's control. All things considered, I thought he handled it pretty well."

On whether he asks players if they've used performance-enhancing drugs:

Epstein: "I think if there's reason to suspect a player has taken performance-enhancing drugs, I think it's a general manager's obligation to ask him. But if there's no reason to suspect, it would not be appropriate to go player to player to player."

On whether he would have made the Adam LaRoche deal had he known he'd have been able to acquire Victor Martinez:

Epstein: "Well, the LaRoche deal led to Casey Kotchman. Unlike LaRoche, who's a free agent at the end of the year, [Kotchman] is controlled for two more years. And he's also younger, he's entering his prime. At the time, we made the LaRoche deal knowing he could turn into Kotchman, because there was some interest from the Braves. That was part of it. But yeah, what you're hitting on was accurate. LaRoche, to a certain extent, was an insurance place in case we weren't able to address the bat. We didn't know if we would get Victor Martinez until an hour or two before the deadline, and we didn't want to end up empty-handed."

On how he dealt with the Red Sox' stretch of 31 consecutive scoreless innings against the Yankees:

Epstein: "I think 31 consecutive scoreless innings will drive the most rational men to believe the most irrational things. It's the ultimate test. No matter who you are in baseball, you start to feel like you're never going to score another run again. You turn on other games and see that it's 7-5 in the fourth inning and you wonder how the heck they got there, because it just doesn't seem possible to score. . . . I'd like to think that's a strength of the organization, certainly a strength of Tito's, and the front office tries to be as patient and as disciplined as possible. It's baseball. You can go through some weird things. But in the end, the game is best understood over the course of 162 games. Or over the course of years, really."

On the club's revolving door at shortstop:

Epstein: "With respect to shortstop, I think the criticism is obviously fair. I could defend it by saying the shortstops we've had on the field for the last two years has been good enough to win two World Series, four ALCS [appearances], we've had as much success as anyone in baseball. . . . But I certainly think it's fair, we haven't had the success we've wanted at that position. I'll say this, with respect to [Edgar] Renteria, that it wouldn't work out in Boston for him was sort of clear from the first spring training when he had physical issues. There was a problem in the fit that manifested in his play on the field. And we moved on. You learn from that and you try to change certain elements of what you look for in terms of a fit in Boston. That's something that will always evolve for us. . . . And with Lugo, I know it's widely reported that we loved Lugo or had an obsession with Lugo, and that's not really the case. I think we were pretty realistic about what Lugo is or was. The biggest mistake we made, and it's something we will continue to try to avoid, we let ourselves get in the position of where we didn't have any options. The position was open, there weren't any shortstops on the free agent market that year, we were in a horrible position in the negotiations, and we were in a position where there were other options we should have deemed acceptable. . . . We let ourselves get in a position where we needed him, and it didn't work out."

On whether he would have made the Josh Beckett/Hanley Ramirez swap:

Epstein: "I've never answered that . . . and I won't answer that. I'll just say this. I think it's worked out really well for both teams."

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