Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein spoke candidly about the sudden end to his team's season, his thoughts on moving the club forward, Jason Bay's free agency, J.D. Drew's value, David Ortiz, Daniel Bard, and other players and topics during an interview on WEEIís "Dennis and Callahan" program this morning.
ďA lot of times if you focus on why you lost a certain playoff series, what went wrong in that series, youíre not gonna make quality decisions," Epstein said regarding his thoughts after being swept by the Angels in the American League Division Series. "If you look at the season as a whole, what went right, what went wrong in the season, and take a look at the big picture, where you are as an organization, where you are in your long-term plan, you make better decisions.
ďWith the season as a whole, I guess I take issue that a lot of things went wrong," he added. ''I agree we have issues going forward. We have challenges going forward and thatís where our focus is. I donít think too much of it is based on what we think went wrong this season. I was actually looking at it in the last couple days, if you had told us that Bay would have a big season, Drew would have a big season, [Jacoby] Ellsbury would have a big developmental season, a big step forward. [Kevin] Youkilis would have another big season. Trade for Victor Martinez at the trading deadline, heíd be huge for two months. Weíd have good performances at the front of our rotation with Beckett and Lester. Buchholz would come up in July and end up being a really good pitcher for us down the stretch. Weíd have the best bullpen in the league, etc., etc. All these things went right and we won 95 games, Iíd say, 'Letís go, letís start the playoffs tomorrow.' And I just feel like we didnít show upÖ in those three games. Itís not as if we werenít a team without any issues whatsoever. We had our issues and they manifested and cost us a little bit. We went through mysterious, frustrating stretches during the year when we didnít hit at all on the road, and that happened. Those first two games in Anaheim we had guys in [Angels pitchers John] Lackey and [Jered] Weaver who really located, who located fastball away, and we didnít adjust and we didnít hit those guys.Ē
On trying to retain Jason Bay
Epstein: ďIf a player reaches free agency, usually the team that overbids, so to speak, for him is the one that lands him. But thatís not necessarily the case here, but sure it could be. We have to prepare for that contingency if he leaves but I donít think the negotiationís over by any means because of the fundamental elements are in place, him wanting to be here, us wanting to keep him.Ē
On the Sox offensive struggles on the road
Epstein: 'ďThis year, for some reason, we really underperformed on the road. There are players who donít have the pop to go out (of the park) regularly on the road that they do at Fenway and those guys performed a lot better at home than on the road, as youíd expect, but there are other players who donít particularly have characteristics that would make them better players at Fenway who also underperformed on the road, so maybe thereís something to it where we canít have too many guys who have swings built to Fenway Park but I also think it was mainly a fluky year where almost every player happened to play better at home than on the road."
On the personality of the team
Epstein: ďItís basically the same team that we had in 2008. If we get one clutch hit in the 2008 ALCS Game 7, weíre going to the World Series, probably winning it . . . if the 2004 team, if Tony Clarkís ball doesnít bounce into the stands, and we lose that series, youíre saying this team had too much personality. This personality was out of control. I understand it. Thereís a human phenomenon where you want to sort of attribute personal characteristics to groups and say that they have this personality or they lack this characteristic. The reality is we canít build a team based on, sort of, psychobabble. We build a team, try to get 25 high character guys. The bottom line is this team had a great personality. It was just calm outwardly, on the field, very professional. Behind closed doors they had a ton of fun. There were a lot of leaders. They showed up hard to play every single day. We won 95 games in a really tough division. Had we performed better in the playoffs, no one would be talking about our personality.Ē
On the value of J.D. Drew
Epstein: ďIf you want to look at this from a straight objective standpoint, what he contributes offensively and then what he contributes defensively, and then add in baserunning, so itís the total value of a player, on a rate basis, he was outstanding. And there arenít too many outfielders who can compare to what he did from a qualitative standpointÖ What heís done in the first three years of that contract, the way we value . . . based on the free agent market, what heís done qualitatively, and when you factor in even the amount heís played over these three years, yeah, heís actually come out to a tick more than $14 million per year.Ē
On David Ortiz and his previous comments about the Sox DH
Epstein: "To be the team that we need to be, David Ortiz as our DH needs to be a force. Weíre a different team when heís a force. When heís hitting all kinds of pitching, and hitting the ball to all fields, a really tough out, and driving the ball. Thatís just the reality. Iím not trying to send anyone a message. I donít send messages to the players through the media. I talk to our players a lot about things but I donít send messages through the mediaÖ David already has a plan in place for his offseason. Itís something that heís thought a lot about. When you struggle, at all, and youíre a competitor, you think about how to get better, you put a plan in place on how to get better, and you execute, and Davidís already thought a lot about it. He is going to come back in great shape and heís going to work his tail off, but thatís not something I would intentionally call a player out for doing, thatís something I would discuss behind the scenes."
Could Daniel Bard be a closer in the major leagues in 2010 if called upon?
Epstein: ďI think he has the physical ability to do that. And I think we saw as he developed throughout the course of the year that he has the mental makeup to do it as well. At the same time, I think heís a work in progress. This is somebody who performed really well at the highest level whoís still working on some fundamental parts of his game. Heís still tweaking his breaking ball. Heís got a good breaking ball but he doesnít Ö itís probably not where itís going to be eventually, heís still tweaking itÖ This is someone whoís really still a work in progress, and while he may the ability to do something, it might not be the best thing for the long term for his career if we forced him into that role.Ē
Listen to the audio of WEEI's interview here.