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Also Read: SoB’s Matt Goisman defends Theo Epstein.
The Baltimore Orioles are a proud and storied franchise, despite their recent downturn. Bringing in Buck Showalter as manager to help the young team was one step in their rebuilding process. Part of that step involves the team finding it’s own voice – and Showalter has taken up the mantle. Similar to the Rays’ brawl with the Yankees during spring training 2008, the Baltimore skipper has thrown the first punch in a war of words. Although he has since backed down somewhat, the outspoken manager has made his feelings known: while the Red Sox have succeeded, and Theo Epstein is part of that success, Red Sox fans think Theo hit a triple when he was born on third base.
There’s no doubt about it, Buck Showalter is an in-your-face manager. The kind of guy you like when he’s leading your team but hate playing against. Showalter is also a professional, and upon thinking things over, issued a small retraction, toning down his message. We all understand heat of the moment comments, and there are few jobs as stressful as major league managers – everyone thinks they can do better than the guy in charge. Fans, journalists, and probably a lot of bench coaches all think a segment of managers should be fired.
While Theo has done a good job, and assembled two World Series winning teams, he definitely benefits from the financial muscle of John Henry standing behind him.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: The poster boy of the Red Sox financial mistakes, the Japanese phenom was compared to Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez during the 2006 offseason, and the Red Sox forked over $50 million dollars just to have negotiations so dramatic they would have felt at home in a Mission: Impossible film.
Matt Clement: Clement was long one of the crushes of the Red Sox front office and was nearly the prize received during the Nomar Garciaparra trade of 2004. Clement imploded in the 2005 ALDS against the White Sox and missed the entire 2007 season. The upside? Carl Pavano turned down more money to perform worse with the Yankees.
Julio Lugo: The Red Sox signed the former Ray to a 4 year, $36 million dollar deal despite a complete lack of interest from other teams and a downward trend in the shortstop’s offensive and defensive abilities.
Edgar Renteria: Fresh off the World Series the Red Sox tossed aside Orlando Cabrera, for whom they traded disgruntled franchise player Nomar Garciaparra to acquire, for the quiet St. Louis Cardinal. One year later John Henry started paying for Renteria to play in Atlanta and later on, Detroit.
John Lackey and Josh Beckett: Two guys close in age with similar records. They also had similarly declining performance and health. Both signed to long-term deals for $82.5 and $68 million, respectively.
Any one of these contacts could cripple a team with a smaller payroll. Most teams were not fortunate enough to put in a bid of $50 million to even start negotiations with Matsuzaka; the 2010 Oakland A’s payroll was only $51 million. Fans probably appreciate having a team on the field rather than hearing about a great conversation with Scott Boras and learning that their owner was subsidizing a team in Japan to arrange a meeting with the super-agent.
Does Showalter respect Theo? Probably. Does it burn him that the Red Sox money solves a lot of problems, most definitely. Is Theo overrated because of his big wallet? Maybe a little. Until Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman start running small market, cash-strapped teams, we can only judge them on job number one: building a winner. And with the tools he has at his disposal Theo can win. The Mets and Cubs have big payrolls too. Money isn’t everything, but it sure is nice to have.