Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Theo Epstein is the best- Evan Brunell, Part II

This is the second part of Evan Brunell's guest column on why Theo Epstein is the best of the best.

Boston: Designated RHP Rudy Seanez for assignment. Activated RHP Chad Fox from the 15-day DL.

Boston: Designated RHP Hector Almonte for assignment. Signed free agent RHP Todd Jones to a one-year contract.

Boston: Claimed LHP Bryan Hebson off waivers from Montreal and optioned him to AAA-Pawtucket.

Boston: Optioned RHP Jason Shiell and 3B Freddy Sanchez to AAA-Pawtucket. Activated LHP Casey Fossum and 1B Jeremy Giambi from the 15-day DL.

Boston: Acquired LHPs Mike Gonzalez and Scott Sauerbeck from Pittsburgh for RHPs Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez. Optioned LHP Mike Gonzalez to AAA-Pawtucket.

Boston: Optioned LHP Casey Fossum to AAA-Pawtucket. Released RHP Mike Nicolas. Purchased the contract of OF Lou Collier from Pawtucket.

Boston: Acquired RHP Scott Williamson from Cincinnati for minor-league LHP Phil Dumatrait, a player to be named, and cash considerations.

Boston: Released RHP Chad Fox. Recalled RHP Jason Shiell from AAA-Pawtucket.

Boston: Acquired RHPs Brandon Lyon, Anastacio Martinez, and Jeff Suppan from Pittsburgh for LHP Mike Gonzalez, 3B Freddy Sanchez, and cash considerations. Optioned Martinez to AAA-Pawtucket.

This trade, while it ended up good, could have been much better if we had kept Mike Gonzalez (drat!). The initial trade breakdown first. Not only did we get a good young left hander, but we got a situational lefty for the big leagues for a righty the BoSox weren't high on for some reason (even though I was) and this made Lyon expendable. The Pirates also got A-Mart, who is just a borderline reliever. He was waived this past week by the BoSox to be sent to AAA. As of this writing, no one has claimed him yet. If this trade stood, this is an unbelievable trade by the Red Sox. Unbelievable. Kudos go to Theo here. One problem is that Lyon was injured. The organization said they sent over all the medical records, the Pirates looked at them and gave it a go. I believe it - just a freak accident. So the trade had to be reworked. The trade was essentially reset and started all over again so the new trade looked like this: Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck for Freddy Sanchez. That's it. No matter how bad Suppan and Sauerbeck imploded after that trade, that is a trade you do again in a heartbeat given the circumstances at the time. An AAA infielder never to be an All-Star, projected to be a utility man for someone who went 10-7 with a 3.57 ERA for the PIRATES and a good lefty reliever? You do it. Suppan just can't pitch in the AL that's all, and Sauerbeck had his share of injury woes. Great, great, sensational trade - both of them.

Scott Williamson (Varitek the catcher)

The Scott Williamson trade was another great one. Williamson pitched lousy for the Sox after coming over, but was lights-out in the playoffs and lights-out in 2004 before having to have his second Tommy John surgery, which takes a miracle to come back from. Dumatrait? Good prospect, but has not touched AA - and he's 24. He was hurt in 2004, but nonetheless. Another stud trade by Theo, which is nothing new.

Boston: Optioned RHP Jason Shiell to AAA-Pawtucket. Added RHP Scott Williamson to the roster.
Boston: Designated OF Lou Collier for assignment. Added RHP Jeff Suppan to the roster.
Boston: Placed OF Jeremy Giambi on the 15-day DL with left shoulder tendinitis. Claimed OF Dave McCarty off waivers from Oakland.
Boston: Outrighted OF Lou Collier to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Placed RHP Ramiro Mendoza on the 15-day DL with right knee tendinitis. Recalled LHP Casey Fossum from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Optioned LHP Casey Fossum to AAA-Pawtucket. Recalled RHP Bobby Howry from Pawtucket and placed him on the 60-day DL. Purchased the contract of RHP Bronson Arroyo from Pawtucket.
Boston: Acquired SS Lou Merloni from San Diego for minor-league RHP Rene Miniel.
Boston: Optioned RHP Todd Jones to A-Augusta. Transferred RHP Robert Person from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Added SS Lou Merloni to the roster.
Boston: Activated RHP Brandon Lyon from the 15-day DL. Recalled LHP Casey Fossum from AAA-Pawtucket. Designated RHP Andy Shibilo for assignment. Purchased the contract of C Bill Haselman from Pawtucket.
Boston: Recalled RHP Todd Jones from A-Augusta. Designated RHP Ryan Cameron for assignment. Purchased the contract of OF Andy Abad from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Activated RHP Ramiro Mendoza from the 15-day DL.
Boston: Outrighted RHP Andy Shibilo to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Outrighted RHP Ryan Cameron to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Designated RHP Steve Woodard for assignment. Purchased the contract of OF Adrian Brown from AAA-Pawtucket
Boston: Outrighted RHP Steve Woodard to AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Purchased the contract of RHP Jamie Brown from AAA-Pawtucket.
Boston: Declined to exercise their 2004 option on manager Grady Little. Declined to exercise their 2004 option on RHP Jeff Suppan.

We know why recalling Arroyo was a good move. We know why declining to exercise Suppan's '04 option was a good thing.

Do you know why not renewing Little's contract was a good thing?

We all know his blowup with Pedro. But the guy couldn't manager. He just couldn't. He was there to keep the players happy. I don't want to spend a lot of time on Grady Little, but he was incompetent. Everyone knew it, and the Red Sox organization knew it. Little couldn't manage a pitching staff and just didn't understand the tactics behind the game. Let's move on.

Boston: Exercised their 2004 option on RHP Derek Lowe.
Boston: Re-signed free agent RHP Mike Timlin to a one-year contract with a club option for 2005. Signed OF Adam Hyzdu to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.

Boston: Purchased the contracts of C Andy Dominique and 3B Kevin Youkilis from AAA-Pawtucket. Purchased the contract of RHP Jerome Gamble from AA-Portland. Outrighted 2B Cesar Crespo to AAA-Pawtucket. Signed free agent LHP Tim Hamulack to a one-year contract. Claimed LHP Phil Seibel and RHP Edwin Almonte off waivers from New York (NL).
Boston: Acquired RHP Curt Schilling from Arizona for LHPs Jorge de la Rosa and Casey Fossum, RHP Brandon Lyon, and Michael Goss. Signed Schilling to a two-year contract extension with a mutual option for 2007.

We know why Timlin re-signing was good. But the Derek Lowe move was also good even though it backfired. Well - no, it didn't backfired. He earned his paycheck, getting a W in the ALDS, ALCS, and WS clinchers. Lowe in 2002 had a 2.58 ERA and even though slipped to a 4.47 ERA in 2003 still had plenty of promise, so the Sox took a chance. A 5.42 ERA later, we waved goodbye to him as he left for LA. It also didn't help that Lowe wanted to be rolling in cash.

Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling, love or hate the fact that he talks a lot (I personally don't hold it against someone that he likes the publicity and the fact that people want to hear what he says ... a lot of people would) quite simply won us a World Series. He took over the ace mantle the year Pedro finally slipped and carried it to a 3.26 ERA and a 21-6 record. We all know his Bloody Sock image, so we won't go over it, but it takes a special kind of man to gut through that, and still pitch brilliantly. We got Curt Schilling, a 21-game winner, and a World Series for ... Jorge de la Rosa who is since with the Brewers and has the most potential. His ceiling however is that of a good lefty reliever. Not hard to find. Brandon Lyon was hurt, and will rebound and while I still like him, is a middling reliever. Not hard to find. Michael Goss - if you haven't heard the name before, don't worry, you never will. Another masterful trade.

Schilling will remain a Red Sox in 2005 and 2006 at which point he will most likely retire. He has a real shot at the Hall of Fame, and if he wins one or two more World Series, he will go in as a Red Sox. If not, probably a Phillie, but I'm not too concerned about it. The absolute bottom-line is the second biggest move Theo made to get us a Series was Curt Schilling - and this move was the precursor to it all. The Nomar trade got us the World Series, the Schilling trade got us on the path to the World Series.

Boston: Named Terry Francona manager.
Boston: Re-signed free agent 1B Dave McCarty to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
Boston: Claimed LHP Mark Malaska off waivers from Tampa Bay.
Boston: Signed SS Luis Soto to a minor-league contract.
Boston: Signed free agent RHP Keith Foulke to a three-year contract with a mutual option for 2007.
Boston: Selected LHP Lenny Dinardo from New York (NL) and RHP Colter Bean from New York (AL) in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
Boston: Acquired 2B Mark Bellhorn from Colorado for a player to be named.
Boston: Re-signed C Doug Mirabelli to a one-year contract. Declined to tender a contract to LHP Scott Sauerbeck, RHPs Edwin Almonte and Jason Shiell, 2B Damian Jackson, SS Lou Merloni, and OF Gabe Kapler.

Boston: Re-signed free agent OF Gabe Kapler to a one-year contract.
Boston: Signed free agent 2B Pokey Reese to a one-year contract. Re-signed free agent RHPs Ed Almonte and Jason Shiell to a one-year contract.

A very busy section of transactions. The first was the hiring of Terry Francona. Red Sox Nation was pretty pleased about this hiring (although most of them started unfairly hating him throughout the season, but they don't anymore - I wonder why...) because Francona seemed to have a good mix of a brain and clubhouse persona.

Throughout the year, Tito (his nickname) was pretty steady. A lot of criticism of third-base Dale Sveum took hold for most of the season, while Francona was relatively anonymous until out of nowhere, people started hating on him and calling him "Francoma". I'd love to explain to you why, but I can't. I liked Francona for most of the season, except for one specific section, but that was only one game. In the playoffs, he became alive and more confident in himself. He out-managed Mike Scioscia, then blew Joe Torre out of the water in the ALCS (especially in Games 4, 5, and 6) and grounded Tony LaRussa into dust in the World Series. He yanked pitchers at the right time, brought in the right ones, the list goes on. Francona got a lot of respect and he comes back knowing the team, the organization, and for the most part the fans, are behind him. Francona has a shot to be the Sox manager for a very long time.

Mark Malaska was claimed off waivers a few days later and he had been a September call up by the Devil Rays posting a 2.81 ERA in 16 IP. Devil Ray faithful were livid at the move, and Red Sox fans were pleased. In 2004, Malaska bounced up and down from the Red Sox to the PawSox, and for the Red Sox saw 20 IP of 4.50 action. The 26-year old figures to do the same again this year and perhaps could claim a spot for the 2006 bullpen as both John Halama and Alan Embree will be free agents.

Then, the signing of Keith Foulke. After having wooed Foulke for weeks, he enticed Foulke away from Oakland for just a bit more money than Oakland offers. Disgruntled A's fans point to this monetary difference as the reason for leaving, but Foulke has maintained from Day One that he left because the Red Sox made him feel more wanted, and he wanted a chance at making history. Not only did he help make history, he is the seminal image of that historic moment. A pretty good deal for Foulke, and for the Red Sox who reveled in Foulke's mastery all season long. He pitched three innings in ALCS Game Four. How can you not like someone who racks up 32 SV in 83.0 IP with a 2.17 ERA? Not only that, but Foulke had the highest Saves per Inning Pitched (click here to read more about SIP) in 2004.

Theo continues his remarkable run of good fortune, claiming Lenny DiNardo off the Rule 5 Draft who actually turned into something. DiNardo had 27.2 IP pitched as a Red Sox, throwing a 4.23 ERA and looks really promising. He was hurt for a majority of 2004 and is going to head to Pawtucket this year to be stretched out as a starter. He'll see the majors again this year and could eventually team up with Mark Malaska in 2006 and beyond to be the lefties out of the Sox bullpen. Another cheap bullpen addition.

Mark Bellhorn was acquired from Colorado in a relative pittance, and I wasn't sure what to make of Bellhorn. Well, a .264/.373/.444 season and 17 HRs later, I know what to make of Bellhorn - a very good offensive hitter (he strikes out too much, but Bellhorn apologists say it's better than grounding into a double play - true) who was absolutely insane when it came with Runnings in Scoring Position. If he wasn't the best clutch hitter in 2004, he HAD to be among the top of them. Because his 2003 season was such a disappointment after his breakout 2002 season with the Chicago Cubs, I'm not getting excited about him this year, but the potential is there.

Doug Mirabelli

Doug Mirabelli was acquired in 2001 when Jason Varitek went down with an injury, putting him out for the rest of the year. Ever since then, Mirabelli has become one of the best backups in the major leagues and has played himself into a start at least once a week, catching Tim Wakefield. As we saw in the postseason, Varitek had a rough time catching Varitek, because he had not caught him a lot for two years. That's Mirabelli's job, and this past year, Mirabelli hit .281/.368/.525 in the easiest season for him - the first time he truly wasn't fighting for starts. He knew he was starting every Tim Wakefield game, and was going to backup other games and this benefited him greatly. In three and a half seasons with the Red Sox, 'Belli has had no less than 141 AB, and has averaged over 160 AB in three out of the four seasons total he spent as a member of the Red Sox. Doug also has a good attitude and is a fan favorite, especially when he pops one over the Green Monster.

Pokey for President! Brought in to start at second base, injuries and the emergence of Mark Bellhorn necessitated him to move over to shortstop until Bellhorn got hurt and our SS position was set. He moved back to 2B, then became a utility guy. In 244 AB, Pokey hit .221/.271/.303 and made two sensational catches over the course of the season. The first one was an amazing leaping catch against the Dodgers (did you know the hitter was Dave Roberts?) and really made everyone's jaw drop.

The second one he got robbed of being seen as excellence. It was in the game where Derek Jeter ranged to his right to catch a flare in right field in fair territory and then (I don't say this because I'm a Red Sox fan - I say this because it is so OBVIOUS in the replay) launches himself into the stands, in the section that jutted out close to fair territory. Was it a good catch? Yes. Is it overrated? Yes, especially considering Pokey had a better catch. Judge for yourself here (July 1, Pokey Goes Into The Stands), but here's my take. Lofton sends a foul-ball flare right where the stands jut out close to fair territory, where Jeter launches himself. Pokey runs full tilt to the foul territory, catches the ball in a basket catch (IN FOUL TERRITORY, NOT FAIR) right at the stands, falling into the stands. I'm sorry, but that's one hell of a catch.

Click here for Part III.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award