Theo Epstein is the best- Evan Brunell, Part I
Happy Cubs Opening Day, Goat Rider Nation. Today, we kickoff our series of guest columns on whose GM is the best GM in baseball. We'll start with the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox GM, who has been ably represented by Evan Brunell, owner of MVN, and writer of Firebrand of the American League.
This post has been spread over three parts because it is quite long. Pace yourself...
Evan Brunell from Fire Brand of the American League here. I was contacted by Goat Riders who wanted me to write a guest column on why my GM (Theo Epstein) was the best. Well ... I had no problem taking Goat Riders up on the offer, because Theo Epstein is the best, so it didn't take much persuading. A couple of Red Sox Opening Day tickets clinched the deal for me, and I agreed to devote my manpower to churning out a column for Goat Riders. (Okay, so I got the tickets on my own, and Goat Riders never helped. Nonetheless, the tickets help give me motivation to write the articles, because no Theo Epstein, no Opening Day tickets to see the World Series banner raised.)
On November 25, 2002, Red Sox baseball changed forever. On that day, Theo Epstein was hired by president Larry Lucchino to take over the GM duties of Red Sox baseball. Dan Duquette had been fired, and Mike Port had served as interim general manager over the 2002 season. The Red Sox courted Billy Beane and agreed to a contract before Beane pulled out at the last minute. He wanted to stay in Oakland. And thus, the wonderboy, the 28-year old Theo Epstein, got his job. Epstein had opened in Baltimore as an intern and got to know Larry Lucchino that way. He moved to San Diego when Lucchino did, and went to law school while working for the Padres. Theo put in unimaginable hours, slaving away day after day to one day reach that pinnacle. He worked so hard he was asked by Lucchino and the new Red Sox owners (point man John Henry and partner Tom Werner) to accompany them to Boston. Just a year later he was running the Boston ballclub, and almost instantly, the Red Sox fans bonded together and created a saying that still reverberates today - "In Theo We Trust."
In Theo we trust, indeed. For in the short span of 23 months and two days, Theo had done what no other general manager in Boston had ever done. He was the first general manager to bring a World Series to Beantown. Oh sure, the Red Sox had a dynasty that ended in 1918, but there were no general managers then, at least not in official name. It's not as if Theo rode the coattails of Duquette and Port to victory. No, this was Theo's team. While I don't have the statistics for last year, I have statistics for this year. Out of the 58 that were in spring training, 42 of the 58 were acquired by Theo Epstein. Granted, there was a lot of player movement throughout this year, which resulted in 23 new members. So let's subtract 23 from each equation. That means that 19 of 35 holdovers were products of Theo Epstein. And as I will show you, they were very important products of Theo Epstein's tenure. And this doesn't include three pivotal people that Theo brought in for 2004 that are gone - Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Dave Roberts.
Theo has become a cult hero in Boston (and loves to play the guitar), and was named Bostonian of the Year (surprise). But what you don't know is that even though Theo is quite famous, he could be even bigger. But he doesn't want to. "As high as his stature is, if he wanted to, it could be so much higher. It would be very easy for him to really cash in. Theo knows that baseball is a business that can humble you in a hurry," says assistant Jed Hoyer.
Speaking of Jed Hoyer, Theo Epstein also made some brilliant moves. He hired not only Bill James and Bill Lajoie (the former a statistical guru and the latter a 70-year old former GM who relies on scouting, not statistics - the man who was the GM of the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers) but he surrounded himself with extremely capable lieutenants. Assistant GM Josh Byrnes, Director of Player Development Ben Cherington, Director of Minor League Administration Raquel Ferreria, Assistant GM Jed Hoyer, Director of Baseball Operations Peter Woodfork, Advance Scouting Director Galen Carr, and Coordinator of Major League Administration Brian O'Halloran. As the Globe reports, they are very exceptional (and young) people working for Theo. At least one (Josh Byrnes) and more than likely some more in the above list, will become General Managers eventually.
The only problem is that Theo Epstein is not a fan of the Boston Red Sox. He grew up a fan, and was a fan until November 25, 2002. "I am no longer a fan. I am no longer that kid who was rooting for the Red Sox, and thank God! Because if I were, it would be impossible for me to do my job."
So says the man who traded Nomar Garciaparra and inexplicably received in return a World Series ring.
Below is every single transaction (in chronological order) that Theo Epstein has made during his tenure as Red Sox GM. Sure, he's made mistakes along the way, and he does have one weakness (however, that weakness - the bullpen - can be explained, as will happen below) but he's made more right moves than wrong moves (that Suppan/Sauerbeck deal turned out to be a dud, though). You kind of have to make more right moves than wrong to win a World Series. I'm not covering every single transaction, but I will highlight the ones I want to speak about. And perhaps at the end of this column, you will be inclined to agree with me on two things. Number one, which is not as important as number two: Theo Epstein is the best General Manager in baseball. Number two: In Theo We Trust.
- Boston: Claimed RHP Ryan Rupe off waivers from Tampa Bay.
- Boston: Named Euclides Rojas bullpen coach.
- Boston: Named Jerry Narron bench coach.
- Boston: Re-signed free agent RHP Willie Banks to a one-year contract.
- Boston: Re-signed free agent RHP Frank Castillo to a one-year contract. Named Josh Byrnes assistant general manager. Named Craig Shipley special assistant to the general manager.
- Boston: Released RHP Wayne Gomes.
- Boston: Named Lee Thomas special assistant to the general manager.
- Boston: Acquired 2B Todd Walker from Cincinnati for Tony Blanco and Josh Thigpen.
Naming Euky Rojas as bullpen coach was the right move. Many viewed (and views) the hiring as an attempt to get Jose Contreras to sign with Boston. We all know what happened with Contreras, and Rojas was the bullpen coach from 2003 and 2004, garnering very high praise and marks from the Boston brass. Players and coaches raved about him, and the Red Sox pulled him off bullpen duties for 2005 and told him they thought so highly of him they were sending him to the minor leagues to be a pitching coach - Boston wanted to groom him to take over as pitching coach. Rojas refused to go to the minors and left the organization. Bill Haselman, also well regarded, will take over as bullpen coach. Haselman filled in for first-base coach Lynn Jones last year when Jones stabbed a screwdriver in his eye, taking him out of commission for weeks after the surgery to repair his vision.
Acquiring Walker for Blanco and Thigpen was also a bold and good move by Theo. Walker immediately went into the starting spot and while he's gone, gave us what we needed for 2003. Walker also enjoyed Boston and still does. All throughout the season I kept finding mentions that he wished he was still in Boston. Can't blame him. Walker had a .283 AVG, .333 OBP, and .428 SLG (heretofore given as AVG/OBP/SLG) for Boston, hitting 13 HRs in 587 AB. A lot was made about his defense, but he's pretty sure-handed - just doesn't have range. Blanco is now in spring training with the Washington Nationals and looks to make the team - not because of talent, but because the GM is Jim Bowden. Blanco is still young (22) but only hit .245/.300/.455 in Double-A in 2004. Thigpen is still stumbling around A-ball. One thing you will notice in all these trades is that the minor leaguers Theo gives up have a propensity to stumble after leaving Boston. (Cubs - beware of Matt Murton falling into this trap.) It can either be pure luck or a great scouting regime, and since the sheer number of minor leaguers stumble, we're going with that it's Theo and Co.'s talent and eye for who will work out.
- Boston: Acquired 1B Jeremy Giambi from Philadelphia for RHP Josh Hancock.
- Boston: Acquired OF Cesar Crespo from San Diego for minor-league SS Luis Cruz. Selected LHP Javier Lopez from Arizona, LHP Matt White from Cleveland, and OF Adrian Brown from Tampa Bay in the Major League Rule 5 Draft.
- Cincinnati: Selected RHP Luke Prokopec from Los Angeles, RHP Blake Williams from St. Louis, and RHP Jerome Gamble from Boston in the Major League Rule 5 Draft. Acquired minor-league RHP Josh Thigpen and 3B Tony Blanco from Boston as the players to be named in the Todd Walker trade.
- Detroit: elected LHP Wil Ledezma from Boston in the Major League Rule 5 Draft.
Cesar Crespo (or as we lovingly called him, Cesar Crappo) actually didn't turn out too bad. First off, while Luis Cruz still has some upside, he looks to be going nowhere, so that's a win as Cesar actually helped. Helped may be a strong word, but I digress. Crespo hit decent for AAA and when we needed him to start the season in the bigs, he did. He got 79 AB, a fact that astounds me when I look back on the season. But nonetheless, he got 79 AB and filled in across the diamond, hitting .165/.165/.215 before he was sent down to Triple-A where he did decently enough. Crespo is now with the Pittsburgh organization and at 25, still has a good chance at blossoming into a good utility-man.
Javier Lopez was Theo's first mistake. Lopez's TBC page says this: " In 2003, Javiâ€™s 1.71 home ERA was the lowest in Colorado Rockies history (minimum 25.0 IP), and his .209 batting average allowed at Coors Field is the second lowest in club history." Lopez is a submarine lefty. Yikes. Sure could have used him. We selected him in the Rule 5 draft along with Matt White and Adrian Brown. Brown stayed in the organization in 2003 before moving on. Lopez lost the lefty job to Matt White and so was traded to the Rockies where he put up blanks. He stumbled majorly in 2004 (7.52 ERA) but looks to be back on track in 2004 again. Matt White... in essence, the sooner we forget about him, the better. He was traded to Seattle and in 2004 pitched in AAA for the Indians and Royals. Anytime you have a 6.18 ERA in AAA the year after you were plucked in the Rule 5 draft ... well, somethings wrong. To Theo's credit though, he did try to plug a bullpen hole cheaply. Again, I'm going to go more in depth on this near the end of this transaction log ... which is long. Bear with me.
Moving on, another mistake. Lefty Wil Ledezma was selected by the Detroit Tigers in that Rule 5 draft. To Boston's credit, Ledezma had a 3.80 ERA in 5 GS for A-Augusta and 3 IP for Rookie-GCL. Nonetheless, Wil threw a 5.79 ERA in 34 G - 8 GS for the Tigers that year. In 2004 he hurled for a 2.42 ERA in AAA then was called up and had a 4.39 ERA in 53.1 IP and now has the fifth spot locked up for the Tigers. While Wil certainly wouldn't have made the Red Sox major league squad, it might have been a good idea to put him on the 40-man so he wouldn't be selected. In fairness to Theo, though, I have no idea what the 40-man roster was like at the time and most likely we had no room to put him on.
- Boston: Signed free agent RHP Mike Timlin and SS Damian Jackson to one-year contracts.
- Boston: Declined to tender a contract to 1B Brian Daubach.
- Boston: Announced that RHP Rolando Arrojo refused assignment and opted for free agency.
- Boston: Added RHP Mike Timlin to the roster. Signed free agent RHP Chad Fox to a one-year contract.
Boston: Signed free agent RHP Ramiro Mendoza to a two-year contract.
Mike Timlin was signed after coming off a strong year for the Cardinals/Phillies. He was involved in the Scott Rolen trade and for the year had a 2.98 ERA in 96.7 IP. He was a big cog for us in 2003, taking up the slack in the beleaguered closer-by-committee experiment gone awry that was solved with the acquisition of Byung-Hyun (BK) Kim. In 83.2 IP, Timlin had a 3.55 ERA for the Sox. In 2004, he logged a 4.13 ERA in 76.1 IP while shuttling from middle reliever to setup man. Timlin was a vitally important acquisition, as he now is the leader of the bullpen. The Globe report has the story.
"I know Foulkey's our closer," Francona said, referring to Keith Foulke, "but this has been Timlin's bullpen. He kind of leads that bullpen. He'll take the ball any day you give it to him, even when he shouldn't. You have to be careful of that, but it's also a real compliment for a guy when I say that."
"I think guys respect Mike for what he's done," said Matt Mantei, a newcomer to the Sox pen. "He's been around a long time, and he's a hard worker. He takes charge. He tries to watch me throw every time I throw a bullpen, and tries to help out as much as he can. He's a guy who knows what he's doing, knows what he's talking about."
For a pitcher who works in roughly half the games the Sox play in a given season -- 72 in 2003, his first season in Boston, and a career-high 76 last year -- Timlin doesn't draw that much attention to himself, beyond the odd T-shirt controversy (baseball's fashion police objected to him wearing camouflage under his uniform jersey) and the rare cap inspection (Yankees manager Joe Torre had him inspected during the 2003 playoffs, to see if he might be doctoring the ball, a bit of gamesmanship that failed miserably).
"They said he had no guts in Baltimore," a veteran major league scout said here yesterday. "Nobody in Boston says that, do they?"
Damian Jackson played for Beantown in 2003, having a rather unimpressive .261/.294/.323 line in 161 AB. However, this fact is overlooked: he appeared in 109 games. So he sure did have value, and he was the person that roamed the field for Boston, utility-man extraodinaire, and he worked out rather well. Okay, so Johnny Damon disagrees. My statement still stands.
Ramiro Mendoza. His third mistake, again the bullpen. Signing him to a 2-year, $10 million contract and he put up a 6.75 ERA in 66.2 IP in 2003. He had a lot of injury trouble, and again in 2004 although he did rebound somewhat for us in 2004 - a 3.52 ERA in 30.2 IP which was mostly garbage time. This wouldn't be the first time a lucrative contract to a reliever would backfire on him. Fortunately, the most lucrative contract of the bullpen did not backfire, but one more did. BK Kim. We'll talk about him later.
- Boston: Named Ron Jackson hitting coach.
- Boston: Named Dallas Williams first base coach.
- Boston: Claimed 1B Kevin Millar off waivers from Florida. Signed free agent 3B Bill Mueller to a two-year contract with a club option for 2005.
- Boston: Announced that OF Kevin Millar refused assignment and opted for free agency.
- Boston: Claimed 1B Earl Snyder off waivers from Cleveland.
- Boston: Signed free agent 1B David Ortiz to a one-year contract.
- Boston: Signed C/1B Dave Nilsson to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training. Designated 1B Earl Snyder for assignment. Signed free agent RHP Hector Almonte to a one-year contract.
- Boston: Outrighted 1B Earl Snyder to AAA-Pawtucket and invited him to spring training.
- Boston: Designated RHP Juan Pena for assignment. Claimed RHP Bronson Arroyo off waivers from Pittsburgh.
- Boston: Acquired 1B Kevin Millar from Florida from cash considerations. Announced the retirement of C Dave Nilsson.
- Boston: Re-signed 1B Kevin Millar to a two-year contract.
Not much to say about Ron Jackson but this: The Red Sox have led the major leagues in offense in 2003 and 2004. Ron Jackson was hired for the 2003 season. End of story.
Kevin Millar really helped loosen the clubhouse up. After the infractious 2001 season, the Sox clubhouse warily went through 2002 until Millar arrived on the scene, all loosey-goosey and thrilled to be a Red Sox. 25 HRs and a .276/.348/.472 line later, Boston had found it's first-baseman. 2004 was rough for him because he stumbled through a bad first-half and people started calling for his head, also saying he couldn't play defense. He's not a Gold Glover, but he's not horrible. He actually ended up with a better line than 2003 - .297/.383/.474, but in Boston, that's not good enough when you're ice-cold both seasons for one half. (He was ice-cold the second half in 2003, the first in 2004.) Millar's 2005 option automatically vested in May, so he's back for another year. If he does good, he'll probably resign. If not, the Sox will look elsewhere. Whatever happens, this ranks among Theo's finest, if solely for the clubhouse presence.
As for Bronson Arroyo, the 2005 Fire Brand of the American League, I can't say enough about this guy. Arroyo's minor league statistics always had hope, but finally ran out of time with the Pirates who waived him. The Red Sox snapped him up and he had a 3.43 ERA season for AAA-Pawtucket, throwing a perfect game. He was called up in September and did so well relieving (2.08 ERA in 6 G, 17.1 IP) that he made the postseason roster. He did great against New York and came in 2004 fighting with a rotation spot for BK Kim. Arroyo lost that battle, but won it in the end when Kim imploded. He only gave us the 10th best ERA in the AL - 4.03, starting 29 games for 178.2 IP. Baseball Prospectus loves Arroyo saying that "Wade Millerâ€™s inability to open the season means that a bad idea involving Bronson Arroyoâ€”the Sox third-best starter last yearâ€”wonâ€™t be implemented. Heâ€™ll open the year in the rotation and deserves to stay there all season. He could make the All-Star team and put up an ERA in the low 3.00s for the season. I expect him to be one of the ten best starters in what is suddenly a pitching-thin league." I completely agree with this assessment - Arroyo has a ton of upside and is only entering his age 28-season. Arroyo needs to pitch brilliantly in April to keep the rotation spot over Wakefield because Wade Miller will return in early May to make 28 starts.
- Boston: Signed free agent RHP Robert Person to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
- Boston: Released RHP Juan Pena.
- Cincinnati: Returned RHP Jerome Gamble to Boston.
- Cincinnati: Placed RHP Luke Prokopec on the 60-day DL. Claimed 1B Dernell Stenson off waivers from Boston.
- Boston: Optioned LHP Jorge de la Rosa, RHP Anastacio Martinez, 2B Cesar Crespo, and SSs Freddy Sanchez and Angel Santos to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned RHP Hansel Izquierdo and 3B Kevin Youkilis to minor-league camp.
- Boston: Released RHP Willie Banks and OF Benny Agbayani.
- Boston: Optioned RHP Andy Shibilo to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned LHP Kevin Tolar and RHPs Tom Davey, Kris Foster, and Justin Kaye to minor-league camp.
- Colorado: Placed SS Juan Uribe on the 60-day DL. Acquired LHP Javier Lopez from Boston for a player to be named or cash considerations.
We covered this mistake. The player to be named later was Ryan Cameron who juuuust might see the inside of a big-league clubhouse one day (one of those people who pitches 3 innings in July and then is never heard from again) but it's doubtful.
- Boston: Purchased the contract of RHP Robert Person from AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned 1Bs Earl Snyder and Julio Zuleta and SS Lou Collier to minor-league camp.
- Boston: Optioned RHP Ryan Rupe to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned C Jeff Smith to minor-league camp.
- San Diego: Claimed SS Lou Merloni off waivers from Boston.
- Boston: Released RHP Frank Castillo. Offered OF Adrian Brown back to Tampa Bay.
- Boston: Claimed RHP Dicky Gonzalez off waivers from Montreal. Placed LHP Matt White on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 19, with a right oblique strain. Placed RHP Robert Person on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 26, with a right elbow injury. Outrighted RHPs Hector Almonte and Bronson Arroyo to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned C Chris Coste to minor-league camp.
- Boston: Acquired RHP Ryan Cameron from Colorado as the player to be named in the Javier Lopez trade and optioned him to AAA-Pawtucket. Re-assigned RHP Jason Shiell to minor-league camp.
- Boston: Designated RHP Dicky Gonzalez for assignment. Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Woodard from AAA-Pawtucket.
- Boston: Outrighted RHP Dicky Gonzalez to AAA-Pawtucket.
- Boston: Exercised their 2004 option on RHP Pedro Martinez.
Pedro Martinez was raising a big stink via the media in early 2003 about his option not being picked up for 2004. The option, $17.5 million, would have made him the highest-paid pitcher in history, and Pedro needed his respect or he was walking. After weeks of agonizing, Pedro's option was picked up. Considering Pedro went 14-4 with a 2.22 ERA for Boston (29 GS) in 2003 then 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA en route to helping the Sox win the World Series, I've gotta say this is a pretty good move. Also, the Red Sox were able to afford this $17.5 million price tag thanks to steals like David Ortiz, Bronson Arroyo, etc. Theo also made the right (but agonizing) move of letting Pedro walk to New York ... his age, his 3.90 ERA, and his money demands just couldn't be justified. Nonetheless, the right move at the time.
- Boston: Placed LHP Alan Embree on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 9, with a left shoulder tendinitis. Purchased the contract of LHP Kevin Tolar from AAA-Pawtucket.
- Boston: Optioned RHP Bobby Howry to AAA-Pawtucket.
- Boston: Purchased the contract of RHP Jason Shiell from AAA-Pawtucket.
- Boston: Acquired RHP Michael Nicolas from Milwaukee for a player to be named and optioned him to AA-Portland.
- Boston: Placed RHP Chad Fox on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique muscle.
- Boston: Activated LHP Alan Embree from the 15-day DL.
- Boston: Claimed LHP Bruce Chen off waivers from Houston.
- Boston: Optioned LHP Kevin Tolar to AAA-Pawtucket. Outrighted SS Angel Santos to AAA-Pawtucket. Added LHP Bruce Chen to the roster.
- Boston: Optioned RHP Steve Woodard to AAA-Pawtucket. Activated RHP Robert Person from the 15-day DL.
- Boston: Optioned RHP Jason Shiell to AAA-Pawtucket. Purchased the contract of RHP Rudy Seanez from Pawtucket.
- Boston: Placed RHP Pedro Martinez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 16, with a strained muscle in his lower back.
- Boston: Activated LHP Matt White from the 15-day DL.
- Arizona: Acquired 3B Shea Hillenbrand from Boston for RHP Byung-Hyun Kim.
Bill Mueller was playing well, and he and Shea were fighting for time. So how did the trade work out? Well, Hillenbrand left and was the best hitter on the Diamondbacks last year. That tells you how bad Hillenbrand was. If he was on the Red Sox this year, he's a bench player. Mueller went on to win the batting title and became a fan favorite with steady defense, good pop, and a better OBP than Hillenbrand. For example, last year, Mueller went .283/.365/.446. In a hitter's park last year, Hillenbrand hit .310/.348/.464. A little better SLG, but in 2003, Mueller hit .326/.398/.540. Either way, that's a win-win.
As for Kim, a lot of people look at 2005 so far and 2004 and point to this as a crappy trade. What they don't realize is much like the Nomar trade in 2004, the Kim trade stabilized the Red Sox and pointed them to the playoffs. Kim started five games, relieved in 49 for 79.1 IP and a 3.18 ERA with 16 SV. Yes, he stumbled in September and October, which hurt. But May to August? He saved the season and righted the bullpen, period. Theo rewarded him with a lucrative $12 million, two year contract to start. Kim started out decent enough and promising, but a mysterious dip in velocity has robbed him of any value. He can still make an okay reliever, but right now, he's only a 11th or 12th man bullpen guy - certainly not with $6 million. No one can figure out the loss of velocity, so it's hard to place the blame on Theo. However, it did happen under his watch and this is the second time he's handed a lucrative contract to a reliever who flamed out. Not an accident, so mark that as a strike against Theo. Fortunately, it didn't come back and bite us in 2004 and won't in 2005, and this might actually end up to be a good thing. More on that near the end of the column.
- Boston: Recalled 3B Freddy Sanchez from AAA-Pawtucket.
- Boston: Designated LHP Bruce Chen for assignment. Added RHP Byung-Hyun Kim to the roster.
- Boston: Designated LHP Matt White for assignment. Purchased the contract of RHP Hector Almonte from AAA-Pawtucket.
- Boston: Outrighted LHP Bruce Chen to AAA-Pawtucket.
- Seattle: Designated OF Cristian Guerrero for assignment. Acquired LHP Matt White from Boston for minor-league OF Sheldon Fulse.
- Boston: Announced that pitching coach Tony Cloninger was taking medical leave from the team.
- Boston: Placed LHP Casey Fossum on the 15-day DL, retroactive to June 8, with left shoulder tendinitis. Placed RHP Robert Person on the 15-day DL, retroactive to June 8, with right hip inflammation. Recalled RHP Jason Shiell from AAA-Pawtucket. Activated RHP Pedro Martinez from the 15-day DL.
- Boston: Placed RHP Ramiro Mendoza on the 15-day DL with right knee tendinitis. Recalled RHP Ryan Rupe from AAA-Pawtucket.
- Boston: Signed OF Gabe Kapler to a minor-league contract.
- Boston: Placed 1B Jeremy Giambi on the 15-day DL with left shoulder bursitis. Purchased the contract of OF Gabe Kapler from AA-Portland.
Tony Cloniger, whether he was effective or not, was hated by Red Sox fans. They viewed him as Grady Little's drinking buddy and thought he was useless to the organization. I'm not an expert enough to say my opinion on the trade, but the hiring of Dave Wallace quieted the people down. Wallace is not a great pitching coach in my opinion. He's no Joe Kerrigan, Bud Black, certainly no Leo Mazzone. Personally, I feel they could do better with him but Red Sox fans have no problem with him, the organization likes him (it was obvious Tony was there because of Grady, not the organization) and so it worked out.
Did you know Gabe Kapler is really popular among Red Sox mates?
"Right now, this whole team -- no disrespect to other players on this team -- but just from a friend standpoint, everybody misses Kapler. I hear it almost daily: `Hey, I wish Kapler was here.' Everybody on this team loved Kapler. It's hard to look forward, but I just hope when he comes back from Japan he comes back here. Everybody says that."
Kapler arrived in Boston with a bang - "He made a sensational debut with the BoSox on June 28, going 4-5 with three RBI against the Florida Marlins. In his second start, Kapler continued his torrid hitting, going 3-4 with two HR, three runs scored and four RBI."
He instantly became a fan favorite due to his hitting, his attitude (very humble) and all-out play. He resigned with the Red Sox for a mere pittance just to play for them. In 2003 he made $3.425 million. In 2004 he resigned for $750,000. He made it clear this was the only year he would do this, and played his heart out to 290 AB. Kapler hit .272/.311/.390 in backup/platoon duty and got his payday, getting a one-year contract for $2.7 million from the Yomuri Giants of Japan. A great move by the BoSox here.
To read Part II of Theo Epstein is the Best, click here.