At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Forget the Controversy, the Red Sox Have it Right

– Recent Front-Office Upset Will be Worth the Pain –

I know I wondered yesterday whether there is really more to be said about Theo Epstein’s return as Red Sox GM, but the team’s grand tour of the media yesterday did bring to light two very important positives that are worth pausing over for a moment:

1) One of Epstein’s most-quoted comments was his observation that his leaving the team was “an imperfect but necessary catalyst to get us to this point.” Though many do not understand how this can be, any business manager worth his salt (or any parent, for that matter) knows that the greatest growth experiences often are the most painful. In the long run, therefore, I believe the events of the past few weeks will prove to have been worth the distractions they caused, for they forced the brain trust of Epstein, Larry Lucchino, and John Henry first to formally articulate, and then to formally commit to, a shared organizational vision. And while it is currently popular to make fun of them for their public handling of the affair, my respect for them has only been enhanced, for they exhibited a very special kind of fortitude when they decided to pursue that vision together and developed a plan to do so.

2) That plan appears to embody my favorite philosophies for building a consistent championship contender. As reported in today’s Boston Globe, the Red Sox have decided to operate “with a clear basis of beliefs centered upon balancing immediate and long-term goals, with an emphasis on player development, pitching, defense, and avoiding cumbersome contracts.” Astute readers will notice that “slugging” is nowhere on this list, and while no one is suggesting that the Sox become the Go-Go White Sox of 1959 or the L.A. Dodgers of the early 1960s – neither of which could bash their way out of a paper bag – it is refreshing to hear a franchise so long dedicated to the long ball essentially cite run-prevention as a priority. After all, a team can make the playoffs on the strength of its bats, but – as the 2004 Red Sox themselves illustrated perfectly – getting to and then winning the World Series requires stopping the other team from scoring as well.

So contrary popular belief, there’s much good to have come from the recent Fenway Fracas: the front office is dedicated to a single shared philosophy as few ever have had to be, and they’re dedicated to flipping decades of conventional Sox wisdom to chase regular championships. Who could ask for anything more?

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