Is Theo Epstein to blame for the Red Sox’ skid?

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The Red Sox’ late season implosion is the talk of the morning, and the focal point of that talk is Jeff Passan’s column over at Yahoo! in which he assigns blame for Boston’s post season collapse.

It’s a failure — or potential failure, depending on how the next ten days go — that has many fathers, but Passan leads with Theo Epstein as the primary culprit. The reason: Epstein left his team’s cupboard bare and made blunders that resulted in the Red Sox’ rotation being painfully thin (Exhibit A: Kyle Weiland pitching critical games during a pennant race).

I’ll admit that it’s an awful state of affairs. But I’m struggling to see how this is a matter of Theo Epstein’s poor planning as opposed to just a lot of rotten luck.  Passan and I have had a lively back and forth on this on Twitter this morning (still in progress as I write this!), in which I have accused him of second guessing and he has accused me of being a Theo Epstein apologist.  But to me it seems that it comes down to whether or not you think Epstein screwed up in only trading for Erik Bedard at the deadline (Passan’s view) or if you think that Epstein did the best he could have done at the time given the situation on the ground.

In my view, that situation saw the Red Sox with a two-game lead in the AL East and a several games lead for a playoff position. It saw them with one real hole in the rotation — Clay Buchholz’s injury — but with a team that was otherwise in good shape.  It’s obvious now that they’re not in good shape. Beckett has been hurt, Lester has missed time and all manner of other things have gone wrong. But was that sufficiently foreseeable?  To be fair, Passan saw only trading for Bedard as a risk at the time (see #29).

But what else should Epstein have done?  Traded good prospects for pitching when, at the time anyway, the playoffs seemed totally secure?  And what pitching would you trade for?  It was a terribly thin market for starting pitching. Passan just tweeted to me that Boston should have considered “at least one proven starter like Kuroda/Wandy/Fister/EJax/Lowe/Guthrie. Even Marquis or Harang or innings-eater.”  Of course most of those guys weren’t ultimately traded because of their price tag, be it in terms of current salary or the prospects they would have cost. Marquis flamed out.

I’m not a Theo Epstein apologist. I think it’s fair, once a season is over, to look back at what the GM did or did not do and say what did or did not work.  But I think that there’s a difference between that and saying that he “blundered” and is the person most responsible for the Red Sox’ “choke” down the stretch.  Carl Crawford wasn’t supposed to suck. Daniel Bard wasn’t supposed to implode.  Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz weren’t supposed to have multiple nagging injuries. A lot of stuff has happened.

So what do you think?  Is Epstein the author of this failure-in-progress? Or is this just a perfect storm?

Rockies activate Ian Desmond from the disabled list

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The Rockies activated first baseman Ian Desmond from the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, the club announced. Cristhian Adames was designated for assignment to create roster space. Desmond is in Sunday’s lineup against the Diamondbacks, batting sixth.

Desmond, 31, signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies in December. In March, he was unfortunately hit by a pitch and suffered a broken left hand. He underwent surgery to repair the damage.

Desmond had been playing in extended spring training as a precursor to rehab games, but he looked so good that the Rockies decided to activate him from the disabled list a little early.

Aaron Sanchez exits game after one inning with a split fingernail

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This wasn’t how Aaron Sanchez was supposed to make his triumphant return from the disabled list. The Blue Jays’ right-hander was activated for his first start on Sunday after undergoing a minor surgical procedure to have part of his fingernail removed. According to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, the surgery should have accelerated the healing process for a troublesome blister, and the team appeared confident in the right-hander’s ability to take the mound for the tail end of their homestand. Instead, Sanchez lasted just 13 pitches before exiting the game with a split nail on his right middle finger.

The team has yet to address Sanchez’s revised timetable for return, but Chisholm points out that they should be able to roll with their current rotation through May 9. If he sits out longer, the Jays could turn to left-hander J.A. Happ, who should be eligible to start sometime next month after he makes a full recovery from a bout of left elbow inflammation.

Sanchez, 24, entered Sunday with a 4.38 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 6.6 SO/9 through 12 1/3 innings with Toronto. He was replaced by right-handed reliever Ryan Tepera in the top of the second inning.