Two World Series rings outweighs Theo Epstein’s betrayal

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Make no mistake: Theo Epstein should not be leaving the Red Sox like this. Not after one of the biggest September collapses in baseball history. Not one year after handing out $142 million for Carl Crawford and two years after giving John Lackey $82.5 million.

If Theo Epstein wanted to leave the Red Sox, he should have left them in better position than this.

It’s one thing to want a new challenge, but Epstein already had a challenge in front of him and he’s simply bailing on it.

And this isn’t like his leaving in 2005. That Theo appeared confused and uncertain of what he really wanted to do next. This Theo is picking a very similar Cubs job over the Boston job. It’s going to be much more difficult for Red Sox fans to accept.

Of course, it’s all forgivable against the two World Series victories. Helped by an ample payroll, Epstein put together playoff-caliber teams in all nine of his seasons as Red Sox GM. The only year the Red Sox were out of the race coming down the stretch was 2006, when the club was devastated by injuries.

But his exit after such a disappointing finish in 2011 leaves a sour taste. And with as many tough choices as the team is facing this winter — particularly when it comes to free agents David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon — Epstein may well be leaving the club in a worse position than the one he inherited nine years ago.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.