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?

Rangers turn the sort of triple play that has not been done in 106 years

Associated Press
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Triple plays are rare. Triple plays in which only two players touch the ball are even more rare. But last night the Texas Rangers turned a triple play that was even more rare than that. Indeed, it was the sort of triple play that had not been turned since a couple of months after the Titanic sank.

Here’s how it went down:

With the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth inning, David Fletcher of the Angels hit a sharp one-hopper, fielded by third baseman Jurickson Profar. He stepped on third, getting the runner on second base in a force out. He then quickly tagged Taylor Ward, who had been on third base but had broken, thinking the ball was going to get through, and who froze before figuring out what to do. Profar then threw to Rougned Odor, who stepped on second to force the runner out who had been on first. Watch:

Like a lot of weird triple plays, not everyone was sure what had happened immediately. Odor, for example, had already made the third out when he touched the bag but he still attempted to tag out the runner from first, likely not yet having processed it all. The announcer wasn’t aware of it either. Understandable given how fast it all happened. It took me a couple of times watching it to figure it all out.

The historic part of it: according to STATS, Inc., it was the first triple play in 106 years in which the batter was not retired. The last time it happened: June 3, 1912, turned by the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Cincinnati Reds.