The Boston Red Sox head to Chicago to open a set with the Cubs tonight. The Red Sox are probably the most underachieving team in baseball this year, and the Cubs are literally the worst team in baseball so far this season. Normally, this matchup wouldn’t really garner a lot of fan interest, let alone a nationally-televised broadcast. But this series is turning heads because of Theo Epstein, the dashing young general manager who revamped the Red Sox for their championship run, and then turned tail and fled to Chicago after last September’s collapse and chicken-and-beer disaster.
The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy published a very revealing Q & A with Epstein. A few impressions from the interview:
1. This interview took place at the Starbucks on Route 9 in Chestnut Hill. I know that Starbucks! I met with my wedding photographer there. The parking lot is tiny, and it’s hard to find a spot. Why would they meet there? Maybe if you’re Theo Epstein, the cars part for you and there’s just parking everywhere you look?
2. Epstein calls the photo that the Chicago Sun-Times published of him walking across Lake Michigan on Opening Day “beyond ridiculous.” He’s trying to protect himself here, by saying that he’s really not a miracle worker (yeah, no kidding, say the Sox, currently saddled with some of the worst free-agent contracts in baseball). He also calls the Chicago fan base calmer, quotes a “Midwestern sensibility,” and notes that Cubs fans understand that building a winning team takes patience.
3. Theo is still a Red Sox fan. I mean, he grew up here, he worked for Boston, and he knows the people running the team now. This is probably the least surprising update on Theo Epstein, like, ever.
4. He rambles for a while about the compensation issue. Essentially, he says it wasn’t as big a deal as the media made it out to be (welcome to Boston, Theo!), but that the September collapse threw all these issues into an even sharper relief that didn’t help matters.
5. Theo excuses his terrible free-agent signings, and weakly tells Shaughnessy that the Red Sox had the best drafting program of the decade. I’m not even sure that’s true. There’s a difference between having prospects that are good, and having prospects that are hyped. Sure, a lot of Red Sox minor leaguers have become good MLB players – so have a lot of Yankee minor leaguers. Plus, I don’t see how saying that you’re good at drafting players answers for the millions of dollars of salary wasted on free agents that don’t/can’t play.
Anyway. The series kicks off today with a 2:20 start at Wrigley, when Diasuke Matsuzaka (free agent signing, 0-1, 7.20 ERA) takes on Ryan Dempster (2-3, 2.31 ERA). Saturday, Jon Lester takes on Jeff Samardzija (Jeff Samardzija! I remember him playing football at Notre Dame, very Tim Riggins-ish!) and Sunday, Josh Beckett closes it out against Paul Maholm.