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Red Sox Look More Like Evil Empire Every Day

By Christopher Bettinger

The Red Sox have had a busy off-season as they scramble to find a new general manager and piece together a complete team in preparation for the 2006 season. I know what you hardcore Red Sox fans are thinking. The recent hot stove action has the Red Sox looking less like the “Loveable Losers” of recent years and more like the diabolical “Evil Empire” of the New York Yankees.

First, team president Larry Lucchino let Theo Epstein walk away and make a clean break from the Red Sox organization, at least for now. As if this weren’t bad enough, the Red Sox shipped out Hanley Ramirez, the keystone of the future of the Red Sox, for an injury prone pitcher and a sub-par corner infielder with a less than stellar performance record.

On top of that, the Red Sox are unloading two more underperforming and overpaid players in Renteria, who was recently traded to the Braves, and Matt Clement, who was last rumored to be headed off to Milwaukee. These kinds of moves have the hallmark of George Michael Steinbrenner III. What’s even more puzzling and also troublesome is trying to figure out who is behind these moves.

From the outside looking in, it seems Lucchino is getting his hands deep into personnel decisions, which is in itself disturbing. Let’s not forget who met with Pedro Martinez prior to the 2005 season. Was it Theo Epstein, the baseball organization’s general manager at the time? Absolutely not. Lucchino did the walking and talking. Selling championship sod to the Red Sox faithful for $150? That’s just plain evil.

I think it’s safe to say that there is a disturbance in the force around Yawkee Way. Perhaps Lucchino is the embedded Sith Lord who is slowly but surely turning our beloved Galactic Senate into the dreaded “Evil Empire”.

Although the recent player and personnel changes seem quite Yankee-esque, there is a rationale behind each. Theo Epstein walked because he was burned out, and there’s even a chance he could return to the organization in some capacity.

I do not see the trade of Hanley Ramirez for pitcher Josh Beckett and 3B Mike Lowell as mortgaging the future. Josh Beckett is 25 years old, the same age as Jonathan Papelbon, a prized pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization. And Beckett has won a World Series, World Series MVP, and had a WHIP (Walks + Hits per inning pitched) of 1.18 in 2005, while Papelbon has only logged 34.0 IP.

Mike Lowell is admittedly overpaid, but he is a Golden Glove-winning fielder who is set up for offensive success, especially at Fenway Park. He averaged an OPS (on base + slugging percentage) of about 0.850 from 2000–2004. Last year, his OPS dropped precipitously to 0.658. Barring injury, I think a regression to the mean will likely occur.

Also consider the fact that Lowell is a dead pull hitter (he hit no opposite field home runs to RF at Pro Player stadium in Miami in either 2004 or 2005) who will make use of the Green Monster in much the way that sub-par Millar should have done.

The Renteria trade and the rumored efforts to move Clement are troubling. The Red Sox jumped all over both of these promising players, gave them each huge contracts, and then expressed desire to get rid of them at the first sign of failure. This is the kind of thing the Yankees do, right? Moving Renteria (and possibly Clement) aren’t smart business decisions, so there must be an ulterior motive for these seemingly ridiculous moves.

I think this is Lucchino’s way of telling Theo Epstein, “We don’t need you anymore.” By moving Renteria, and even Clement and Wells, the Red Sox are reversing key acquisitions that Theo Epstein made after the 2004 season. They are wiping the slate clean and getting a fresh start, ready to move forward in year 1 A.T. (After Theo). As to who is making these decisions, that is a question for another day.

But until then, the organization is in good hands and headed in the right direction thanks to Lucchino. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that our fearless leader acts with the wisdom of Yoda and not the evil of Darth Sidious.