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There's a lot of Theo "Luke Skywalker" Epstein and George "Darth Vader" Steinbrenner talk in the Big Apple press this morning. On, Adrian Wojnarowski (whose day job is with The Record in New Jersey) has penned a glowing tribute to the Red Sox GM:

With the Red Sox back just 2 games now and leading for the AL Wild Card, the message is unmistakable in Boston now: They're going for it. They're going for everything. What's more, Epstein hasn't had to sell out the Red Sox tomorrow for today, protecting most of his top prospects in trades for arms. His confidence is growing with every move, every bold stroke. As it turned out, Epstein isn't before his time at 29 now. His body of work insists he's right on cue.

Has the wunderkind done enough? Can the young Jedi defeat the Evil Empire?

In Newsday, Jon Heyman says "If deadline deals decide the division, Boston, which targeted real needs, finally will prevail." He also suggests that the Aaron Boone acquisition was pre-emptive (the Boss feared Boston would flip him to Seattle for Freddy Garcia) and that the internal bickering in the Yankees organization is leading to dumb decisions:

To have surrendered their best prospect, poised lefthander Brandon Claussen, and have left themselves with few long-term starting options to counter starters who might age or leave faster than they suspect -- not to mention a questionable bullpen and no palatable rightfield answer -- is unthinkable. A team with a $182-million payroll and an uncontrollable hunger to spend more should not have such liabilities.

You gotta feel for Brian Cashman, a really good guy who knows how to deliver a winner if left alone. He deserves better than the ravings of Furious George, yet he'll probably get the axe, along with Torre, if his team doesn't win the big prize. That's simply ridiculous. With our local squad now at .500 and preparing to play spoiler in the AL West, I find myself rooting for the Red Sox to win the division, and it would be even sweeter if the Yankees lose the wild card on the final day.

I presume Epstein "chose" Suppan over Escobar (and the Giants "chose" Ponson) because of J.P.'s asking price for Kelvim. Suppan's better than Mendoza, so he'll help. The Kim and Williamson deals will have more impact on the race -- Benitez and Orosco might be factors in their own way -- and Theo deserves a lot of credit for adding Ortiz, Millar and Mueller before the season. There have been moves that didn't work out, like Mendoza, Little G and Fox, but the kid's the obvious Rookie of the Year in baseball's front offices, and he's put himself in a position to be MVP.

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_Spicol - Friday, August 01 2003 @ 10:27 AM EDT (#95790) #
With our local squad now at .500 and preparing to play spoiler in the AL West, I find myself rooting for the Red Sox to win the division

I could only root for the Sox to make the playoffs on 2 conditions:

1) The Yankees don't win the Wild Card.
2) The Sox immediately get swept in the 5-game series.

Hate the Sox!
_Jordan - Friday, August 01 2003 @ 10:32 AM EDT (#95791) #
I'm sure it can seem a little disappointing that the Jays didn't execute a trade -- hey, everyone likes trades -- especially after the team made out terrifically in the Shannon Stewart deal. But I think it's just as well; JP appears to have set the bar pretty high, which bodes well for how close he thinks this team is to contention. My sense is that the offers that came in for Escobar just weren't enough to justify dealing him. This isn't 2002, and the Jays don't have to dump players if they don't want to; JP was probably sending that message around the league as much as anything else. Some GMs may still think the Jays are in salary-dump mode, and were making offers accordingly; that will probably stop. It would have been nice to clear out Cory Lidle, but it would have been nice if his ERA weren't stratospheric too, so there you go. There may well be activity yet -- the Cardinals didn't get their starter, and other teams will be active as August 31 draws closer, so don't put away your trade monitor quite yet.

As SK pointed out in another thread, the Escobar story is still unfolding, and Toronto doubtless will watch him very closely between now and the end of the season -- off the field as well as on, I expect. JP's and Gil Patterson's assessment of whether Escobar can be focused, smart and consistent over 35 starts may be critical in the decision-making process. Kelvim wants a three-year deal and says he'll take less money to get it; how much is "less" is another story altogether. He's making $3.9M now, so he's not coming in for less than $5M per annum, and the better he pitches down the stretch, the higher that price will go. Craig made a good point elsewhere that Escobar is the kind of high-risk, high-reward player that smaller-payroll teams have to gamble on -- and be right about -- in order to win pennants. I'm glad it's JP, not me, who's making that call.

As for the Yankees and Red Sox, frankly, I don't feel like their various trades were clinchers of any kind. Scott Williamson was a very nice pickup for Boston and its bullpen, but I just don't see Jeff Suppan as a #2 starter in a pennant race. And Aaron Boone is all well and good, but he's not that huge an upgrade, and he came at a steep price in Brandon Claussen. Remember, not everybody the Yankees add makes them stronger and more evil. Cast your minds back to when they picked up Jeff Weaver. "The Yankees are buying another pennant," came the complaints. Well, that didn't work out real well for them, then or now; think they'd like to have Lilly, Arnold and Griffin back? Ditto for the Mondesi acquisition, which some ill-informed observers actually thought was a steal for New York. Not everything the Yankees do turns to gold, and not everyone is a New York kind of guy. My gut feeling is that neither of these teams will be in the World Series this fall.
_R Billie - Friday, August 01 2003 @ 11:04 AM EDT (#95792) #
Jordan, I'm also glad I'm not the one who has to make the call on whether to sign Escobar and how much is a reasonable price to do it for...but I've been saying all along that the Jays can't afford to let a guy of his ability go unless they're really getting something back that they know will help them. The path behind Escobar matters little...he's 27, he's durable, and he still has his filthy stuff. If he gets into the right situation he's capable of doing just about anything. There's no reason that situation can't be Toronto, especially if he wants to stay. I'm not betting on him for Cy Young anytime soon but some 15+ win seasons wouldn't surprise me in the least.

I knew Theo Esptein was the real deal. He has some of the best minds in baseball surrounding him, and moreover he has an understanding of buying and selling assets befitting a young Wall Street wizard. The majority of the old guard GMs will be overmatched by his combination of smarts and abundant financial resources. I thought Boston had the most talent in the division going into the season and Epstein's ability to add Kim, Williamson, and Suppan in a pitching starved environment and only giving up Hillenbrand, Sanchez, and an A-ball pitcher has been very impressive. The Red Sox are like the Yankees without Steinbrenner to gum up the works. Fortunately, JP didn't give into his siren song Fossum offer because he knows he has to compete with him for the next decade or three. Not to mention Fossum hasn't turned out to be all that.
Gerry - Friday, August 01 2003 @ 12:15 PM EDT (#95793) #
Spicol has told us of his dreams, but what about a prediction? The American League has four powerful teams battling for three playoff spots. Who is the bridesmaid? I think we must exclude the Jays, the Angels, and the runners up in the central. That leaves the gang of four.

The other playoff spot is also up for grabs, so a couple of predictions are required?

1. Which of the big four, Yankees, Sox, A's, Mariners will miss the playoffs?

2. Who will win the central? KC are hanging in, the Twins are riding Stewy back to .500 and the pale hose are hot.

Your predictions please.......

I will start by predicting that the Mariners will once again find themselves on the outside watching the playoffs on TV. Most of us were surprised by their hot start, but they have been playing .500 ball since the middle of June. Their addition of Rey Sanchez does not look good compared to the other teams moves.

2. I have to go with the White Sox. I think Konerko is starting to get his form back and they are the most balanced team. The Twinkies rode their pitching last year, but this year the pitching has let them down. Radke is back in form but they need a couple of the others to step up. Can you rely on Kenny Rogers to win the big games in September? And KC are too inexperienced to hang on until the end.

Your turn.......
_Mick - Friday, August 01 2003 @ 12:34 PM EDT (#95794) #
First ...
but I just don't see Jeff Suppan as a #2 starter in a pennant race

Derek Lowe thanks you for that assessment!

Second ...

Yankees win East. Royals (!!!) win Central as White Sox collapse horribly. Mariners win West handily. Red Sox win Wild Card. Red Sox and Cubs battle to 3-3 tie in World Series, play to 211-inning 42-42 tie until Adam Vinatieri finally ends it, 45-42. Vinatieri elected governer or Massachussets, offered Democratic nomination for president.

Billy Beane sobs uncontrollably and resigns. Brian Cashman quits to take A's job. Beane signs with Yankees to put young Theo in his place. Scott Hatteberg traded to Yankees.
_Jordan - Friday, August 01 2003 @ 02:15 PM EDT (#95795) #
I have to add that I was intentionally snubbing Lowe -- he's been a colossal disappointment this year. It'll be interesting to see if 2002 or 2003 turns out to be the aberration.

If the Yankees don't get at least to the ALCS Finals, I can actually see Cashman getting the heave. And that will make for some busy free-agent action in the GM marketplace.
Mike D - Friday, August 01 2003 @ 03:28 PM EDT (#95796) #
OK, maybe I'm just being grumpy here...but shouldn't some of the Theo Epstein love-fest be tempered by the fact that he's one of the three GMs in baseball (Cashman and Sabean being the others) who have been given the green light to take on unlimited salary at the deadline? It seems to be to be a tad out of context to call him "remarkable" for giving up so much less talent than he acquires, without bearing very strongly in mind Boston's near-unique imperviousness to present salaries, pending free agency and pending arbitration eligibility. It's not like any of these moves are "traditional baseball trades."

Plus, trading Freddy Sanchez for Suppan and Sauerbeck is not an obviously shrewd move. Sanchez was the best on-base thing since sliced bread in June; a mediocre cup of coffee in the majors and suddenly he's a modest price to pay for a lefty specialist and a fluky starting pitcher from a pitcher's park?
Mike D - Friday, August 01 2003 @ 03:29 PM EDT (#95797) #
He does deserve credit for beating Cashman to the punch, for what it's worth. But that's really the only fair comparison.
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