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dan shaughnessy

Theo Epstein’s clean getaway irks Red Sox owners

Theo Epstein is seen near the ivy at Wrigley Field last October, just after being named president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/Getty

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Red Sox owners are here, and they’re having a hard time keeping the smiles off their faces after what they did to the Dodgers last weekend.

It’s hard not to gloat when you dump more than a quarter of a billion dollars in payroll on the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers, by the way, are 2-3 since the trade was announced, including a 10-0 beating (Josh Beckett’s start) at the hands of the last-place Rockies. Los Angeles Times columnist T. J. Simers wrote, “They appear lifeless and uninspired in three consecutive losses to the dead meat likes of the Marlins and Rockies.’’


I know it’s piling on, but I’m really starting to think Adrian Gonzalez has something to do with this. He was part of the 2010 Padres and 2011 Red Sox — two of the biggest chokers in baseball history. He was part of the 2012 Sox. Nuf Ced. Now this. Gonzo is the Kryptonite of winning baseball teams. He’s the Cooler.

But enough about the Sox snookering the Dodgers. John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino are still angry. And I think I know why. It really bothers them that Theo Epstein isn’t getting enough blame for the train wreck that is the Red Sox of the last 12 months.

This is actually quite understandable. Henry, Werner, and Lucchino get crushed for Liverpool, LeBron, phony sellout streaks, absentee ownership, and taking a meeting with players (excluding manager Bobby Valentine) when the players want to get the manager fired. They get blamed for stripping Bobby V of powers and for overseeing a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008.

They get blamed for kicking their eight-year manager to the curb, then trying to tell us Terry Francona wasn’t fired. They get roasted for commenting (Henry in the studios of 98.5 The Sports Hub), then for being invisible and unaccountable. They get crushed for charging the highest prices in baseball, and worrying about bricks and NESN ratings when their team is falling down.


But it’s rare that anybody blames Epstein. The Camelot general manager basically got out of town without so much as a flesh wound. He is the one who signed Julio Lugo, Mike Cameron, John Lackey, Bobby Jenks, and Carl Crawford. He is the one who traded Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly for Gonzalez, then signed Gonzo to a $154 million contract.

Epstein made a ton of bad moves in the later years of his tenure, then went to Chicago for a $19 million contract and watched from afar as the Sox decomposed. John, Tom, and Larry would like to remind you of this.

So I will do it for them.

Mistakes were made. Money was spent badly. The Sox lost their way and tried to throw money at their problems.

Epstein has admitted to all of the above. He did a number of interviews in the days leading up to the Red Sox interleague series at Wrigley Field in June. He pleaded guilty, blaming his bad judgment on “the monster” of Boston baseball.

Sox owners don’t like the notion of blaming it on “the monster.’’ It brings it back to their doorstep. They, after all, are the ones who insist the monster be fed. Ultimately, they signed off on Lugo, Crawford, and the rest. But it bothers them that Epstein skated.


That’s why it must have felt good this week when the owners read a carve job on Epstein, penned by Tom Van Riper at Forbes. Van Riper said Epstein, “has to go down as the decade’s most overrated baseball executive.’’ The piece said Dan Duquette built the core of the Sox 2004 championship team and that Epstein won the World Series by “tinkering with Duquette’s blueprint.’’

Wow. Theo as tinkerer-of-Duquette-magic. That’s a new one.

I e-mailed everyone Wednesday to get their take on my theory. I asked Henry, Werner, and Lucchino if they would like to see Epstein get more blame. I asked Epstein if he believes this is how his old bosses feel.

Henry did not respond. Epstein responded but had nothing to offer on the record. Lucchino sent back, “No comment.’’ Werner wrote, “I can’t believe you are asking that seriously, Dan. Anything we would comment to you would be distorted.’’

Not necessarily.

Thanks for playing, Tom.

And since I have everybody’s attention, here are a couple more unsolicited suggestions. It’s time to release loco Alfredo Aceves. Before something really bad happens.

And you guys need to let Ben Cherington make the call on Valentine. Seeing all the Sox owners here in Anaheim for glorified spring training games gives the impression that Valentine is managing for his job in 2013.

It should be the GM’s call. And if things do not work out well, you can always blame Ben.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com