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A Voice from the Crowd

Boy Wonder aims to keep Red Sox on top

Boy Wonder aims to keep Red Sox on top

June 26, 2005|by MARTIN COLE

He's been called the Boy Wonder in Boston. At just 31 years of age, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein is living a life that makes fantasy leaguers salivate. You see, Epstein, who grew up in the Boston suburbs, is calling the shots for his hometown team.

Epstein was handpicked for the job in 2002 by Red Sox President Larry Lucchino. Since young Theo was younger than many of the Red Sox players, there were immediate rumblings in the Boston media about his inexperience. It did not take long for Epstein to make believers of Red Sox Nation.

The Red Sox's 2004 World Series victory, which buried forever the 85-year-old Curse of the Bambino, was a tribute to the talent and grittiness of the players. It would not have happened, though, without Epstein's shrewd maneuvering.

In preseason deals, he shored up the BoSox pitching staff by adding Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke. Then, in a four-team deal at the trading deadline, he dispatched unhappy shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs and replaced him with slick-fielding Orlando Cabrera from Montreal.

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After the Series' accolades had faded, Epstein got busy again. He shrugged off the departure of free-agent pitchers Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, and signed two talented arms in Wade Miller and Matt Clement. Then he inked sparkplug catcher and team leader Jason Varitek to a four-year deal. As an encore, he bagged perhaps the top shortstop in the National League, Edgar Renteria.

Now, as the 2005 season approaches the trading deadline, the focus may well again shift from the playing field to the front office. With gems like Todd Helton, Barry Zito and Ken Griffey Jr. rumored to be available, look for a feeding frenzy to develop among the contenders.

The Yankees are a ship adrift, and GM Brian Cashman is sure to become a major player. Owner George Steinbrenner is disgusted with just about everybody on his bloated payroll, and that includes the bat boy.

The Orioles' brain trust, Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie, can take a bow for assembling a very competitive club. They deserve high marks for their 2004 acquisition of Miguel Tejada, a potential 2005 MVP. Make no mistake, however, this team could use a top-shelf starting pitcher to stabilize a very young staff. While the Sammy Sosa trade added punch to the lineup, the Birds missed out on workhorse starter Tim Hudson, now with Atlanta.

All of which brings us back to young Mr. Epstein. As the season nears the halfway point, Red Sox fans cannot help but feel a little confident knowing that Theo is in charge. He has quickly earned a reputation for acquiring players whom baseball people refer to as "gamers". Given Epstein's track record, the other American League contenders should be wary of Boston's Boy Wonder, too. After all, it only took him two years on the job to reverse the Curse.




"A Voice From The Crowd" is a weekly feature in The Herald-Mail which gives sports fans an opportunity to be a sports columnist. This week's guest columnist, Martin Cole, is a resident of Middletown, Md. If you are interested in becoming a contributor to this column, e-mail sports editor Mark Keller at keller@herald-mail.com

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