Theo Epstein has the chance to end two of sports most well known ‘curses’, the Boston Red Sox’s “Curse of the Bambino” (ended in 2004) and the Chicago Cubs “Curse of the Billy Goat”. There are a lot of whispers going around that if Epstein does in fact accomplish this he will be the greatest front office manager in MLB history, but is that a fair assessment?
Either way you slice it, Epstein is great. He’s won 2 championships in his 7 years with the Red Sox, his footprint is still in the Red Sox farm system and MLB team. Since shipping out of Boston to Chicago, all he has done is make the Cubs a powerhouse in the league (3rd best record in the NL this season).
Theo Epstein is credited for the ’04 Reverse the Curse, but as any Red Sox fan can tell you that was Dan Duquette’s team; Epstein just had the stones to trade franchise player and fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra for vital chips that led to the Red Sox ultimate win. Also, when Epstein took a month and a half off after originally resigning as GM the Red Sox pulled the trigger on a trade that sent prospect Hanley Ramirez to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. It is known Epstein did not want to trade Ramirez, and probably would not have made that move if he was acting GM. Fast forward a few years, and Beckett is your workhorse pitcher (should have won the AL Cy Young) who lifted you from 1-3 down against the Indians to go to the World Series; then Lowell took World Series MVP honors in a sweep of the Rockies.
The arguments for Epstein are his eye for talented players like Kris Bryant, Xander Bogaerts, Vazquez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon, Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo, Josh Reddick, Kyle Schwarber, etc. He has made great moves like trading Matt Garza, acquiring Jake Arrieta, and signing great players from outside the US. However, he has made many questionable moves like the Dice-K debacle, the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford travesty, signing Lackey to a 5-year $82.5 million contract, signing Mike Cameron (37 years old) for 2 years- $18 million, JD (expletive) Drew, and last but not least letting Orlando Cabrera walk and using the revolving door of Renteria, Lugo, Cora, and Gonzalez at shortstop.
Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but even if Theo Epstein wins the World Series and goes elsewhere and wins again, he will NOT be the best front office manager in MLB history. That, my friends, belongs to a man named Wesley Branch Rickey. Wondering who that is? Ever heard of Jackie Robinson or Roberto Clemente? He’s the man that signed them. He helped break the color barrier in the MLB and open the league up to both African-American and Latino ballplayers. It doesn’t stop there, Rickey also is considered the pioneer of saber metrics (yes before Bill James) stating on base percentage was more important than batting average. He is responsible for batting cages, pitching machines, and batting helmets becoming staples of the game and is credited with helping accelerate the expansion of the MLB with the Continental League. He helped create modern day Spring Training, and he’s responsible for building the framework for the modern minor league farm system. Essentially, Rickey is responsible for baseball being what it is today.
It gets even better. Rickey, like Epstein, is also known for his keen eye of talent; signing Robinson, Clemente, as well as Hall of Famer George Sisler. He is credited with developed players likes Dizzy Dean, Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter, and Stan Musial. Add 4 World Series wins and 4 Pennants, and you have one hell of a resume. This should end the discussion of Epstein being the greatest of all time, Epstein will most definitely enter into the top 10 (if he isn’t already) maybe top 5, but when it comes to number 1, Rickey is in a class all of his own.