Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What are you trying to say, Theo?

Let's start by saying I like Julio Lugo.

He wasn't exactly a Gold Glove-shortstop during his days with the Rays, but Lugo hustled, which is saying something when you consider he was a member of some of the worst teams baseball has seen in years.

He ran just as hard to first base in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game the Rays were losing 7-1 as he did in the first inning. He was the first infielder to the mound when a pitcher found himself in a jam, which is more than you can say for the Rays catcher at the time. From what I observed, Lugo was a pretty good clubhouse guy.

The Red Sox signed him to a four-year, $36 million contract before the 2007 season, which is what the big-market teams tend to do. It was never really a good fit, and the Red Sox placed Lugo on waivers just after the All-Star Game.

Here is what I find interesting about this story: the comments by Boston GM Theo Epstein.

Theo doesn't hide a thing. It's somewhat refreshing to hear a GM admit a mistake, especially a high-priced mistake like this, though I kind of feel bad that it was at Lugo's expense.

Normally, you get the usual GM blah-blah-blah. "It didn't work out." "We've parted ways." "This is best for both sides." Not this time. Epstein cut right to the heart of the matter.

Here is what Epstein told MLB.com ...

"I think ownership has been consistent that we'll do what we need to do to put the best possible team on the field and the sunk cost is the sunk cost. We're sorry it didn't work out better with Julio, obviously, but keeping him on the team wasn't going to change that. Sometimes the best organizations admit their mistakes and move on, and that's what we're doing here. This was one of the free-agent signings that didn't work out and we ended up paying for past performance, not current performance. That's the definition of a mistake, and as the decision maker, that's on me. We'll just move on and try to make better decisions going forward."

"It started out poorly from before Day One. He called us over the winter after we signed him and he said he had a sickness or a stomach issue, a pretty bad issue, where he lost like 15 pounds. When he showed up, he lacked a lot of strength and some quickness, but particularly the strength, it was gone. (That) got him off on the wrong foot and was never with us the player that he was in Tampa Bay."

"We tried a lot of things to get the best out of him. We did win a World Series with him as our everyday shortstop and he did make a lot of contributions to that world championship. That's not to be lost in the mix, but, obviously, we'd be fudging the truth to say it worked out the way we envisioned it. (He) just never got on track here. (He) never really got locked in and comfortable and never played even close to the way we expected.... When you dabble in free agency, sometimes these things happen. That's kind of the nature of the beast. We're trying to grow the organization to the point where we don't have to ever get a free agent. We're probably closer to that point now then we were two or three offseasons ago. It's a lesson learned for sure."

No comments: