Danger Will Robinson, Danger! OK, let me start off by saying that I like Theo Epstein. I’ve agreed with most of the moves he’s made, even some of the ones that did not work out in the end. For instance, I was a huge proponent of the Eric Gagne trade. I thought it would be great. In the end, I found myself yelling “Thanks anyway Eric” to him as he drove by during the World Series victory parade. The deal wound up being disastrous, but it seemed great at the time. In my mind, Theo doesn’t take a hit for that one. But frankly, the Billy Wagner signing is just plain idiotic.
Let’s look at some of the injury-recovering pitchers we’ve signed over the last few years:
1) Wade Miller, 2005: great stats before coming to Boston, then he got hurt, came here, and went 4 and 4 with an ERA approaching 5 (4.95). A good signing: not on your life.
2) Eric Gagne, 2007: once again, lots of saves before coming here, then promptly blew as many games as he held and had an ERA over 6.5. A complete disaster that nearly cost us the division (thankfully, we only used him for mop-up duty in the postseason).
3) Brad Penny
4) John Smoltz: both of these were quality pitchers who’ve gone on to have incredibly disappointing seasons with us this year. Smoltz is already gone, and Penny has finally been booted from the rotation.
The conclusion is obvious: injury-recovering pitchers who come to Boston just do not succeed. It just doesn’t happen. The only time it ever works is if the pitcher gets hurt while IN Boston, like Curt Schilling or Tim Wakefield. Otherwise, the pressure and expectations are just too high.
So keeping all that in mind, what the hell was Theo thinking when he signed Billy Wagner? The guy has the same pedigree as John Smoltz: all star, highly-regarded reliever, relatively cheap price, recovering from major surgery, needs to be eased back into the bullpen. And Smoltz didn’t even make 10 starts. He had an ERA over 8. This has the makings of a total disaster.
I’m very surprised that Theo Epstein made this move. It seems short-sighted, and it’s already causing problems. Papelbon is completely against it, even if he retracted some of his more inflammatory statements on the matter. He said he’s looking forward to working with Wagner, but frankly I think he only said that after management yelled at him to do so. This is like Smoltz plus Gagne rolled into one package, which is then thrown off of a cliff.
The sad thing is, I really feel that the Sox are good enough to make the playoffs as is. The offense is firing on all cylinders, we’re about to get Wakefield back, and the bullpen remains as strong as ever (when they’re not being overburdened by short stars from the rotation). If the Sox fall out of contention for the wild card, and bullpen issues are the reason, it is my belief that we’ll look back on the Billy Wagner signing and simply wonder “why?” I hope to God I’m wrong about this.