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The Early Lead
Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 10/12/2011

Report: Theo Epstein joining Chicago Cubs as inside story of Red Sox’ demise emerges


“Hello? Cubs?” (Jeff Chiu / AP)
Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein’s departure for the Windy City seems increasingly likely, with Boston’s WEEI reporting this morning that a deal with the Chicago Cubs is in place.

ESPN reports that nothing has been finalized , but that “it’s likely he’s going” to join the Cubs.

Ordinarily, the departure of the executive who was the architect of the whole “reverse-the-curse” thing and teams that won two World Series championships would be greeted with great anxiety. But in Boston, the loss of Epstein may be the least of their problems.

At least that’s how it seems after the Boston Globe’s dissection of the team’s humiliating, historic collapse. Among the team’s distractions, the three key pitchers — Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey — drank beer and ordered takeout while their teammates were trying to win games.

Drinking beer in the Sox clubhouse is permissible. So is ordering take-out chicken and biscuits. Playing video games on one of the clubhouse’s flat-screen televisions is OK, too. But for the Sox pitching trio to do all three during games ... violated an unwritten rule that players support each other, especially in times of crisis.


Will Theo Epstein find a new gig before Terry Francona? (Jim Rogash / Getty Images)
There were the marital problems of Terry Francona, who was out as manager the day after the Red Sox were eliminated from the playoffs on the last day of the season. And other issues.

Team sources also expressed concern that Francona’s performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication, which he also vehemently denied. Francona said he has taken pain medicine for many years, particularly after multiple knee surgeries. He said he used painkillers after knee surgery last October and used them during the season to relieve the discomfort of doctors draining blood from his knee at least five times.

Francona told the Globe he consulted the team’s internist, who, he said, told him he did not have a problem.

And, finally, the captain just wasn’t captaining...

In the end, only [Dustin] Pedroia and a few other players appeared to remain fully committed to winning, according to team sources. They said the veterans who no longer actively exerted their leadership included the captain, Jason Varitek, who was saddled with injuries and ineffective on the field (he batted .077 in September).

Which brings us to Epstein and his role in all this.

To general manager Theo Epstein, acquiring [Adrian] Gonzalez by trade last winter from San Diego was crucial to solidifying the middle of the Sox lineup. But Epstein struck out in trying to beef up the bullpen, most notably by investing $12 million over two years in Bobby Jenks, so far a bust.

The Sox also suffered from the exorbitant signing of Lackey ($82.5 million over five years), as the righthander logged the worst ERA (6.41) among regular starters in team history.

By  |  11:14 AM ET, 10/12/2011

 
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