GM Epstein: Red Sox still 'where we want to be'

Updated: August 21, 2006, 2:57 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein urged caution on Sunday, insisting "the big picture is pretty darn good" despite flops in the four straight games against the Yankees that left New York a season-high 5½ games up in the AL East.

"We're trying not to overreact to a bad brief period of time," he said on the field before the Red Sox lost Game 4 of the five-game series.

Theo Epstein
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesWhile some Red Sox fans were upset that Epstein failed to make a move at the trade deadline, Boston's GM thinks the team is still in good position to make the playoffs this year.

"Things haven't changed because we lost three games, things haven't changed because we're thinner pitching-wise than we want to be. We're still on the road to get where we want to be. You don't start questioning everything about your processes because of a moment like this."

Epstein, who has promised a lower profile since last winter's bizarre non-resignation saga, came out to calm the panic after the Yankees won three straight by a combined score of 39-20. After Sunday night's 8-5 loss, that margin stands at 47-25. Boston has lost 11 of 15 and seen its 3½-game lead in the division turn into a 5½-game deficit in less than a month.

"It's proven to be more of a struggle for us. Doesn't mean we can't win, doesn't mean we're giving up," Epstein said. "Our goal is to put ourselves in position to win 95-plus games and make the playoffs every year. And that's always been our goal for this year, and for next year and the year after that. We still have a chance to do it."

Since Epstein took over in November 2002, the Red Sox have not missed the playoffs. But they entered Sunday's game on a pace to win about 92 games, which would be their lowest total since Jimy Williams was fired during the 2001 season.

Epstein responded to criticism that he was outmaneuvered by the Yankees when he failed to make a move at the July 31 trading deadline while New York picked up Bobby Abreu. Abreu was 7-for-13 in the first three games of the series.

Boston could not afford the more than $27 million Abreu would have cost them in salary and luxury taxes in this season and next, Epstein said.

"We have tremendous resources, don't get me wrong. But that's not something we can do," Epstein said. "We have a plan. We're in a position competing with less resources where we have to keep one eye on the future. We can't do certain things."

The bigger budget allows the Yankees to assemble an "uber-team" -- one in which star players are brought in to replace those that are injured.

"That's not our dynamic," Epstein said. "We're not going to have an uber-team every year. We're going to try to build an organization that can try to sustain success over the long run."

Although New York has had injuries to outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, second baseman Robinson Cano and pitchers Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano, Boston has had its share, too. Outfielders Coco Crisp, Wily Mo Pena and Trot Nixon, catcher Jason Varitek and pitchers David Wells, Matt Clement and Tim Wakefield have all missed significant time.

"We're thin right now, we're banged up right now," Epstein said. "We have a lot of young players who because of injuries and lack of depth [have] been thrust into positions a little prematurely, taking on more responsibilities than the way we had drawn it up. A lot of those guys have responded extremely well, but it's hard to have them do it month after month."

Boston has four rookies on the pitching staff, including closer Jonathan Papelbon and starter Jon Lester. Epstein said that even though all but Papelbon have struggled, they are learning from their experiences in the majors.

"There's a lot of great development that's gone on this year, and I think it will bode well for the future," Epstein said. "At the same time, it's left us a little bit short right now. It doesn't mean we're not going to win."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.