Epstein offers some thoughts on the season

Team should celebrate making the playoffs.

September 30, 2009, 7:00 PM

By: Amy K. Nelson

BOSTON -- Theo Epstein met with the media before Wednesday night's game, discussing his team's accomplishment of clinching a playoff berth early in the morning hours.

Epstein was not at Fenway Park when the Texas Rangers lost to the Angels, giving Boston the wild-card spot. He was at home in front of the TV, assigned to toddler duty with his 2-year-old son Jack. Asked if he sprayed any baby formula around in celebration, Epstein said, "maybe some toddler saliva."

Epstein cited several factors which he felt contributed to Boston's success this year, enabling the team to make the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.

"It's something the organization is very proud of," Epstein said. "It's challenging to build good teams. In a vacuum, it's challenging to have these types of seasons, in the AL East in particular."

A few items of note:

  • Epstein said the acquisition of Victor Martinez has been a gratifying return, but cautioned that any boasting of deadline deals was not the point.

    "As an organization you're gratified when they work out but you don't start or focus exclusively on the results," he said, "because it's very arbitrary."

    Epstein pointed to using the same processes as a part of an organization philosophy and cited the Eric Gagne trade.

    "The Gagne deal for example, that one same exact process. A really good pitcher when he came here, he became a really bad pitcher the day he got here. The process was the same.

    "Glad it worked out but we're not going to puff our chests out because Victor Martinez came here and raked for a couple of months."

  • Epstein said his team's first-half defense needed much improvement, and the acquisition of Alex Gonzalez has helped the team and the pitching staff.

    "We had a need to improve but it was also fairly easy to improve," Epstein said. "We were well below the average, well below where we wanted to be. Bringing in Alex, he's been really a significant upgrade. In part because of how reliable he is."

  • Epstein admitted to wondering at times whether David Ortiz would be able to reclaim his season. Not only after Ortiz's slow start, but in combination with being named by The New York Times as one of 104 names on a government list of players who tested positive in 2003 under MLB's pilot drug-testing program.

    "He had a trying season and a really trying couple of months where he looked lost at the plate," Epstein said. "There was a lot of times when there was nothing you could grab onto, besides belief in the player and belief in the person. ... He's really grinded through and cobbled together a pretty good season, especially under the circumstance."

  • Epstein did little to reveal much about the playoff roster and how it will shape up, other than to say he is unsure if the team will carry 10 or 11 pitchers.

  • Epstein also cautioned against reading into his team's performance, especially during this week. He said the most important initiative is to make sure his players are healthy, not whether they hit or pitch well in the final five games of the season. He cited Kevin Youkilis striking out looking in Tuesday night's game with the winning run on first base.

    "Youkilis gets a bloop double down the right-field line down there, everyone feels great about everything," Epstein said. "That feels good, but that doesn't really change anything about our club."

  • While Epstein wasn't ready to fully endorse the comeback of Daisuke Matsuzaka as a resounding success, he did give the pitcher credit for his attitude and work ethic when the team sent him to work in Fort Myers, Fla., conditioning his body while working with 18-year-olds.

    "It's still early yet, he's still got some games to pitch," Epstein said. "The early returns are good. He was issued a unique challenge; he wasn't where he needed to be. ... The fact that he worked so hard and dedicated himself so fully to this endeavor put him in the position to impact the club this year and it turns out we really needed him so he deserves a lot of credit there."

  • Finally, Epstein echoed his players in saying that while reaching the playoffs the way they did wasn't ideal, it didn't diminish the achievement.

    "The fact is it's still an accomplishment and I know the players in that clubhouse don't feel like we backed into anything given how hard they worked to get here," Epstein said. "And we're excited about the next step. ... what last night means is we get validation for the fact that we're a good club and had a good season and more significantly it means we have an opportunity to accomplish our ultimate goal. I look forward to it."

    Quick hits
    Most of the players polled before the game said that their celebration last night -- which started shortly before 1 a.m. ET -- was more muted than in past years. There was significantly less champagne and less debauchery. David Ortiz said he slipped out the back door around 1:30 a.m.; Dustin Pedroia went home to be with his wife and newborn son. Others, however, did have a bit more fun, with the party running very late. Victor Martinez was one of those who wasn't there to celebrate. His family was in town and he went home immediately after the game. "I didn't even know what time the game ended," he said. Walking into the clubhouse before Wednesday's game, the scent of beer and champagne was still very strong. There were a few industrial floor fans positioned around the clubhouse, trying to dry the wet carpet.

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