This post contains baseball but it's not really about baseball; it's about being GM of a sports team. While in Anaheim Brian Burke talked to Bill Belichick, head coach of the NFL's New England Patriots and one of the most respected team builders in professional sports today, about whether or not he should pull the trigger on the Pronger deal. Belichick told him to trade the picks and use up the cap space as long as the player was the right player.
Theo Epstein, GM of the Boston Red Sox, is by all accounts a good GM. He won two World Series with the cursed Sox by the age of 34. The Red Sox have stumbled out of the gate just like the Leafs did and there was a Boston Globe article yesterday that might seem familiar to a lot of you even if the names are different:
"It's not the time for excuses or sugar-coating it. We've played bad baseball. It's a bad stretch of play and when you do that at the start of the season, it looks even worse," [Epstein] said.
"We haven't played well, there are no excuses for how we've played. We haven't played smart baseball; we haven't really played aggressive baseball."
Unlike the Leafs most reasonable people expect the Red Sox to go to the playoffs and it's this difference that paints Epstein and Burke in different lights but check out some of the things Epstein says:
What makes us feel better is we know we're better than this. Players have track records as individuals and you know what they're going to do. There will be some guys who under-perform and some who over-perform. It's not going to be every player. We'll get back to our level. As an organization we have a track record. We have a standard we need to live to up to. One way or another we're going to get there collectively.
Does this remind you of our defense being constantly out of position?
The most important thing you can do defensively is make the routine play. There have been games we lost because we haven't made the routine play.
It's not like we've lost faith in all our players all of a sudden. It's not the way it is. We believe in these guys. But at the same time you have to be realistic about and recognize we haven't been worth a (expletive) so far. Excuse my French, sorry about that. We haven't played well at all so far. No point in sugar-coating it or making excuses or hiding from it. You have to own it.
Worried that Brian Burke is a blowhard who doesn't know the game? He said a lot of the things Epstein is saying now during the Leafs' slow start. Sometimes smart GMs assemble a team that falls flat on his face. Epstein won't be shown the door for one poor season and neither will Burke. The true test for our GM going forward is how he gets this team to bounce back from likely the worst season most of us have watched in its entirety.