Results tagged ‘ Ben Cherington ’

The developing debate at the hot corner

The Red Sox have an old-fashioned quarterback controversy developing here. Well, make that a third base controversy.

Will Middlebrooks, the prized prospect, is hitting the cover off the ball. Kevin Youkilis is on the disabled list, resting his ailing back.

So what happens when Youkilis comes back? The earliest Youk can play is next Monday at home against the Indians. Given that he had just started a walking program the other day, it sounds ambitious that he would return that soon.

In other words, Middlebrooks will get a chance to keep proving himself, like he did Monday night, when he put on a Tour De Force of power at Kauffman Stadium. He curled one around the RF foul pole. He smashed one off the wall in center. He clanged one off the LF foul pole. For those keeping score at home, Middlebrooks has nine RBIs in the last two games.

To take it a step further, Youkilis has nine RBIs in 64 at-bats. Middlebrooks has had 21 at-bats.

Can Youkilis revert back to the star he was before injuries started taking a toll on him in August of 2010? In his last 143 at-bats dating back to Aug. 1 of last season, Youkilis is hitting .203 with four homers and 15 RBIs.

But what happens when scouting reports start to develop on Middlebrooks? Does he then tail off or does he adjust quickly?

There is a lot to think about for the Red Sox. Youkilis obviously doesn’t have a lot of trade value at the moment, given his $12 million salary for this season. He is a free agent following the year, and the Red Sox hold a $13 million option on him with a $1 million buyout.

Could a situation develop where Youkilis is the veteran stuck on the bench, like Mike Lowell in 2010?

Or do the Red Sox deal Youkilis, in which case they will likely have to eat a lot of the salary.

This is yet another tough decision for Ben Cherington to be faced with in his first season as general manager.

Middlebrooks and the Red Sox are back out there tonight in an 8:05 p.m. ET contest at Kauffman Stadium.

Chatting with Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington took some time out of his busy schedule on Wednesday morning to talk with MLB.com about his first Spring Training in his new job. Here are some highlights from the interview.

After spending the winter building a team, what is Spring Training like? “Spring Training is the fun part, no doubt. It’s an opportunity to get back to what , I think, most of us got in the game in the first place, just to watch players play, watch the team play and see the collective work that’s been done when we get out on the field. You can start to see some things happening. Some good things, some not so good things. You react to the not so good things and try to react to them. Spring Training is a great time of year because it’s sort of the culmination of the offseason, which is typically a sort of frenetic pace. You get to now watch the game and that’s what we all want to do.”

What issues regarding the team keep you awake at night these days? “Well, the things that sort of stand out are the obvious ones. We need some guys to step up on our pitching staff. We’ve got a lot of guys here who are capable of doing that. We get to see them more. We’re optimistic because we believe we have guys that are capable of taking advantage of that opportunity. We have to see them do that. It’s march 7 – we haven’t seen enough of it yet. We’ve tried to build some depth in the outfield in the event that Carl wasn’t back at the beginning of the season and it looks like he may need a little more time. We’ll continue to look at that collection of outfielders and figure out works. As with every spring training, we’re going to cover every other team’s camp and see if there are guys available that might help us. I’d say that the primary focus is on trying to figure out who from that group of pitchers is going to step up and take advantage of the opportunity.”

What about shortstop? “We feel confident in what Aviles can do and the protection that Punto gives us. We think very highly of Iglesias and the player he’s going to be. He’s shown some good things already this spring and he’s making progress. I think I’ve said, there’s a competition. It doesn’t mean that competition is on equal footing. Some guys are going into the competition with an advantage but we’re not going to limit anyone. We’ll see how things evolve. Again, we’ll keep our eyes out but we feel confident that we have he answers here.”

How has life changed being the GM? “I guess I get recognized a little more but I don’t feel any differently, really. I’ve had the privilege of working here for a long time so I know … and growing up in new England, so  I know how passionate Red Sox fans are and that’s why this is such a great place to work and it’s such a great place to do our jobs. I’ve gotten recognized a little bit more but it’s nothing like what I saw from Theo all those years because I think the way that Theo came into the job and the success that he had – the sort of historic achievements put him on a level that no one else will or should. For me, I’m comfortable with that aspect of the job – people recognizing me more, but it doesn’t feel that different.”

Is it any different dealing with players in your new role? “I think one of the most important things I learned from Theo is that you can have a good relationship with a player and you can still make a hard decision. He did that I think as well as anybody. I’m a different person but I do think it’s possible and I think it’s important to have a good relationship with players but also to make it clear that that there are still decisions to be made and we have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team. Some of those decisions, players won’t agree with but along the way, we can treat each other with respect and get along. Look, we’re all trying to achieve the same goal.”

Parting ways with Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek? “That was one of the most challenging aspects of the offseason really, even though in the end, it didn’t translate into anything on the field this spring. Both those guys are guys that I have a great deal of personal respect for. Their accomplishments on the field speak for themselves and certainly the organization holds in really high regard. We made a decision that we weren’t prepared to guarantee them a job on the team  and based on that, we then had a long period of conversation about what that would mean and left the door open because we wanted to give them a chance to have a say in the outcome and the final decision. But it was hard, you have guys that have left that much on the field and given that much to the organization. There were times this offseason that I had to deliver news that they didn’t want to hear. We tried to do that in as respectful a way as possible. I also know that there will always be a place for Jason and Tim in the organization and we hope that we can work with both of those guys for a long, long time.”

From the outside looking in, you seem unflappable: “I don’t think I’m unflappable. I think I probably show my emotions a little bit less than some others. When things don’t go well, it bothers me as much as anyone else. I may internalize that more than some others.  I think that being a farm director for as long as I was was good preparation for this job in the sense that what you’re trying to do is create a system that works the best for as many people as possible. It’s not ever going to be perfect for everybody. Being a farm director helped me understand that the goal is to provide the best opportunity for as many people as possible and to help as many people as possible. Within that, there are going to be things that happen that you don’t like and people that are disappointed because players are human beings. I think in that sense it’s helped me a little bit.”

Tuning out public perception, particularly when it’s negative: “Some of it we don’t have a choice but to remove ourselves from it and just focus on finding solutions, finding answers. I understand, I have a great appreciation for the importance of the attention that the team gets, whether it’s positive or negative. We wouldn’t be the Boston Red Sox and this wouldn’t be such a great place to work if that attention wasn’t there. At different times, that attention can come in different forms. Last offseason we made some really big moves and felt reall good about our team and a lot of other people did too and it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. This year, our offseason was different, the way the season ened, the attention on the team was taking on a bit of a different flavor but I think if you take one step back, and sort of look at what’s actually on the field, in hindsight, there were some questions about last year’s team and there were questions about this year’s team and questions about 29 other teams in baseball. We’ve just got to do the best we can to get this team ready and look for solutions as we need them as the spring goes on, as the season goes on.”

Your first few months working with Bobby Valentine? “It’s been good. I’ve learned a lot from him. He sees the game about as well as anyone I’ve worked with. He sees the game differently then I do. We come from different backgrounds and I think that’s helped. I see some things differently that may help him sort of gain a new perspective. Hopefully the combination of different backgrounds can help us together make decisions. He’s got a ton of energy. He’s actually got – there’s a lot of things he has in common with tito. He lives and breathes and sleeps baseball. He wants nothing more than for players to perform well and for the team to win. He has a true passion for the game. He’s a baseball lifer in eveyr sense of the word. Their styles are different. There are certain things they’re going to do differently on the field and the way they go about things but ultimately there are a lot of core elements that are similar and the end goal is certainly the same. My job has been to get to know him and work with him and hopefully complement him as well as I can and develop that relationship so that when we get into the season and go through those inevitable tough times we both know we’re in a position to rely on each other and make the tough decisions if we need to.”

Biggest things you learned from Theo? “Well as I said, really, if I could point to one thing, it’s that sense of humanity that he showed in the way that he made decisions. You could make tough decisions and do it in a respectful, humanistic way. And that was the right thing to do, — it was the right thing to do sort of on moral grounds,  but it was also  the right thing to do on professional grounds. It helped give players the security of knowing that even when there was going to be a tough decision, when there was going to be bad news delivered, it was being done with as much respect as possible and it was being done in a way that helped the team and gave guys the best chance to win possible. If I had to point to one thing, I’d say that. There’s a lot of other things he taught me. Certainly I think he knows he knows as much about evaluating players as anyone in baseball. He’s got I think a very unique combination of feel for the objective side of player analysis and the subjective side. I don’t know too many people, if anyone, who are as good at sitting dfown and watching a game and seeing a player and evaluating them subjectively and also you can look at performance history and know exactly what he’s seeing there and being able to combine those two things. There are people that can do that. There are people that are good at one or the other . they’re may be people, but no one that I know as well that can do it like he does. So I learned a lot from him in those areas. I don’t think I match him in that respect. But I certainly learned a lot about how to balance those two things.”

Dan Duquette said the other day you always wanted to be a GM. Is that true? “I think when I first got the opportunity to work in baseball – first with the Indians and then with the Red Sox, Dan gave me an opportunity to scout, which is something I wanted to have the opportunity to do. I wanted to learn how to scout. I think I got into the game wanting to be a GM but also knowing that there’s a lot to learn and I was thrilled to have a chance to work in the game. As time went on, the goal of being the GM was still there. But really it evolved more into – what’s most important to me is not the title, it’s to be part of a group that’s doing something special and has a chance to put together and be part of a winning team, a winning organization. That’s what’s most important to me. When I was offered the job in Boston, I took it as much because I wanted to be part of something special and part of a winning organization as I did because of the tittle or because this was something I aspired to. Yeah, I had that goal in mine and I was lucky to … Dan gave me a chance to scout and learn and make some mistakes and learn from mistakes both in domestic scouting and Latin America. Then when Theo came aboard, I was given opportunities by him too. I’m very lucky to be given those opportunities and get the training and experience necessary to be able to do this job now.”

How excited are you to get to Opening Day, when you start getting measured every day by wins and losses? “It’s exciting. I think we’ll be facing Justin Verlander and it’s probably going to be about 40 degrees. I don’t know if that’s something you really look forward to. But it’s exciting because I think more than anything, I know the group of guys in the clubhouse are really ready to go be the Boston Red Sox again. Another thing that Theo taught me is that nobody should be judged by one moment. No team should be judged by one moment either. It should be judged by a longer time span, a longer period of peformance and behavior. I think the Boston Red Sox are much different than Septmeber of 2011 and I think our individual players are much different than what the perceptions of September of 2011 were. I think they are motivated to go show people that. So that’s what I’m looking forward to, more than anything else.”

Padilla will come to camp as starter

While the Red Sox definitely have options when it comes to newly-acquired righty Vicente Padilla, he will at least open camp as a starter. So beyond the big three of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, that leaves a crowded competition for the final two rotation spots between Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook, Padilla and Carlos Silva.

“He’s going to come to camp as a starter,” said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. “He’ll be a part of that mix, competing for those last couple of spots. He’s pitched out of bullpen, too. He knows there’s a chance if he makes the team and we need him more in the pen, he may end up going to the pen. He’s focused on coming to camp as a starter and trying to make the team in one role or another, but he’ll come to camp as a starter.”

The Red Sox hope this signing winds up being similar to the one that brought Aceves aboard a year ago.

“He’s looked good. We saw him throw in Nicaragua a couple different times. Stuff looked very similar to his time recently in Los Angeles before he went on the DL there,” Cherington said. “Velocity was good. He has an assortment of offspeed pitches. He probably spans the velocity range about as wide as anyone in the game today. He showed that in Nicaragua, as well. We had a chance to meet with him last week in Fort Myers and talk to him and take a look at him. We were pretty pleasantly surprised about how he looked physically, specifically as it relates to his recovery from the neck procedure he had last summer, and just generally looked pretty good. So we pursued a deal with him, and we’re happy to get him signed.”

Theo backed up his first words

Tomorrow, Theo Epstein starts Chapter 2 as a Major League general manager, leaving quite a legacy behind in Boston as he takes over as President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs.

When Epstein took over, we knew he was young and smart. Did we know he’d be able to lead the Red Sox to their first two championships since 1918? How could anybody know that?

I thought this would be as good a time as any to go back to what Epstein said at his initial press conference on Nov. 25, 2002, when he was promoted in the very same room — back then it was the .406 club, now it’s the State Street Pavilion — where Ben Cherington will get his coronation tomorrow. It’s equally fun to go back and listen to what the Red Sox said about Epstein the day they formally gave him the job.

Why did the Sox select Epstein as their GM when Billy Beane turned the job down?

“We’ve selected him for his intellect; we’ve selected him for his character. We’ve selected him for his passion for baseball, his knowledge and history and passion for the Red Sox,” said Larry Lucchino almost nine years ago. “For the breadth of his work experience. And for the ability to bring people together and work together in new and innovative ways. We think Theo Epstein has a chance to be an outstanding long-term general manager of the Red Sox.”

Yes, six postseason berths, four LCS’s and two championships over nine years could be classified as an “outstanding long-term general manager of the Red Sox.”

So why did John Henry think Theo was the guy?
“He has been a constant source of ideas, energy and intelligence for us since he came home to Boston,” Henry said on Nov. 25, 2002. “He joins a select group of young and highly talented general managers in today’s game who are revolutionizing baseball. We believe he will excel from day one.”

Well, pretty much. Epstein put together a formidable team in that winter of ’02-03 and the Red Sox nearly made it to the World Series in his first season.

Epstein, thinking of people like Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer no doubt, promised he would not reach his goals alone.

“But no one person is going to turn the Red Sox into a world championship organization,” said Epstein. “It’s going to happen, but it’s going to be a group effort. It’s going to be through collective hard work and through our collective wisdom.  Our short-term goal is to win and win a World Series, and that starts with getting to the postseason. So if you need to write down what our goal is for 2003, it’s to make the postseason.”

Short term goals were all reached.

What would his style be?

“My management style is to solicit opinions of those around me, those older and wiser,” said Epstein. “Hear not only what they have to say, but why. I want to hear why you have your opinions. As Chuck Tanner said, baseball is an opinion. We’re going to turn every issue over and over again. At the appropriate time, I’ll step in and act.”

At first, Epstein relied heavily on the late Bill Lajoie. In later years, he trusted Allard Baird and others greatly. Epstein never tried to act as if he was acting all on his own will.

“Our first organizational goal is winning and winning soon,” said Epstein. “Our second organizational goal is creating an atmosphere where we can sustain that type of competitiveness and that type of success long term.

If not for a barrage of injuries in 2010 and a historic collapse this time, Epstein’s regime could have been eight postseason appearances in nine years. Either way, his team was competitive and had success long term.

How was Epstein going to back up these big words?

“How do we create this environment where we’re going to sustain competitiveness and success? We’re going to turn the Red Sox into a scouting and player development machine. Every time I say this around the office, we all get excited because the sky is the limit. I’ll say it again, we’re going to become a scouting and player development machine,” Epstein said. “That means we’re going to draft exceptionally well. We’re going to sign our players. We’re going to have an idea on what kind of players we’re going to develop. We’re going to get to a point where every year great young players are coming up through the system into the Major Leagues, giving us flexibility and talent.”

Jonathan Papelbon. Dustin Pedroia. Jacoby Ellsbury. Clay Buchholz. Daniel Bard. Justin Masterson. Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes and Anthony Rizzo turned into Adrian Gonzalez. Ah yes, a scouting and player development machine.

“Once we reach that point, we’ll have created that player development and scouting machine. We have a chance to win in 2003, and win it all. If we build the scouting and player development machine, we’ll have an opportunity to say that every year.”

There wasn’t one year in Epstein’s tenure where you could look at the Red Sox in Spring Training and not have a legitimate chance to win a World Series.

And finally some closing thoughts from Larry Lucchino nine years ago.

“This is no longer your father’s Oldsmobile, to borrow from that commercial,” Lucchino said. “The Red Sox are determined to do new and innovative things to work with new approaches, to use new people, to push the envelope, so to speak, for baseball. We will do so while blending into that mix the reverence, respect and traditions and history of the Red Sox and baseball. He is a very strong-willed and independently willed person. Anybody who knows him will tell you that.”

Tomorrow, Epstein will give his mission statement in Chicago. Three hours later, Cherington will give his at Fenway.

Theo off to Cubbies; Cherington to be unveiled Tuesday

Finally, it’s done. After multiple weeks of heavy speculation, and over a week since Theo Epstein agreed on a contract with the Chicago Cubs, he is now the president of baseball operations for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908.

Because of the World Series, both teams will hold off on press conferences until Tuesday, at which time perhaps the compensation package coming to the Red Sox will be revealed.

Ben Cherington, Epstein’s long-time lieutenant, will also be unveiled as general manager of the Red Sox at that time.

Epstein’s tenure with the Red Sox — which lasted a month short of nine years if you take away his two-month sabbatical — was certainly a memorable one.

At the age of 28,  Epstein, the youngest general manager in baseball history, vowed he would turn the Red Sox into scouting and player development machine. He vowed to turn them into a team that was competitive year in and year out. More or less, he accomplished his goals, albeit with more success in his first six seasons in office than his last three.

In Epstein’s first six years, the Sox made it to the ALCS four times, won two World Series, made the playoffs five times and posted an October record of 34-20. Over his last three seasons, the Sox made the playoffs just once, going 0-3.

Now, Epstein will try to turn the Cubs into a scouting and player development machine, and end their World Series that stretches back to 1908.

It will be interesting to see what Cherington will do as the GM. At the age of 37, he is well groomed for his new role.

Cherington has long worked under Epstein. He actually predates his former boss in the Red Sox organization.

Cherington was hired by the Red Sox in 1999 as a mid-Atlantic area scout and joined the baseball operations department in May of that year. The New Hampshire native was named the club’s director of player development in 2002 and served in that role until December, 2005, when he became co-GM of the Red Sox, along with Jed Hoyer, when Epstein resigned from the GM post for two months. Cherington worked as vice president of player personnel for three years before being promoted to the role of assistant GM in January 2009.

He has quite the offseason in front of him. First of all, there is the task of finding a new manager.

Then there are key personnel decisions. Do the Sox keep David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon? What to do about right field and shortstop? Do you let the old guard of Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek go?

All this and more will be answered in the coming weeks, as the Cherington regime commences.

Theo departure by Tuesday?

When the story broke last Wednesday that Theo Epstein had agreed to a five-year contract with the Cubs, most of us felt his coronation in Chicago — and Ben Cherington’s in Boston — would happen within the next day or two.

But as tends to happen with these things, it has dragged out, with both sides trying to make the best compensation deal possible.

For those of us who would just love to see this thing get resolved one way or the other, it’s probably good that there’s somewhat of an artificial deadline in place.

The World Series starts Wednesday night in St. Louis. MLB has a very strong policy of not wanting any major announcements to trump the Fall Classic.

I don’t think either side wants this situation to drag past the World Series, which would end on Oct. 23 at the absolute earliest.

This is a major offseason for both teams. The Red Sox need to find a new manager, and then have several key personnel decisions to make. The Cubs obviously have some big decisions to make as well — moves that are all but certain to be made by Epstein.

I’m guessing two Tuesday afternoon press conferences — one at Wrigley for Epstein and one in Boston for Cherington.

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