Daniel Bard into a starter. However, long after it had become obvious to the cows in the field that the Bard experiment was a disaster, Cherington refused to admit to this egregious error of judgment. In insisting that the experiment continue despite its clearly having run its course, Cherington managed to turn Bard into a basket case and render him useless to the Sox for the season.
3. Let us, however, for the sake of argument assume that the Bard experiment had succeeded. Would not have Bard, like Dubrount (0-4 in his last seven starts with an ERA over 7.00), have broken down by now as a result of having pitched so many more innings than in previous years? Did Cherington have a Plan B for when that happened? In the off-season he signed a bunch of washed-up bargain basement starters to minor league contracts, only one of whom, Aaron Cook
, would ever start a game for the Sox)?
4. Turning our attention from the rotation to the bullpen, in the final years of what in retrospect must be regarded as a golden age of baseball in Boston, Francona constructed a bridge from whoever started (6+ innings) to Aceves (the seventh) to Bard (the eighth) to Pap (the ninth). Cherington personally dismantled that bridge, letting Pap walk without a fight, ruining Bard by trying to make him into the starter he wasn’t, and taking Aceves out of his comfort zone and saddling him with a closer’s role that he neither sought nor desired. To replace Francona’s bridge Cherington cobbled together a ragtag collection of unproven relievers, pitchers with a history of injuries, has-beens, and rejects from other teams (at least two of whom had been released by their former clubs for disciplinary reasons that have resurfaced with the Sox).
5. To sum up so far, going into the season it was clear to anybody not wearing rose-coloured Red Sox
glasses that Cherington had failed to address either the less than stellar rotation or the depleted bullpen. But worse was still to come. Cherington decided to entrust this motley crew to his hand-picked pitching coach, Bob McClure. McClure, a failure in KC in the same capacity, had been hired -- by Cherington -- to be a minor league instructor/scout but was then elevated to be the Sox pitching coach, presumably because Cherington was suffering from hiring-fatigue after his tortuous managerial search and could not be bothered to find a qualified pitching coach for the team.
6. Now here is a scary thought to contemplate – had Cherington not promoted McClure to the show, he would now be toiling in the minors doing who knows how much damage to the development of future Sox pitchers. At least in the majors McClure’s shortcomings (a lack of insight into how to make a pitcher effective, an incapacity to diagnose and rectify the causes of a pitcher’s struggles, and any semblance of communications skills) became apparent. In the minors these failings would probably have gone unnoticed to the lasting detriment of Red Sox pitching.
7. Cherington compounded his off-season inaction by choosing not to act in the run-up to the non-waiver trade deadline. By this point in time the Sox weaknesses had become obvious even to Lucchino who specifically “empowered” his GM to be bold. Unfortunately, it is not in Cherington’s nature to be bold. He is either physically, psychologically or congenitally incapable of being bold. Nor apparently did he have the vision to appreciate how dire a state the Sox were in.
8. Cherington is inoffensive, laid back, nondescript, accessible to the media, and comfortable before a microphone -- qualities totally unrelated to competence as a GM but ones which have earned him a free pass from the supposedly hyper-critical Boston media. It also seemed to have earned him the confidence from his bosses -- in a recent interview Tom Werner positively gushed about Cherington’s strengths and how he looked forward to his being the team’s GM for years to come. Lord save Sox fans from a fate like this.
9. Cherington says the right things -- he is constantly monitoring the situation, engaged in doing his due diligence, weighing his every option, blah, blah, blah. But at the end of the day he does nothing. He is all talk and no action.
10. On the other hand, Sox fans should perhaps be thankful that Cherington has not been more pro-active on the trade front. Take a hard look at Cherington’s trades– Reddick (with more homeruns and RBIs than anyone on the Sox and a far better fielder than Cody Ross
) for Bailey (who spent 2/3 of this season on the DL, hardly surprising given his history of injuries) and Sweeney (a journeyman outfielder); Hoyer (a better shortstop than Aviles) for Cheringtonn’s chosen set-up man Melancon with his 7.00+ ERA; Scutaro (another better shortstop than Aviles)
for Mortenson, a decent Triple A reliever but probably not ML material; and Youk and $6 million of John Henry’s money for the eminently forgettable Brent Lillibridge
and Zach Stewart
(who nearly broke a 100 year old Sox record for “the worst performance by a starting pitcher in his ML debut” -- further evidence, if any were needed, of Cherington’s inability to judge talent). Ask yourself this-- is there any Cherington trade where he got back more in the way of talent than he gave way?
11. The above recap admittedly ignores the LA mega-deal. However, I strongly suspect, until shown otherwise, that this trade was presented to the Sox on a platter by the Dodgers
[why else would they have claimed Gonzo and Beckett off waivers?] and tweaked, probably by Lucchino, to insist that LA take on Crawford’s contract as well as those of Gonzo and Beckett. This was a trade the financial costs which were too enticing for even the “disciplined” Cherington to pass up. In the process, however, he emasculated the last remnants of what was once and could have been a potent offence to add to his previous emasculation of its pitching staff. Given his philosophy of ‘discipline,’ given his belief that there is nothing wrong with the Sox that a little fine-tuning will not rectify, is there any reason to believe that Cherington plans to spend the savings from the LA trade to rebuild the Sox. He might tease us by hinting that the money is available for rebuilding but he then quickly reverts to his mantra that the team needs to exercise “discipline” in the trade and FA markets. In any event, there is probably not enough money (or quality free agents) available to plug all the leaks Cherington has created.
What Cherington fails to understand or turns a blind eye to is that no trade, no FA signing, probably nothing in life worth doing, is without risk. Anyone who knows anything about “games theory” will appreciate that sticking one’s head in the sand and doing nothing is rarely if ever the road to success. Fortune favors the bold. A GM must make objective assessments as to whether the chances of a trade or FA signing being successful is greater than the chances of its failing. If the deal is more likely to succeed than not, then the GM should pull the trigger, full stop, even if there may be a risk of it backfiring. When a team has hit rock bottom, as have Cherington’s Sox, and has nowhere to go but up, even deals with less than a 50% chance of success may be worth a shot.
Cherington draws all the wrong lessons from Theo’s failures. Granted that several of Theo’s final deals may not have worked out as Sox fans would have liked (but how quickly the critics forget his coups in obtaining Big Papi, Schilling, Foulke, Millar, Mueller and more recently Franklin Morales
for little or nothing), but at least Theo deserves credit for trying. He was swinging for the fences, trying to bring the Sox a pennant. Cherington’s is content to stand on the sidelines, watching the Sox slowly sink into mediocrity (or worse), hoping that he will escape criticism by being the anti-Theo and doing nothing that might make matters worse, and /expecting that his bosses at least will appreciate the money he will have saved them.
The recent sweeps at the hands of LA and Oakland highlight the difference between teams prepared to take risks to capture the prize and the “disciplined” passivity now being preached by Cherington (as well perhaps by John, Tom and Larry). LA signed Pujols and CJ Wilson before the season started, and then traded for Greinke; Texas imported Darvish (having previously signed Beltre as a FA), Detroit spent a slightly smaller fortune on Fielder (to complement their previous trade for and signing of Cabrera); the Yankees
bought Kuroda (having previously acquired Tex, Sabathia, Soriano and a host of other valuable assets via FA); Chicago was happy to take on Youk, having previously signed Dunn as a FA and traded for Jake Peavy. And on and on. By sheer dint of numbers not all of these teams will make the playoffs, but at least they are in there competing. Can the same be said of our Sad Sack Sox and their “fearless” GM? Heed this well, Gentle Ben: Faint heart never won fair lady -- or a World Series.
Cherington apparently pins his hopes for the Sox future in the its farm system. The Sox need to draft (but if the present crop of September call-ups is any indication, the Sox first need to find new scouts) and develop (but not if Cherington continues to hire minor league instructors like McClure) sufficient talent to allow the team to once again become competitive. Not a winner, mind you, but competitive. But it is not like this grand plan is unique to the Sox – every team is striving to draft and develop young talent but the winners are also trying to improve through trades and free agent signings. But trades and FA signings seem alien to Cherington’s disciplined approach. I truly hope I am proved wrong but I foresee that Cherington’s “discipline" leading to many years in the wilderness for the Sox and many summers of discontent for its loyal fans.
Observant readers will have noted that in my list of teams willing to spend to reach the playoffs, I omitted both Tampa Bay and Oakland, whose owners are either strapped for cash or disinclined to spend. Fortunately for their fans, these teams are blessed with GMs with insight, vision, and judgment, qualities Cherington lacks or at least has yet to demonstrate. The recent sweep by the A’s speaks volumes about the comparative abilities of Billy Beane and Ben Cherington to put together a winning baseball team.
That lead me to my modest proposal for Sox ownership -- take the money you will be saving from Crawford’s salary and offer it to Billy Beane, hoping that a 20M per annum salary will be an offer he cannot refuse (which will be recouped by avoiding a loss in future season ticket sales and added concession sales ) – along with a budget of $100 --150 million per year (well under the dreaded luxury tax that apparently keeps the Sox billionaire owners awake at night). Let’s see what Beane can achieve. Does anybody doubt it would be more than the hopeless, hapless, and spineless -- but disciplined -- Cherington? Alas, I fear that Beane may have the good sense not to want any part of the JTL triumvirate but at least the Sox will have tried.