September 29, 2013

Red Sox GM covers all the bases

Ben Cherington has turned a Boston team in disarray into a unit that's back in the playoffs

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Ben Cherington
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Ben Cherington’s personnel decisions have changed the Red Sox from a disaster to baseball’s best team in just one season.

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THE 30-SOMETHING EXECUTIVE

WHO: Ben Cherington

POSITION: Boston Red Sox general manager

AGE: 38

HOMETOWN: Meriden, N.H.

HIRED: Oct. 25, 2011

FIRST JOB: Scout, Cleveland Indians, 1998

PLAYING EXPERIENCE: College pitcher (Amherst)

"We took a more broad, comprehensive approach," Cherington said. "We were looking for the right players, guys we felt would perform on the field, perform a role, and also guys who were attracted to the opportunity they were attracted to playing in Fenway."

Gomes, credited with being one of the new team leaders, said, "I definitely had this team very high on my radar.

"And this thing glued together pretty quick. We've been on the same page since we left Fort Myers."

In spring training at Fort Myers, Fla., Napoli said he looked around and smiled.

"I knew we (had a winning team) when I saw the guys we had in the clubhouse," he said.

The new players -- along with a returning core of standouts and developing prospects like former Sea Dogs Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Workman and Drake Britton -- comprised a team that withstood injuries and slumps.

"The depth has carried us through," Manager John Farrell said.

Farrell was another Cherington hire, along with a coaching staff that has meshed as well as the team.

HIS WAY IS THE RIGHT WAY

When he was hired by Epstein in 2003, it was well deserved. Cherington had experience. A native of Meriden, N.H., and former pitcher for Amherst College, Cherington joined professional baseball as a scout with the Cleveland Indians in 1998, then joined the Red Sox in 1999.

He moved into the player development office and found himself fixing problems that arose from a paper-thin minor league system. At one point in 2002, injuries and illness beset the Double-A team -- then based in Trenton, N.J. -- and only eight everyday players remained. Cherington could not find enough replacements, which forced the pitchers to hit in a game because there was no player available to be the designated hitter.

In 2003 the Epstein declared that the Red Sox would become a "player development machine" and chose Cherington to run the department.

"He's so organized," Epstein said at the time. "He anticipates problems so we can deal with them before they occur."

Cherington helped develop an in-house manual, a how-to guide for developing a winning organization. Known informally as "The Red Sox Way," it was to keep all members of the organization on the same page.

Cherington brought that manual to Maine in 2003 when Boston's Double-A team moved to Portland.

At first a sprinkling of prospects arrived at Hadlock Field. Then came 2005, when the team featured Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon and Hanley Ramirez.

Among those in the Hadlock stands was Cherington, charting his young players' developments.

In December 2005, when Epstein surprisingly resigned, Cherington was named co-general manager with Jed Hoyer.

The title didn't last long. Epstein returned the next month and Cherington was named one of his assistants.

"They shared a lot of the same philosophies. Ben learned a lot from Theo as we all did," said Hazen, one of Cherington's assistant.

"But Ben is his own guy. He has his own take on the job, decision-making process, etc."

This Boston team seems to be on the same page, following the "Red Sox Way" and its architect, the seasoned Ben Cherington. Now it's back to the playoffs.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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