EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 5, 2012

Finally time for Cherington to show what he can do with Sox

Season finale: Valentine firing

On Pro Baseball Christopher Smith
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BOSTON — The media release announcing the firing of Bobby Valentine yesterday stated that the search for a new manager would begin immediately and GM Ben Cherington would be leading it.

That’s pretty much what the Red Sox said last year before president/CEO Larry Lucchino intervened.

The result: The search lingered until Dec. 1, Boston hired the biggest name instead of the best manager and the team had a massively unproductive offseason following its worst season in decades.

Attention Larry: Stay away from your GM this offseason. Let Cherington work with his baseball staff to do the job he was hired to do when he was promoted last offseason.

Cherington deserves only about 10 percent of the blame for this absolutely laughable and chaotic 2012 debacle in which Boston finished below 70 wins for the first time since 1965 (not including strike-shortened seasons).

Cherington had his hands tied last offseason from the managerial search to free agent signings.

But with Valentine gone and approximately $257 million of payroll freed up in the mega-trade that Boston made with the Los Angeles Dodgers in August, it is time for Cherington to show us what he can really do — if Lucchino lets him.

If Lucchino doesn’t, Cherington should resign his post immediately.

It appears Cherington will be given his chance to select his own manager and build his own team, but appearances sometimes can be deceptive.

“I think I’ve always said I feel like I have the appropriate amount of autonomy, which is to say not full autonomy and no GM does,” Cherington said.

“But there ought to be a strong involvement from ownership on a major decision like this because we want whoever our next manager is to succeed (and) he needs to have the support of all of us.”

The managerial decision shouldn’t last beyond Nov. 1.

A swift, smart decision must be made within the next 27 days.

After all, Cherington and his staff have known they’re going to be hiring a new manager since probably the first week of August when Boston lost three of four games to the hapless Indians. It was then the season really began spiraling out of control — although things have been chaotic with this team for more than a year.

“I don’t know what our timetable will be,” Cherington said. “I know we’ll work as hard as we can to find the right person. Every organization is different. Every organization’s decision-making apparatus is a little bit different.

I’m going to work, I’m going to spearhead the search process and work with (principal owner) John (Henry), (chairman) Tom (Werner) and Larry to find the person who we can all get behind.”

Rumor is both baseball operations and front office agree on ex-Red Sox pitching coach and current Toronto manger John Farrell as their No. 1 choice.

That said, if the decision lingers and Toronto wants too talented a player in return for Farrell, the Sox must move in another direction swiftly.

There are plenty of quality candidates out there from Phillies third base coach and Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg to current Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar to Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler.

Then there’s Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus.

Even former Boston bench coach DeMarlo Hale who was good pals with ex-manager Terry Francona and left after 2011 to become the Orioles third base coach, likely will at least be considered.

The White Sox hired Robin Ventura in early October last offseason.

The Cardinals hired Mike Matheny last year 15 days after Tony La Russa announced his retirement.

Both teams had productive offseasons and regular seasons after finding the right manager quickly.

This offseason obviously is crucial for Boston. The quicker they pick a manager, the quicker they decide on a coaching staff and the quicker they can get down to the big task of strengthening the roster.

There is a ton of work to be done with strengthening the pitching and offense.

There should be more pressure on Cherington this offseason — the pressure that comes with more responsibility.

“I was a major supporter of Bobby Valentine and still am,” Lucchino said.

“I have great admiration for him. But the process last year was a collaborative process. I and John Henry, wanted the list of possibilities to include Bobby — and made that suggestion to Ben that we interview him and talk to him and see if there was a fit for him. But the notion that somehow this was a unilateral decision flies in the face of how we operate around here.”

Lucchino did accept some blame.

“Absolutely,” Lucchino said. “I feel some responsibility for the selection of Bobby.”