EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

August 27, 2006

Is the Sox future worth banking on?

BOSTON - Ben Cherington stood on the Fenway Park field yesterday, reveling in an afternoon doubleheader involving the Red Sox's minor league teams from Lowell and Pawtucket. For Boston's vice president of player personnel, this was what made the job fun - seeing the organization's future bask in the glow of the light at the end of the developmental tunnel.

"How can you not like this?" Cherington beamed. "This is what it is all about."

But is it, really? Is the promise of tomorrow enough to help Red Sox fans get through the occasional darkness of these days? Are these kids - many of whom a faction of New England baseball fans would rather have seen shipped out for instant gratification weeks ago - worthy of the fandom's faith?

Like it or not, the Red Sox think so, and because of it Bostonians are being asked to display the kind of patience not seen in these parts for many a baseball season.

"(The Red Sox) didn't come in saying, 'We're not trading Player X. We're not trading (Single-A pitching prospect Michael) Bowden, or we're not trading (highly touted Single-A hurler Clay) Buchholz," said Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod. "They would trade them if there was the right deal.

"One thing (Red Sox general manager) Theo (Epstein) is great about is that he is very good at distancing himself and looking at what is good for the Red Sox. He just didn't think the deals were right. I don't think it had anything to do with being in love with the prospects and thinking that our prospects were too good to be traded."

But, in the Red Sox's eyes, the youngsters that teams wanted were too good to be traded, at least for what was being offered in return.

According to those within the Red Sox baseball operations department, the most sought-after names at the non-waiver trade deadline were that of current Sox starter Jon Lester, and minor leaguers Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Buchholz and Bowden (all pitchers), along with Double-A center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Not one was worthy of shipping out in exchange for a short-term boost to the big league team. But was, for instance, a player like Lester worth holding on to when potential deals for the likes of Andruw Jones or Roy Oswalt loomed?

The bottom line is that the Red Sox are banking on their youngsters becoming the building blocks. It is a plan, but is it the right one?

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