---- — BOSTON — Before the first pitch was tossed last April, according to the experts(several million New Englanders), Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington had a nondescript off-season (see Bill Belichick in 2001) in the 2013 Red Sox Reclimation Project.
n fact, few people had anything nice to say about any of the key pickups, other than it will be a breath of fresh air watching guys enjoy the game of baseball. In other words, it will be nice seeing anything other than Josh Beckett & Co.
Here were the Cherington winter additions and our collecitve reactions:
Nov. 11, David Ross signed as a free agent — “A decent backup/secondary catcher who apparently knows how to handle pitchers. Don’t dislike it or like it.”
Dec. 1, Jonny Gomes signed a two-year, $10 million contract — “Where’s he going to play? A nice guy that loves baseball, sure, but average at best.”
Dec. 13, Shane Victorino signs a three-year, $39 million contract — “Sure, he’s a “Dirt Dog,” which we love, but way, way, way too much money for a guy on the back nine of his career.”
Dec. 18, Koji Uehara signs a two-year, $9.25 million contract — “Yes, he filled a need in the bullpen, but a little too much money for a decent candidate for setup man.”
Dec. 19, Ryan Dempster signs a two-year, $26.5 million contract — “Another decent pitcher who is old (36 in May) and a fourth or fifth starter at best.”
Dec. 26, Stephen Drew signs a one-year, $9.5 million contract — “J.D. Drew’s brother? Who has injury issues? For $9.5 million? And most of all, let that wizard of defense, Jose Iglesias, play!”
Jan. 22, Mike Napoli signs a one-year $13 million contract — “Does he have a degenerative hip or not? Could be decent, but is he anything better than a fifth or sixth hitter when this team needs a third hitter in front of David Ortiz?”
Feb. 20, Mike Carp acquired in a trade with Seattle — “Who cares?”
So that was our general reaction after each of Cherington’s deals. None of them — and I mean none of them — excited the masses this winter. None of these guys were everyday players (140 games or more) in 2012.
Take two of those “nondescript” guys out of the equation and maybe this “Beard Bonanza” never occurs.
Sure, the Red Sox have a World Series-caliber pitching staff, which we finally realized about a hundred years into this professional baseball thing is most important, but the amount of holes Cherington filled with his acquisitions is nothing short of amazing.
We could argue Cherington’s really best work was last year when he traded away $262 million, including a few bad apples, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That opened the door for all of the above deals and also allowed Cherington to re-sign to the two most important Red Sox of them all, Dustin Pedroia (7 years, $110 million) and David Ortiz (two years, $30 million).
But where would this team be without Gomes, the poster boy of this team, or Victorino, probably the most clutch hitter on the team, or Koji, who saved the bullpen, or Drew, who has been steadier than any of us thought in the middle of the infield, or Napoli, who added the power around Ortiz in the lineup, etc., etc.
Lest we forget Cherington’s other big winter signing, manager John Farrell.
We thought Cherington might be fighting to keep his job in 2013. Instead, he did his job, quite possibly, better than any general manager before him because of last winter.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.