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Peter Abraham | Beat Writer’s Notebook

Ben Cherington took the fall, but it wasn’t all his fault

A few observations on the arrival of Dave Dombrowski as the Red Sox’ president of baseball operations and the departure of Ben Cherington as general manager:

■  The only thing shocking about the Red Sox replacing Cherington was the odd timing of the announcement late Tuesday night. The rest was pretty standard.

Cherington was 290-315 as the general manager, a .479 winning percentage. Counting this season’s inevitable conclusion, the team made the postseason once in four years and otherwise finished last in its division.

That’s not good enough anywhere, even when factoring in the World Series title in 2013. But it’s particularly bad for an organization with such enormous financial resources.


Theo Epstein had a .575 winning percentage in his nine seasons as general manager, and his teams made the playoffs six times. The Red Sox averaged 93 wins when he was in charge.

Somebody had to pay for the downturn and Cherington did. But anybody celebrating his departure isn’t seeing the big picture. Cherington had Bobby Valentine forced on him in 2012, wrecking that season. It also wasn’t remotely his idea to alienate Jon Lester with a foolish lowball offer during spring training of 2014.

It’s also hard to believe he thought signing both Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to expensive contracts was a good idea.

In 2013, he made a series of small moves and we all saw what that led to.

“The GM of the Red Sox maybe isn’t ever fully responsible but certainly is fully accountable,” Cherington said on his way out. “That’s how I feel. I was prepared for that possibility.”

Cherington had his flaws as a GM, but a lot of mistakes he gets tagged with were only because he followed orders.

■ Dombrowski was being pursued by other teams and leveraged that into full control of baseball operations. He reports directly to ownership and outside of eight-figure contracts, will pretty much do what he wants.


Dombrowski said several times he knows when it’s necessary to run something by the owners and when it’s not. Cherington had a much thicker chain of command to navigate.

New team president Sam Kennedy does not quite have the job he thought he did. Earlier this month, when Kennedy replaced Larry Lucchino, he said he would have a seat at the table in baseball operations. But any seat he has now is just as spectator and supporter.

Dombrowski has the power Epstein wanted before he left for the Cubs in 2011. This is a new model for the Red Sox, much different from what this ownership group has had before.

■   It’s unfair to label Dombrowski as a win-at-all-costs leader who will plunder the farm system. In Detroit, yes, he traded away everything he could to build the major league roster. But that was at the behest of 86-year-old owner Mike Ilitch.

Ilitch desperately wants to bring a World Series title to Detroit before he dies and doesn’t much care where the farm system is ranked by Baseball America or ESPN.

“We used the farm system a little bit different when I was in Detroit,” said Dombrowski. “We had pedal to the metal to try to win a world championship and unfortunately we fell short of that. We traded a lot of our good young talent at that time.


“Ideally your farm system, if you can bring up your own homegrown players, all the much better.”

Dombrowski built good teams in Montreal and Miami via drafting and development. He’s not going to come in and tear down the good work Cherington did in the minors.

■  But do not expect Dombrowski to sit on redundant talent. Twice on Wednesday, he mentioned how impressed he was with young players like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Blake Swihart.

“If you know you have a shortstop, that’s not a position you’ll need to worry about,” Dombrowski said at one point.

Translation: Prospects like shortstop Javier Guerra, shortstop Deven Marrero, second baseman Wendell Rijo, shortstop Maurico Dubon, and even center fielder Manuel Margot are trade chips.

Prospects are overvalued in this market to some degree. We hear so much — maybe too much — about them, and they take on mythic qualities. If you were to look back at some of the things written and said about Garin Cecchini, for instance, you would have thought he was the next Mike Schmidt. Instead he’s a guy who has a .655 OPS in 216 Triple A games.

The trick is to know which prospects to keep and which ones to trade before they lose value. Dombrowski is not emotionally attached to any of these guys, and that is probably a good thing.

■   Cherington’s departure will surely lead to the loss of other longtime staffers in baseball operations. For a moment, put aside wins and losses and consider the human side of this.


Assistant GM Mike Hazen is from Abington, has worked for the Red Sox since 2006 and has a wife and four sons. Assistant GM Brian O’Halloran is from Weymouth, has worked for the Red Sox since 2002 and has a wife and three kids.

Vice president of baseball administration Raquel Ferreira is from Cumberland, R.I., has worked for the Red Sox for 17 years, and has a husband and daughter. She is one of the highest-ranking women in baseball and beloved by the players she has helped along the way.

Minor league director Ben Crockett went to Harvard and has been with the Sox since he was an intern in 2007. Pro scouting director Jared Porter is another local guy, growing up in Duxbury and attending Bowdoin. He has worked for the Sox since 2004.

They and dozens of other scouts, coaches, and administrators have no idea whether Dombrowski will want them around. It’s the chance you take when you work in baseball. But as one person put it Wednesday, “There are a lot of grim faces around here.”

■   Don’t get too wrapped up in who the next general manager is. It’s a good title, but the role is basically to be Dombrowski’s assistant. Dombrowski is a hands-on administrator. In his previous stops, he regularly traveled with the team.

■  Where does this leave John Farrell? The manager has been around Fenway Park most every day since his cancer diagnosis was announced. He spoke on the phone with Dombrowski, and the message was to focus on his health.


Farrell is under contract, but also partly responsible for two bad seasons. The honorable thing would be to give him another shot. But if the Red Sox were willing to push Cherington out after 16 years with the team, Farrell won’t give them too much pause.

Consider this: Farrell told the media at 4:30 p.m. Friday that he had cancer. The team did not release any sort of statement until 11:45 p.m.

The statement was 92 words long and did not contain a single comment from any team executive.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.