Ben Cherington agreed to speak at the Saberseminar — an annual fund-raising event at Boston University in support of the Jimmy Fund, with speakers from the scouting, sabermetric, and science communities — when he was general manager of the Red Sox. Although Saturday's event took place four days after his decision to step down in the wake of the hiring of Dave Dombrowski as Sox president of baseball operations, Cherington felt compelled to fulfill his commitment.
"This is a great event," he said. "It's really progressive. They invite even the unemployed to come up here."
At one point, Cherington corrected his pronoun usage.
"I guess I shouldn't say 'we,' " Cherington said as he discussed the Red Sox.
Despite his altered relationship with the club, however, Cherington illuminated some of the elements that went into the construction of a 2015 Red Sox team that has performed well below expectations. Perhaps most notable was his description of how the team came to sign Hanley Ramirez to play left field.
"We didn't know what he would be defensively in left field. He'd never done it, so it was impossible for us to evaluate him," said Cherington. "We made a bet based on the history of what players looked like when they moved from middle infield positions to other positions. There's data to help us make an educated guess in asking him to do that.
"We knew that he wanted to do it, seemed committed to doing it, but we didn't know. There was no way to know for sure. Obviously, we've seen what's happened. It hasn't gone well."
Although the returns have been poor, Cherington took issue with some of the criticism directed at Ramirez.
"My problem with the sort of media analysis of it, some of it seems a little personal towards him," said Cherington. "There's no player in baseball that wants to go out there and not do well. He came here wanting to play for the Red Sox, wanting to play left field because he knew he'd have to do that to be a part of the Red Sox, and knowing that it would be a risk and a challenge to put himself out there.
"He knows. It hasn't gone as well as anybody would have hoped. The challenge is finding a solution . . . He either has to improve out there or it has to be another spot, somehow. That has to be worked out. We'd actually started to talk about it in the past weeks."
Cherington was asked how much of his time was spent dealing with owners.
"Sometimes most of it, really," he said. "That's a little bit different in every place. It needs to be there to some degree everywhere, because owners have the biggest stake of anyone in the organization.''
Regarding his future plans, Cherington said, "I think one of the things that I quickly look back on — I do feel like a couple of mistakes we made in the last few years is when we got in a rush to do something. So that's the one thing I'm going to try not to do, to be rushed."
Cherington addressed other Sox-related subjects: