He’s speaking to people in and out of baseball about his next move. He would love to run a team again and in his words, “really make a difference.” He says he’s not close to anything and no team is ready to hire him.
But Ben Cherington remains an intriguing option to the Phillies, Brewers, Angels, and others contemplating a new general manager. He turned down a chance to interview with the Mariners.
Cherington left the Red Sox after the team announced it hired Dave Dombrowski to be president of baseball operations on Aug. 18. Cherington chose to leave because he felt the situation would be awkward for everybody concerned.
Cherington said he met with Dombrowski initially to give him all the information he had to go forward and make his own evaluations, but he hasn’t spoken with him since. Cherington went off into the sunset.
Cherington’s version of his departure and when he learned about the interest the owners had in Dombrowski differed from the version of events from John Henry and Tom Werner. But Cherington has never belabored that point. He doesn’t feel there’s any repair work needed on his relationship with the owners, just that he didn’t agree with the way things happened.
He watches his former team on TV, recognizes he made mistakes. But the one thing you can’t take away from him is he stuck to his guns, and this will be a focal point for other teams as they consider him to be their leader. He protected what he envisioned as the new core of the team. And the fruits of those decisions will likely become Dombrowski’s lifeblood for years to come.
Does Cherington wish Jackie Bradley Jr., Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Henry Owens clicked sooner? Of course. If they had, his job would have been saved and Dombrowski wouldn’t be in Boston. Did he wish Rusney Castillo would have taken to major league baseball sooner and better? Of course.
But with prospects you don’t know when that moment will come. When it will click. And in Boston, there’s less patience if prospects don’t deliver than in other major league cities.
Cherington resisted every temptation to make the Cole Hamels deal with Philadelphia even though he really believed Hamels was one of the top pitchers in the game.
“We had a lot of conversations with [the Phillies]. I just didn’t want to give up our core and we couldn’t find another way to get it done,” Cherington said.
In the back of his mind he knew Hamels was 30 years old and signed for at least the next three years, which the owners frowned upon. Cherington acknowledged he also bought into the philosophy of not paying big money for older pitchers.
So the outlay of core players, his age, his contract, and the fact that Hamels hadn’t had great success in the American League had Cherington resisting a deal. Ultimately he walked away and Texas acquired Hamels.
And sure, Cherington has regrets over Hanley Ramirez. Cherington felt Ramirez would be a plus hitter and that would compensate for any defensive shortcomings he had in left field. Cherington knew there was a work ethic issue, but the staff also realized that overworking Ramirez would likely cause injury.
Cherington agrees with the team’s plans for Ramirez to play first base. He had met with coaches over the last couple of months to discuss the experiment and met with resistance from the staff.
“We tried to execute a strategy,” Cherington said. “We wanted to win this year with a chance to win for a long time after that. I recognize my part in that. I understand. I didn’t expect it to happen the way it happened. I hope the Red Sox get to where we were trying to get to. We had so much faith in those kids getting to that point.”
Cherington attempted to exercise patience. Just weeks after he left, you can see his vision more clearly. You can see the team’s new core. You can now see why he recognized Joe Kelly as a key comeback piece in the John Lackey deal. You can see why he traded for Rick Porcello. And who knows? Maybe Allen Craig, two years removed from his foot injury, will look like his old self.
Suddenly, Cherington’s vision is panning out. Now that he’s gone.
Duquette has praise for Huntington
Orioles GM Dan Duquette, who was named The Sporting News executive of the year last season, would endorse a fellow Amherst graduate, Pirates GM Neal Huntington, for executive of the year for 2015.
“Huntington has made a series of moves in the past year that have provided much larger returns than the investments he made,” Duquette said. “While many other general managers have improved their teams in the past year, no other executive has done so with the same amount of surplus value as Neal Huntington.”
Huntington is worthy of the recognition. He signed Jung Ho Kang, Francisco Liriano, and A.J. Burnett in the offseason. He also improved the Pirates at the trade deadline by adding J.A. Happ, Joakim Soria, Joe Blanton, and Aramis Ramirez.
Happ has a 1.96 ERA in eight starts with the Pirates. Soria has been a valuable bullpen piece (22 appearances, 2.75 ERA) in front of Mark Melancon. Blanton has a 2.00 ERA in 27 innings out of the bullpen. And Ramirez has played well at third.
Similarly, Duquette had it all go in his favor last season, but 2015 has been a challenge, and he’s not going to have it easy moving forward with the Orioles.
According to major league sources, there’s tension over Orioles owner Peter Angelos not allowing Duquette to pursue the higher-profile and higher-paying team president job in Toronto.
There’s also been talk of friction between Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, both of whom are signed through 2018. And there’s key free agents — Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Wei-Yin Chen — whom the Orioles may cheapen out on and not re-sign.
Not allowing Duquette to pursue the Toronto job that went to the Indians’ Mark Shapiro has generally been considered bush league by baseball executives. When a GM has a chance to improve his position, the common courtesy is to not stand in his way. Angelos, however, prevented it, and according to a major league source never compensated Duquette for the lost opportunity.
Duquette is likely to have the usual budget constraints unless Angelos frees up some of the MASN money that’s coming in from the Orioles, and a percentage from the Nationals he also gets for giving up territorial rights.
The budget was important last offseason when the Orioles lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in free agency.
Apropos of nothing
1. If you’re a major league team, you have to consider new technology that could help reduce labrum and Tommy John surgeries. It’s from Neuro Performance Rehab Clinics in Miami, whose mother company helped quarterback Peyton Manning following his neck surgery. The clinics claim they have helped avoid 60 Tommy John surgeries, mostly to Division 1 college pitchers. “Unless the ligament is cut in half, there is no reason a player should go under the knife for UCL surgery until they have at least met with us first,” said managing director Mark McClure. “I will tell them first and foremost it is not the UCL that is the issue, the problem is coming from somewhere else, and until we treat the origin of what is causing the UCL pain, all the rehab, ice, rest, and surgeries in the world will not fix it.” Director of business development Frank Joy said the company has had to break down a lot of barriers because most teams operate in a certain way — they get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews and go from there. The key, according to McClure, is finding the origin of the problem neurologically. If the UCL is torn completely, then surgery is required. If it’s a partial tear it can be repaired with little downtime, according to Joy, who says treatments cost $2,300. The company, which claims a 97 percent success rate, uses what it calls ARP Wave technology to find the disconnect.
2. Next season, the Red Sox could very well be where Theo Epstein has positioned the Cubs. Epstein built his core with Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, and top pitchers Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Boston’s core is intact. Now the Sox need to add a top starter, replenish the bullpen, and get back to the Epstein goal of 95 wins a year in the AL East. He may be in an even more competitive situation with St. Louis and Pittsburgh ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central.
3. Major League Baseball calculated that entering weekend play, there were 1,162 saves through 2,181 games. At that pace, the 2015 season is on track for 1,295 saves, which would set a record. The mark of 1,266 was set in 2013.
4. Forty-three pitchers this season have made their major league debuts in a start. That is the second-highest total in history, trailing only the 44 who made debuts in 2009. In the 43 starts this season, pitchers combined to go 11-20 with a 4.00 ERA. In 227 innings, the pitchers have combined to allow 230 hits and 114 runs (101 earned) with 79 walks and 178 strikeouts. Their teams went a combined 17-26.
5. Oh, boy. Jonathan Papelbon went into Philadelphia last week and said the following: “I don’t know if I got a bad rap here or whatever, but I can promise you I was far [from] the bad guy on this team. I was one of the few that wanted to actually win, and I was one of the few that competed and posted up every day.”
6. Jeff Luhnow is to J.D. Martinez what Terry Ryan is to David Ortiz. Both GMs released future home run hitters and All-Stars (and a possible Hall of Famer in Ortiz). The Astros could have used Martinez, who was scooped up by Dave Dombrowski in Detroit. Martinez had 37 homers entering Saturday, while Ortiz has now hit more than 500 career homers.
7. Could the Blue Jays net the hat trick? MVP (Josh Donaldson), Cy Young (David Price), Manager of the Year (John Gibbons)?
Updates on nine
1. Jason Heyward, RF, Cardinals — There’s no reason to believe the Cardinals won’t make a sincere effort to re-sign him, but they’ll have competition. Heyward is a nice player, but one with a sub-.800 OPS and only 12 homers. He owns a 5.4 WAR, and an outfield defensive WAR at 1.3. What’s he worth? He turned 26 last month so five years, $100 million isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But is he all that? The Yankees, Angels, Cardinals, Mets, Indians, Mariners, and Giants could be suitors.
2. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies — The Phillies had a scout in Baltimore last week to watch the Orioles to check out the possibility of a swap if the Orioles lose Chris Davis in free agency. Not sure Orioles GM Dan Duquette would think Howard is the answer, but he still has power and should be a DH.
3. Jake Peavy, RHP, Giants — On Wednesday, Peavy became the fifth Giants pitcher this season to hit a home run, matching a major league record.
The starting rotation has hit nine, one shy of the franchise record set in 1934. Madison Bumgarner has five, and Mike Leake, Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong, and Peavy have one apiece. Just 13 other big league pitchers have homered this season. Chris Heston is the only pitcher in the Giants’ rotation who hasn’t homered. “Chris Heston hated to see that on the board more than anybody,” Peavy said. “We put the pressure on him. He probably hits the most home runs of any pitcher in [batting practice]. We gave him a hard time.” When you consider that Peavy has to have catcher Buster Posey paint his fingernails to see the signs, hitting a homer is pretty good.
4. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals — He had caught 1,133⅔ innings entering Friday’s games, most in the majors. Behind him is Kansas City’s Salvador Perez, who also has more than 1,000. Minnesota’s Kurt Suzuki was at 988 innings. Molina has slumped offensively this season, hitting .272 with four homers, 60 RBIs, and a .666 OPS.
5. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Yankees — One of the keys to the rest of the Yankees’ season is how he and Brett Gardner perform at the top of the order. Injuries have prevented Ellsbury from shining this season. Before the break, Ellsbury hit .318 and Gardner hit .302. But since the break they each have hit .204. “The Yankees have to do what they did earlier this year and manufacture some runs with Ellsbury and Gardner,” said one veteran scout.
6. Brock Holt, utilityman, Red Sox — There’s continued interest in him. Dave Dombrowski will likely get his share of offers for Holt this offseason. As Boston’s outfield solidifies, Holt’s opportunities may be limited. Could the Sox solve a bullpen need by dealing him? In Holt’s career he has hit .309 before the All-Star break, .238 after. He’s done better this season at .263 after the break.
7. Torii Hunter, RF, Twins — He has said he’s going year to year, but the Twins want him back for at least one more season, according to a team official. The impact Hunter has made in the clubhouse and leading a team featuring some younger players has been off the charts. Hunter, 40, is hitting .242 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs. He also has played a good right field.
8. Tony LaCava, assistant GM, Blue Jays — He interviewed for the Angels’ GM job. That could be a good fit with manager Mike Scioscia as LaCava is more of a traditional executive. He uses analytics, as all Blue Jays executives do, but his personality would definitely mesh with Scioscia’s. LaCava has taken every road trip with the Jays the past few years and has certainly been part of building the franchise. A few years back, he turned down the Orioles’ GM job that went to Duquette.
9. DeMarlo Hale, bench coach, Blue Jays — For years he has been used by teams to satisfy a rule of interviewing a minority candidate. Hale may finally get a legitimate shot at a manager’s job given his work with John Gibbons. He is respected by the players, with a strong work ethic and coaching acumen. We’ll see if a team finally gets real with Hale.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Rookie watch: Since Carlos Correa’s first game on June 8, the Astros are 43-44 (.489); since Kris Bryant’s first game on April 17, the Cubs are 79-58 (.577); since Miguel Sano’s debut on July 2, the Twins are 34-33 (.507); since Eduardo Rodriguez’s debut on May 28, the Red Sox are 48-50 (.490).” . . . Happy birthday, Danny Valencia (31), Ryan Roberts (35), Lenny DiNardo (36), and Jason Bay (37).
Be true to your school
No school has sent more players to the majors than Arizona State, with 114 entering the 2015 season. Southern California has sent 84, but its contingent combines for 10.9 WAR per player, significantly higher than Arizona State’s 7.2. A look at those two program’s leading lights and a couple of other schools that are big-time contributors.