Thursday, January 24, 2013
Ben: Always about winning, not sizzle
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington acknowledged Thursday on Boston sports radio station WEEI that the just-released book by former manager Terry Francona doesn't paint Red Sox owners in the best light, but insisted that the organization has always made winning their top priority and not business goals such as television ratings and gate receipts.
“The first priority ... the absolute first priority, for all of us and definitely including John (Henry), Tom (Warner) and Larry (Lucchino), is to win. That’s the fundamental goal and that's what drives us,” Cherington said. "When you're trying to win every year, in a place like Boston, it requires us to be aggressive in different ways ... and we're also trying to be aggressive with business, because that drives revenue and that helps us reinvest in the baseball team. ... It has to work together.
"The first priority will always be to win and be aggressive toward winning, and that’s up to us in baseball operations to sort of manage that in a way to make good decisions, and we’ve made our fair share of mistakes and we learned from some of those mistakes. That said, any business is trying to be as good as it possibly can be and in every conceivable area. And part of that for the Red Sox is to understand our fans and what they are looking for, and there’s things we are looking for to give them what they want.
Cherington suggested that not enough time has passed for Red Sox Nation to embrace a fully objective view of the current ownership's positive impact on the Red Sox and the city of Boston.
"It seems to me the best history is written with some distance in the rear-view mirror,” Cherington added. "At some point people will look back at the period between 2004 and 2011 and it will go down as the greatest period in Red Sox history. And except for the players -- the (Jason) Variteks, (Dustin) Pedroias, (David) Ortizes and (Curt) Schillings of the world -- the five people who had more to do with that than anyone else are John, Tom, Larry, Theo (Epstein) and Tito. It seems to me, at some point, those five people will all be seen in the appropriate light.”
Cherington, who said he had not read Francona's book ("I'll have a chance to read it at some point, I'm sure"), addressed an excerpt from the book in which Epstein was quoted as being critical of the findings of a $100,000 marketing study that suggested the Sox needed to add some "sizzle" by perhaps spotlighting "reality-TV aspects of the game and good-looking stars," and suggested that some big-name acquisitions (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez) were in response to the study.
"That was not a mandate from John, Tom and Larry, that was information gathering," he insisted.
“I’ll agree to disagree with Theo on this one,” Cherington added. “But if any way it (contributed to poor baseball decisions) it’s on us in baseball ops and it’s also on ownership for because we work together to manage the demands in Boston and manage the pressure to win and do it in a way that allows us to have success in Boston year after year. And we all know that we've fallen short the last year-and-a-half.
"We ask our players to be accountable all the time ... I think a certain notion of blaming some marketing study on a player decision is just folly, it's just not the way it happened," he added.
Cherington also talked about the team's offseason acquisitions and where the Sox stand at this point, just weeks away from the start of spring training.
"This offseason our approach has been to add as much strength to as many parts of the roster as possible," he said. "Maybe we didn’t make the one headline move or haven’t to this point, I think a lot of our heavy lifting is done, but I do think we’ve added strength to a lot of different areas to the roster, including a lot of areas we had holes in," he said, "I think in aggregate we feel pretty good that we’re a strong, deep team with a chance to be deep in a lot of areas and a chance to match up with anyone,” Cherington said.
Here are some more highlights:
* On the overall reaction of Francona's book inside the Red Sox organization: "I understand people's interest in the book, but it seems to me it's something that will pass once we get hit to Fort Myers and the focus will be back on 2013. ... If we won 95 games last year, I'm not sure we'd even notice this book."
* On the Mike Napoli signing and whether the Sox thought about walking away after learning about the player's hip condition: "We did not consider just washing our hands. This is a unique situation, and a player we really like. Had a condition that no one knew anything about, including Mike Napoli. ... He did a lot of information gathering and we did a lot of information gathering, and at no point during that time did we say we don't want to sign you. It was simply a matter of getting to the bottom of what this really meant. ... The important thing is, based on all the information we have, we're very optimistic about him being a force in our lineup in 2013."
* On whether he believes this 2013 Red Sox roster will be good enough to finish with 90 wins: “We think this is a team that will be very competitive, going to contend and match up with any team in the AL East. As far as the win total, I don't know, because I think this is a different time in the AL East than we've ever seen. Used to be you could sort of count up your 90 or 95 wins because you sort of penciled in this amount of wins against this team and this amount of wins against that team, and that's not the case anymore because the AL East is so flat, so competitive. ... It's going to come down to who stays healthiest, who executes the best, who has the best pitching and who makes the best in-season moves."
* On hiring Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox staff and the mood of the organization: "We've got Pedro Martinez back in the fold, he's coming to work for us. (At the recent baseball operations meetings), he was there and he and Varitek were talking about what it was like to win in '04. That's the type of conversation that's happening internally. ... I know that (the ownership group) is maybe more committed than ever to getting this right and getting back to winning."