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NEW YORK -- Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington met with the media prior to Wednesday's season finale against the New York Yankees and addressed why the Red Sox fell so short of expectations in missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Cherington said it was not the final postmortem because there was still one game to play, but it certainly felt like it.
The overriding issue all season has been whether Bobby Valentine was the right person to manage this club. When asked whether the organization already had decided to fire Valentine, Cherington would not give a definitive answer.
"I'm not going to talk about it," Cherington said. "We have a game tonight and I've said many times Bobby's the manager of the team through the end of the year and we'll talk about it after the season. That's what we'll do, so I'm not talking about it anymore today."
While Valentine has come under fire much of the season, Cherington said responsibility for the team's performance starts in the general manager's office. No doubt it's been a difficult first season as GM for Cherington.
"It's tough," he said. "I've said before, we're nowhere near where we want to be. On a personal level, I've been here 14 years and we've had some highs, some lows and this is certainly a low. I take it personally, we all take it personally and as long as I'm here, I'll do whatever I possibly can to help restore the team to what our ownership and fans deserve. It's been hard on all of us."
When Cherington realized the season was falling apart, he made changes. The biggest came at the trade deadline when he pulled off a nine-player trade that sent pitcher Josh Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford and infielder Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a major salary dump for the Red Sox.
The current roster will see changes, too, sooner rather than later, the GM said.
"We talked a lot about it," Cherington said. "We fell out of it earlier than we wanted to, so when that happens you have to start looking forward and looking at potential opportunities during the offseason, so we've done that. We've done a lot of work and we'll continue that work. I've spent a lot of time with ownership the last few weeks, the better part of September, I guess, talking about that and looking at different opportunities.
"I've also looked critically at myself and the operation and where we can improve. We've done a lot of work on that and I'm confident we will improve. It's not going to happen overnight and we've got to get after it this offseason."
Excluding the manager's situation, Cherington's priority will be to re-sign designated David Ortiz and outfielder Cody Ross.
"We've got a couple of free agents we've been talking to now," Cherington said. "David is a priority and we're talking to Cody Ross also. I'm not going to comment anymore than that, but just to say we're talking to both guys.
"David is someone who we feel strongly about bringing back and we're trying to figure out a way to do that and we hope that happens. With Cody, Cody came in here this year, fit in well and had a good year. It's an area of need moving forward, so we've talked to him. We'll see how those conversations go."
A team source indicated that Ortiz's contract situation likely will be resolved quickly during the offseason. The sides have had informal discussions.
From the start of the season, the Red Sox dealt with injuries to some of their top players, including outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Crawford, then later Ortiz.
"Injuries were certainly a part of it, but I don't think we're doing our jobs if we blame this season on injuries," Cherington said. "We've got to look a little deeper than that. I need to look first at my decisions, my own decisions last winter and what I did or did not do to help the team more, and I've certainly done that. We've got to look at the players who are here and guys that can perform better, why they didn't and how can we help them maybe get back to the level they've been at before."
Despite all the aches, pains, bumps, bruises and shattered egos, Cherington believes this offseason will be a major starting point to improve things and help the organization return to being a perennial winner.
"I'm confident we're going to be better," Cherington said. "I think people are tired of hearing about how good we're going to be before the season starts, and we've talked about that the last several offseasons and it hasn't worked out that way. I'm confident we're going to be better and I'm confident in time we're going to be very good. I don't know yet whether that's going to be April 2013 or beyond or when, but I know this team will be back.
"There are too many good people here. Too much strength and support at the ownership level. Despite a really low time in the team's history, we have strengths.
"We have good players at the major-league level. We have strong players at the minor-league level and we need to add to them, no doubt. It's up to us to do that and I'm confident this team will be back. The timing of that, and how long it takes, I don't know. But we will be better next year than we were this year."