quickly things can change,” Cherington had said that August day. “At the end of 2001, it wasn’t a great time. A few months later, everybody wanted to be in Boston. This is still a great place to play.”
“We have to be disciplined. We have to find good value. We have to find good fits. We can’t go out tomorrow and fill up the payroll flexibility we just created. We’re going to continue to have a significant payroll and be committed to building the best team we possibly can.”
Cherington lived those words. No, he never grew a beard. No, he isn’t a rock star like his buddy and predecessor, Theo Esptein. Yet he loved the Red Sox growing up in New Hampshire every bit as much, memorizing baseball cards, devouring Peter Gammons’ work in The Boston Globe. His grandfather was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Ben would go to Amherst, pitching there until he blew out his arm. He was barely more than a kid when Dan Duquette hired him as an intern in 1997. He would put a lot of time in the scouting department, working up through farm director, nurturing guys like Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury. Larry Lucchino forced Bobby Valentine on Cherington for the 2012 managerial job. It was a colossal mistake. Nothing was funnier this month than when Valentine told the Globe, “I’d like to think that if I came back for my second year that, given the changes and improvements, I would have been able to do the same thing.”
Given his chance, Cherington, knowing that a strong, calm hand was the way to go, made his best move first by hiring Farrell as manager last October. When it came to reshaping the club, filling in a full third of a new roster, Cherington was interested in character, yes, but more than that he wanted to know if they wanted to play in Boston’s demanding environment. For this, little papi gets an A-plus in family chemistry.
He signed Victorino to a three-year, $39 million deal that had critics saying he badly overpaid for a fading player. Well, the Flyin’ Hawaiian looked to be worth every penny in hitting the grand slam that won the ALCS and the three-run double that clinched the Series.
“I’m a fan of the game,” said Victorino, who was awarded a Gold Glove for his work in right field. “Even though they were in last place last year, I knew this was a first-class organization. They’re about winning. They want to be on top.”