The Boston Red Sox turned to another New England native as their general manager, promoting Ben Cherington to replace Theo Epstein.
Cherington, 37, grew up as a Red Sox fan in Meriden, New Hampshire, and has worked with the organization since 1999, including the past two seasons as assistant general manager. Epstein left Boston last week to become the Chicago Cubs’ president of baseball operations.
Cherington takes control of a franchise that captured two World Series titles during Epstein’s nine-year tenure, yet missed Major League Baseball’s postseason the past two years and this offseason parted ways with manager Terry Francona while facing questions about team culture and chemistry.
“We have work to do this offseason to restore the culture that we expect in the clubhouse, to restore a level of accountability,” Cherington said at a news conference.
Cherington’s initial responsibilities will entail finding a replacement for Francona and likely addressing reasons for the team’s record-setting collapse this season. The Red Sox lost 20 of their final 27 games and missed the playoffs after holding a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay on Sept. 4 in the race for the American League’s wild-card berth.
Following the season, Jon Lester confirmed a report in the Boston Globe that he and fellow pitchers Josh Beckett and John Lackey drank beer in the clubhouse during games they weren’t scheduled to pitch. Boston’s starting staff had a 4-13 record and a 7.08 earned run average in September.
“I know from talking to players and even from some statements they’ve made publicly, there’s a great motivation to clean up whatever does need to be cleaned up in the clubhouse and move forward to 2012,” Cherington said.
Red Sox Future
Cherington will have to determine the futures of designated hitter David Ortiz and relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon in Boston, as both became free agents after the season. Ortiz and Papelbon were both members of the Red Sox’s World Series championship teams in 2007, and Ortiz also was on the 2004 squad.
“There is no one in baseball more qualified to be the next general manager of the Red Sox,” Epstein wrote in an op-ed piece today in the Boston Globe. “Ben is infinitely more prepared than I was when I took over nine years ago.”
Cherington played baseball at Amherst College in Massachusetts and started with the Red Sox organization as a scout in 1999 under then-general manager Dan Duquette. Cherington became assistant director of player development in 2002 and briefly was named co-general manager in December 2005, when Epstein temporarily left his post. Cherington assumed the title of vice president of player personnel after returning and in 2009 was promoted to assistant GM.
Cherington joins Epstein, Duquette, Lou Gorman and Dick O’Connell as Boston general managers who grew up in New England.
“Ben Cherington is one of the youngest ‘veterans’ in the game of baseball,” Red Sox President Larry Lucchino said in a statement. “He has already worked his way through every aspect of baseball operations, and over the years has gained a well- rounded set of experiences that will help him guide this franchise to its next world championship.”
Another of Cherington’s responsibilities may require determining the compensation the Cubs will give the Red Sox in exchange for letting Epstein leave with a year left on his contract. While the Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1918 when Epstein took over, the Cubs’ last title was in 1908, the longest drought for any major-league team.
“He’s a great friend and we wish him well,” Cherington said. “But Theo will tell you, and I think he probably already has, that there comes time for a change. It’s my job to preserve what we’re good at and also serve as a catalyst for the change we need. Because what’s going to work going forward isn’t necessarily what’s worked in the past.”
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