This is the first taste of criticism Ben Cherington has received as general manager of the Boston Red Sox. With a 2012 season largely blamed on manager Bobby Valentine and a 2013 season in which everything the GM touched turned to gold, Cherington has had an easy ride through the first two years as the successor of Theo Epstein in the Boston front office.
But if the 2014 season has been an indication of anything, it’s that the honeymoon is over.
The Red Sox are in last place in the AL East through 95 games with a 43-52 record. Much of the blame for that horrendous start has gone to Cherington, some warranted, some not.
It all begins with the outfield, which is the lead culprit for the Red Sox’s struggles on offense. A tandem that had little depth and even less production in the first half. Much of this has had to do with the lack of production out of the Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava platoon in left field that worked so well in 2013. Having worked so well last season, it would’ve made little sense to go away from that dynamic duo of outfielders and bottom-half of the order pieces.
That said, a solid portion of the outfield mess was Cherington-engineered.
Cherington’s inability to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in the offseason with a player like Rajai Davis or Emilio Bonifacio have been detrimental to Boston’s fortunes. To not have a backup plan in case Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled or Shane Victorino got injured — both occurrences that were well within the realm of possibility going into the season, and both occurrences that wound up happening — is inexcusable. If you could find a worse solution to the puzzle than Grady Sizemore, it probably required an extensive search.
Had it not been for Brock Holt, it would’ve been an all-out disaster.
While Cherington receives a hefty piece of the blame pie for the outfield, there has been a good deal of issues out of the GM’s control. For example, the fact one-third of the opening day lineup was comprised of Bradley, Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks — which many consider to be a spot where Cherington erred. Something easy to say now that all three have had a good deal of struggles in 2014.
But the fact of the matter was Cherington was backed into a corner. Bradley and Bogaerts were major league-ready, with nothing left to prove in the minors. Middlebrooks needed to be given a chance after the way he finished out the 2013 regular season. Had all three raked, then Cherington’s a genius.
Then there’s another one-third of the lineup — a much more vital one at that — in Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli that has failed to provide the spark the lineup has needed.
Pedroia has brought very little offensive production to the table out of the three-hole, four home runs and 36 RBI in the first half. For Ortiz, the numbers are there (20 home runs, 64 RBI), but it hasn’t come consistently, as the 38-year-old slugger is hitting .255 with an .844 OPS. Napoli had much of his first half derailed by a finger injury.
Back on the topic of ‘easy things to say,’ it’s easy to look at the Stephen Drew‘s offensive numbers and call the signing a disaster. But what we like to ignore is that Drew was brought in for defensive purposes, not to carry this team offensively. That’s not to say a .151 batting average is acceptable, but is this team better with Bogaerts at shortstop? No way.
Pitching-wise, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront have not only failed to replicate their 2013 production, they’ve been darn-right putrid. Buchholz has been better of late, but Doubront is pitching his way out of a roster spot. That’s not them, not Cherington.
Yes, Cherington’s offseason signings have done everything but work out, evidenced by three signees already out the door by the All-Star break in Sizemore, Chris Capuano and A.J. Pierzynski. Edward Mujica might not be too far behind those three to boot.
At the same time — while it sounds cliche — it’s up to the players to perform on the field. There’s plenty of blame that the guys taking the field every night are due. This isn’t a great roster, but it’s not one that should be in the basement of the American League at the same time.
Cherington isn’t blameless. But it’s not all on him, either.