Ben Cherington Lands Dream Job as Red Sox General Manager, Ready to Find New Skipper, Add Pitching Depth

Ben Cherington Lands Dream Job as Red Sox General Manager, Ready to Find New Skipper, Add Pitching Depth4 p.m.: To get every little detail of the introductory news conference, scroll through this story for a blow-by-blow of Larry Lucchino’s and Ben Cherington’s comments.

For simplicity’s sake, here’s a quick look at the major takeaways from the meeting with the media.

  • John Lackey will undergo Tommy John surgery. That means you shouldn’t expect to see him pitch at all in 2012.
  • The Red Sox have had some early discussions with free agents Jonathan Papelbon and David Ortiz. Cherington said the team would like to have them back, but there are obviously circumstances that make that more complicated.
  • The priority this winter will be adding pitching depth and finding a high-value arm, much like they did with Alfredo Aceves last year.
  • It looks as though Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick will compete for the right field job.
  • John Henry and Tom Werner were unable to attend. Lucchino stressed that not much should be read into their absences.
  • Cherington was asked what he and Epstein had in common and what made them difference, and he joked that he can’t play guitar and he doesn’t own a gorilla suit.
  • The Red Sox plan to move “swiftly,” “diligently” and methodically in their search for a new manager.
  • Cherington was a big proponent of the Red Sox’ signing Adrian Beltre for 2010 and Carl Crawford for 2011.
  • Lucchino introduced Cherington as the man who will the Red Sox to their next World Series championship.
  • Cherington insisted that the farm system is as strong and deep as ever, with most of the talent at the Double-A level.
  • Cherington’s best comment was this: “We’ve let our fans down in some important ways recently. The last few weeks have been painful. But what I’m left with is incredible conviction that the Red Sox will be the best organization in baseball moving forward. I’m convinced of that.”

3:49 p.m.: That’s it, the news conference is over, as Cherington and Lucchino are met with applause again. That likely came from coworkers, as the media isn’t known for its collective clapping, generally.

3:47 p.m.: And now back to Crawford.

“I’m betting on Carl Crawford going forward,” Cherington said.

3:46 p.m.: Back to Lackey for a bit.

“Let me start by saying that John Lackey pitched through circumstances this year that I don’t think any of us in this room can fully understand, and he got beat up for it along the way,” Cherington said. “This guy was dealing with some stuff both on the field and off the field.”

Cherington said that Lackey saw Dr. Lewis Yocum and the decision was made for Tommy John surgery.

3:45 p.m.: Cherington says he still expects big things from Carl Crawford, citing his accountability and work ethic.

“I was one of the strongest proponents of signing Carl … because I believe in him. I believe in him the same now as I did then,” Cherington said.

3:42 p.m.: The biggest news of this meeting is that John Lackey has decided to undergo Tommy John surgery. Don’t expect to see Lackey pitch at all in 2012, as the recover period is often anywhere from nine months to a year, and sometimes longer.

3:39 p.m.: Cherington said that Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish will have a chance to compete for the right field spot, and that the team has a decision to make on Marco Scutaro’s contract option. Besides that and David Ortiz’s uncertain status, he feels confident in the offense. He says the key this offseason will be pitching.

“We’ve got the core of a really, really good team,” he said. “We have a very strong top of the rotation: Lester, Beckett and a healthy Buchholz. We’re confident that we’ll have a healthy Buchholz.
We need to build some pitching depth. We have talent in the bullpen. Obviously, not knowing the outcome of Papelbon’s decision, we potentially have an opening at closer. We have a couple of players in house who we feel are capable of filling that role if needed. But we need to add some pitching depth. Most likely, we’ll do that through some good, creative, perhaps buy-low acquisitions.

“I think we need to hit on some pitchers this offseason, much the way we did with Alfredo Aceves last season.”

3:36 p.m.: Cherington said he’s talked with Epstein for a couple of years about a possible succession plan.

“I never assumed this job was going to be mine, but I hoped it would,” he said.

3:36 p.m: Cherington: “I feel like I’ve been preparing for this job since my first job in baseball.”

3:32 p.m.: Cherington stopped short of using the term “dream job,” but he’s clearly very happy.

“I’m really excited about this job,” he said. “I’ve thought a lot about this job in recent years as I hoped I was getting closer to this opportunity and thought about all the challenges that come with it.”

3:31 p.m.: On Jonathan Papelbon and David Ortiz, Cherington said the team obviously knows those free agents “really, really well.”

“We’d like to have both of them back. We’ll have to see if there’s a contract that makes sense for them and for us,” he said. “We’ve had some initial dialogue with both.”

3:29 p.m.: Lucchino said that Tom Werner’s and John Henry’s schedule didn’t allow them to be present for Cherington’s introductory news conference.

“I wouldn’t read anything into that,” Lucchino said, regarding their absences.

3:27 p.m.: Cherington said the Red Sox will need to have the best analytics department and the best baseball evaluators and haven them work together.

“That’s easier said than done,” Cherington said.

3:26 p.m.: Another joke from Cherington: “The only mistake we had with this press conference is not having a seat for Carmine.”

3:25 p.m.: Lucchino was asked for specific moments that let him know Cherington was the right man for the job, and he pointed out that Cherington “asserted” that Beltre would be a good fit for the team in 2010.

3:22 p.m.: Cherington was asked if the team will consider banning alcohol in the clubhouse. He said no decisions will be made without a manager.

“Any changes that we feel are necessary in the clubhouse, we’ll make as a group,” he said. “Again, I think it’s important to remember that first of all we have a ton of talent on this team. We have a bunch of players that are really motivated by what happened at the end of the season. And if there are things that happened in the clubhouse this season that we feel needs to be addressed, we’ll talk about that with the players.”

3:20 p.m.: Cherington was asked about the benefit of being very familiar with many of the Red Sox’ core players.

“It does help to sort of break through the small talk and get to a real, honest conversation,” he said.

3:19 p.m.: Cherington said that the farm system is “stronger and deeper than ever,” mostly at the Double-A level.

3:18 p.m.: As to real differences between Epstein and Cherington, he said the following.

“I’m a different person. My management style is different,” he said. “And I’m new at this job. Theo was eight or nine years into it … so that’s a difference. I’m gonna treat the job a little bit differently because I’m at a different point in my tenure.

“Our backgrounds are a little different … my path was more of a scouting and player development path. His path was more of a front office, baseball ops path. I think that we’re both able to wear different hats, and I know Theo was able to do that really well.”

3:16 p.m.: Cherington was asked what he has in common with Epstein, and he joked that he can’t play guitar and he doesn’t own a gorilla suit.

3:15 p.m.: The Red Sox’ free-agent misses are no mystery, and Cherington didn’t shy away from them.

“Not good enough, certainly,” he said when asked how he’d analyze the team’s decisions. “Let me say first that there are players on this team now that we signed as free agents that we still really believe in and that I was a strong proponent of signing. I think we have to look at that area and look critically at perhaps why we haven’t performed as well in that area.”

3:12 p.m.: Cherington says he wants a manager who respects players but isn’t afraid of having tough conversations. In terms of a timeline, he says they will “move swiftly but diligently, and we’ll be methodical in our search.”

3:11 p.m.: Cherington says the clubhouse needs some change.

“I think that we have work to do this offseason to restore the culture that we expect in the clubhouse, to restore a level of accountability,” he said. “I don’t believe there’s a silver bullet for that.”

3:10 p.m.: Cherington said the players in the clubhouse are committed to putting 2011 behind them.

Cherington’s final statement is met with applause, which you don’t always necessarily see at a news conference.

3:07 p.m.: Cherington said the September collapse and the difficult month that followed has, interestingly, helped restore his faith in the team.

“We’ve let our fans down in some important ways recently,” he said. “The last few weeks have been painful. But what I’m left with is incredible conviction that the Red Sox will be the best organization in baseball moving forward. I’m convinced of that.”

3:06 p.m.: Cherington wished Theo great fortune with the Cubs, other than the two teams’ meeting in June.

“What [Epstein] left with me were certain values that we’ll carry forward as a staff,” Cherington said.

3:05 p.m.: Cherington is running through his long life in baseball. It’s quite the resume for someone under 40.

3:03 p.m.: Cherington said Cleveland was using some Moneyball tactics back in ’98.

“I got a real chance to work in baseball with the Cleveland Indians in 1998 during the height of their success and as part of one of the most progressive front offices in baseball,” he said. “Looking back on it, they were practicing a form of Moneyball in a slightly different way.”

3:02 p.m.ET: “When I was growing up, it was a very small town, I used to make her drive down and get the Sunday Globe, spend the two dollars on the Sunday Globe, just so I could read the Sunday notes column. “

3:02 p.m.: Ben Cherington said he is “incredibly honored” to be given the opportunity.

3:01 p.m.: No pressure, but Lucchino said Cherington will lead the team to its next World Series championship.

3 p.m.: Lucchino is listing all of the reasons he and the ownership group is happy to appoint Cherington, from his work ethic to his competitiveness.

2:58 p.m.: Larry Lucchino: “I have the proud duty today of announcing a major appointment.”

Lucchino points out that Cherington is a lifetime New Englander.

“His longevity with the Red Sox exceeds that of John, Tom and me.”

2:57 p.m.: Nice and early, Larry Lucchino and Ben Cherington are at the table. Quotes to follow.

2:55 p.m.: We’re about ready to meet Ben Cherington, the Red Sox’ newest general manager.

10:15 a.m. ET: After nearly a full month of chaos surrounding the Boston Red Sox, the club is ready to take its first step toward the 2012 season.

That begins in earnest on Tuesday afternoon, as the team will introduce Ben Cherington as its newest general manager. The team’s news conference will begin at 3 p.m., and it will air live on NESN and NESN.com. If you’re unable to watch, though, we’ll provide updates throughout the entire meeting right here in this live blog. Be sure to check back in when the conference begins.

Technically, this won’t be Cherington’s first introductory news conference as Sox GM, as he and Jed Hoyer were given that role to share back in the tumultuous offseason of 2005-06. Theo Epstein later returned to his job, but this time, he’s definitely not coming back.

If you want to read up on the Cherington prior to the news conference, you can read about the incredible pipeline that Amherst has to the bigs, and you can also watch Heidi Watney’s interview with Cherington from May.

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