Red Sox’ Commitment to ‘Discipline’ Won’t Keep Ben Cherington From Being Aggressive in Offseason

Red Sox' Commitment to 'Discipline' Won't Keep Ben Cherington From Being Aggressive in OffseasonIt's been
exactly one year since the Red Sox' September freefall.

Managers,
general managers, pitching coaches and players have changed over that span, but
the subpar results remain the same for the Red Sox. Since the Sox are out of the
playoff race, they'll spend this September assessing the young talent they have.

Rosters
expand Saturday, meaning a few more new faces may join the
club.  In the meantime, let's take a look at this week's mailbag.

I
have been puzzled as to why the Sox continue to hang on to [John] Lackey. He
seems to be a useless fixture and a high salary. If the owners are seeking to
save money, why do they not release him? He has never lived up to his
potential, as far as I can see.
–Terry
Dunham, North Fort Myers, Fla.

It doesn't work
like that. You can't just release John Lackey, because the Red Sox would owe him
that money regardless. So rather than dump him, the team is hoping he can turn
it around after Tommy John surgery.

Typically, after
that procedure, pitchers come back throwing harder. According to a team source,
Lackey is throwing the ball with so much velocity in side sessions that one
pitch actually ripped the bullpen catcher's glove once. That's saying
something.

Also, remember
Lackey played through the pain last season. Now, with a clean bill of health in
2013, he'll have a genuine opportunity to show if he can rebound from his past
troubles or plummet further.

Does this [blockbuster trade] mean the Sox have
become a small-market team and are not interested in winning? If so, how do they
think Fenway will keep filling up, with no big-name players?
–Ted
Williams, Round Rock

Not a chance, Ted.
First off, big-name players won't fill the seats at Fenway — winning will. And
when the Red Sox had stars in Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett
this season, they weren't winning anyway.

Look at the 2007
team that won the World Series. While the Red Sox had an element of star power — David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez — youngsters Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury,
Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon buoyed them.

Just because the
Red Sox blew it up doesn't mean they won't be aggressive in free agency. Red
Sox general manager Ben Cherington simply said the front office would embrace a
more disciplined approach to avoid overspending.

Why? They are bad but not that bad. Dismantle the
whole team? Jeez … this is a little extreme. Maybe a guy like [Terry] Francona would be
perfect for this team. To give it all up is insane. People are injured, and it's
not a food year. Does this mean abandon the whole team? Listen, we should have gone
the extra mile and picked up some talent. The Yankees do it every year. We
actually needed the support this year with all the problems.

– Eric,
Hampden

Change — and
financial flexibility — was needed. Before last week's blockbuster trade, the
team's mix of players just wasn't working and was at odds
with Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

Sure, injuries are
to blame. But the clubhouse culture — one that was still accustomed to Terry
Francona's regime — required a makeover, and this trade was a significant step
toward achieving that.

In addition to
cleaning house, the contracts that belonged to Crawford, Gonzalez and Beckett
were hampering the Red Sox in free agency. Last offseason, the team couldn't
even make aggressive bids to Edwin Jackson because it was financially
strapped.

Now, with more cash
available, Cherington can stop paying the price for Theo Epstein's errors and
surround the Red Sox' foundation with the players of his choosing.

This whole blockbuster deal would not only be a
huge disappointment to many members of the Red Sox Nation, but it seems like
Cherington is undermining the choices of Theo & Co. People talk about
Beckett underperforming and now trade him? Or Crawford, who tried to play
through injury? Or Gonzalez the hooray hitter since the break? All three would
be bad moves. Why was there never an attempt to dump Dice-K, who always
underperformed? Or Lackey, who has been lackluster, to say the least? — Charles Lavallee,
Putnam

Red Sox fans can't
have their cake and eat it, too. Months ago, I was receiving a barrage of
Twitter questions from readers demanding the team rid itself of Beckett and
Crawford, who were underperforming.

Ever since the Sox
shipped them away, there have been questions demanding why they were traded.
Crawford and Gonzalez never fully adapted to the atmosphere and expectations in
Boston, while Beckett simply wore out his welcome.

The Red Sox placed
Daisuke Matsuzaka on waivers, but it appears nothing gained traction. Trading
him in August would be pointless — unless they received a good return –
because Matsuzaka will be a free agent after the season. His contract will be
off the books soon.

In all honesty,
Cherington isn't undermining anyone, because even Epstein admitted the contracts
for Crawford and Lackey were mistakes. So, if anything, Cherington was cleaning
up the mess and starting over.

This is
Cherington's team now. He doesn't have to answer to Epstein.

Have a question for
Didier Morais? Send it to him via Twitter at @DidierMorais
or send it here. He will pick a few
questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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