BOSTON — Worst to first to worst. The Red Sox have been all over the map the last three years.
A World Series triumph, like the one Boston enjoyed in 2013, can go a long way toward easing the pain of two last-place finishes in a three-year span. But a frenetic organization isn’t what the Red Sox aspire to be.
“It’s hard, and it’s been hard on us — the extreme outcomes,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Monday at Fenway Park. “Obviously, you like the upside. But the downside is hard to deal with and painful for everyone. It’s not at all what we want to be, it’s not all that I’ve said we want to be in the past.
“We want to build something that’s got a chance to sustain and be good every year. You can’t plan on a World Series every year, but we ought to be playing on winning teams and contending teams and teams that are playing meaningful games in September and getting into October more often than not.”
Long-term, sustainable success is difficult to achieve in any industry, let alone professional sports. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to pull off in Major League Baseball, where parity is increasing and small market teams are every bit as capable of reaching the postseason as franchises with copious funds.
It isn’t an unattainable goal, however. And the Red Sox, in theory, have a leg up on the competition in their quest to build a well-oiled machine because they do have an abundance of resources at their disposal. It’s why this past season was so frustrating for Boston, and it’s why a return to prominence could be closer than the Red Sox’s 71-91 record suggests.
“I think we’re well-positioned. I think we have a challenging offseason ahead of us that’s sort of, in a way, simple to see, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute,” Cherington said. “But if you look at all of the things that an organization needs to be successful year in and year out, I think a lot of those are in place.
“You need stable ownership, you need support from ownership, you need resources — financial and otherwise — you need good people, and we have good people in the front office, we have good people on the field. We need talent in the major league clubhouse and the farm system — I think we have both.”
The Red Sox’s success — or lack thereof — in 2015 will hinge on the organization’s ability to build on what already has been established. With a surplus of tradable assets and financial flexibility, the Red Sox have the ability to be aggressive this winter — either through trades or free agency — though the ultimate goal is to put Boston into a position to contend annually. Rather than being forced to decide at some point whether the hangover was worth the partying, the Red Sox are looking to keep the party going once it starts back up.
“We’re always going to need talent, we’re going to need good players, we’re going to need to construct the roster well,” Cherington said. “And then we also need to look for every other possible area of competitive advantage. If we do well enough in all those areas, it will lead to what we want.
“We haven’t gotten there yet.”