The Boston Red Sox will open the regular season in under two weeks, but it seems that the organization is not all on the same page regarding its goals and direction. It all goes back to last year, when there was a clear schism between new GM Ben Cherington and team president Larry Lucchino about who should be the manager. Lucchino won the day and the club hired Bobby Valentine. Now you don’t hire Bobby V. unless you are going to make a serious playoff run. They gave him only a two-year contract, so you know the pressure is on him to win now by fixing the clubhouse and getting the most from his talented players.
But Ben Cherington spent the winter putting into place modest pieces, and not even bothering to seriously address the team’s three biggest issues: the 4th and 5th starting pitchers and right field. Then he trades his starting shortstop in a salary dump in which he gets virtually nothing back. Does all that sound like a GM who expects to win this year? Not to me. It sounds like a GM who wants to start getting his ducks in a row for the future — and I have no argument with that. It’s just that I don’t think anyone bothered to tell Bobby V.
Now there is controversy about whether or not the Sox should start the season with young Jose Iglesias as their shortstop. Iglesias is by all accounts a whiz with the glove. It’s his bat that’s questioned. Cherington seems to want to let Jose season some more in the minors, while Valentine is pushing to have him take the field as one of the starting nine. If your goal is to win this year, then Iglesias has to be your shortstop. The Red Sox biggest issue last year was that the starting pitching didn’t go deep enough into games, which taxed the bullpen and left them flailing around when it mattered most in September. Iglesias at short helps the pitchers. And it isn’t like he is competing with Cal Ripken for the job. Mike Aviles couldn’t break into the Royals starting lineup. If you’re telling me the Red Sox offense is going to need his bat, I’m going to have trouble not laughing in your face.
Ask anyone in the Red Sox organization what the goal for any year is and you’ll be told it is to win the World Series. They’ll never admit to rebuilding or retooling, because they don’t want to lose their lovely string of sell outs. But in fact all the evidence points to the idea that Cherington doesn’t believe this team can win this year, so he’s looking to the future. I’m just not so sure anyone else int he organization knows this. Certainly Bobby Valentine doesn’t seem to be on the same page as Ben, and that means something is going to have to give. As Larry Lucchino has already hung his young GM out to dry, I suspect Ben Cherington is in for a long first year on the job — if he makes it that far.