Well, Ben Cherington has been flexing Popeye-like muscles so far this off-season. John Henry and Larry Lucchino have clearly allowed the Red Sox GM to reshape Theo Epstein‘s moribund ballclub. Like Popeye, I can hear Cherington averring, ”That’s all I can stand, I can’t stands no more.”
So far this off-season Cherington has newly signed David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and now, Shane Victorino. When you look at this mix of supporting actors one thing becomes apparent, Cherington is a “C” kind of GM. No, I’m not grading him, I’m only pointing out that unlike Theo, Cherington is focussed on getting players who bring to the ballclub ”C” elements: character, clubhouse, change, consistency, and chemistry.
Not only does the signing of David Ross put the Sox in a position to trade the limited Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but you have to love a guy who says upon his signing, “It’s nice to see somebody put added stock in your personality and the way you treat people,” Ross said. “Not many years ago, that wasn’t a priority.”
Not only does the signing of Jonny Gomes give the Sox who a guy who will bang the Monster, but you have to love a guy who says upon his signing, “I am someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve,” said Gomes, an outfielder and designated hitter. “I am someone who is just as happy when a teammate hits a home run as when I hit one. I am someone who has the back of his teammates. I will defend them. You have to be a bit of a chameleon, able to handle different personalities from different cultures, especially now that baseball is global.” And if that’s not enough for you, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that before Gomes ended his A’s career he came up with the idea to donate one of the A’s full playoff shares to charity a few weeks ago and the team unanimously voted one full share, worth $34,325.16, to charity.
Not only does the signing of Mike Napoli give the Sox a first baseman who can hit 40 homers, but you have to love a guy who his former manager say upon his signing, “Tremendous. Tremendous character,” said Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington. “He’s a winner. It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out here, but we do wish him well in Boston.”
Not only does the signing of Shane Victorino, give the Sox a Gold Glove outfielder, but you have to love a guy whose former manager Don Mattingly said, “He’s a pain, man. I’m telling you. He’s one of those guys who has high-energy, plays hard every day, he’s a good defender,” Mattingly said from the winter meetings. “I think he struggled with us because I think he tried too hard. I really think when he came over he really was trying to show what he could do. He didn’t need to do that. I like him a lot.”
On the other hand…
Do these moves enable this team to move out of last place in the AL East?
At a gathering of the Beacon Street Tavern Baseball Gang there certainly was no strong feeling the moves were sufficient to boost the team unless the Yankees drop precipitously and the Baltimore bubble bursts. It was noted that these moves won’t do a whole lot to help the Red Sox ratings on their NESN cable channel or won’t prevent the end of the Fenway faux sellout streak.
One upright citizen of the Red Sox Nation brigade imagined Cherington announcing, “We are looking for good players, good average players.” said Cherington. “We do not want players who can hit for average or power, rather we are looking for consistent .250 – .265 hitters who can drive in 50 or so runs a year.” He then added, “In a related story, the Vice President of Sales at NESN was discovered in the office bathroom clutching a bottle of prescription meds and mumbling something about his mortgage.”
Listening to fans call in on MLB Radio this morning, there is no indication that these moves have been met with much enthusiasm and my wife, the Red Sox fan, astutely inquired, “When are we going to get someone who can pitch?”
I think these moves are important in changing Theo’s clubhouse culture of indifference (hello, J.D. Drew?) and brings in ballplayers who want play everyday and enjoy the game (goodbye to Jacoby Ellsbury, who I refer to as “Sulky” since he always seem to be sulking?). These guys will ultimately be accepted and appreciated by the Nation who will enjoy their effort and their joy of playing.The question still to be answered will Cherington’s “C” be confined to a cultural change or serve as a grade for these two and three-year deals?