Sometime last fall, I wrote a piece on Sox GM Ben Cherington. In it, I mentioned that one of Cherington's flaws was that he had failed to establish an identity. Now a year later, he definitely has created one, and it is postitive beyond the expectations of nearly all Boston fans.
After the huge August 2012 trade wtih the Dodgers, no one knew what to expect. The deal freed the Sox from the salaries of underachievers Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and, to some extent, Adrian Gonzales. But money doesn't always buy good teams, and some wondered if the millions would be used wisely.
The identity that Ben has established is, at least for the present, that of a quiet miracle man. With one of the best records in baseball and and an almost certain playoff position, the turnaround seems little short of miraculous. A 69-93 squad riddled by dissension and underachievement has become a division leader. In spring training, there was agreement that Cherington had brought in a strong manager in John Farrell and some postive personalities, but would victories follow? In picking the Sox fourth (and Toronto first) in the AL East, Nick Cafardo gave them a positive "chemistry rating" but asked the question "good guys, but can they play?"
The Sox soon found they could, and very well. Every major free agent signing- Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, Stephen Drew, Koji Uehara and Ryan Dempster have all contributed in a positive way. Veterans Jon Lester, John Lackey and David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have performed at or above expectations. There have been injuries, but the replacements have in some cases improved the team. Season-ending arm problems of closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey led to the emergence of Uehara as perhaps the top closer in the majors. Clay Buchholz, after a 9-0 start, missed three months with shoulder problems, but the rotation remained tough. When another starter was needed, Cherington could trade a fine prospect like Julio Iglesias to get Jake Peavy, knowing that Drew and Xander Bogearts could do the job at short. On the managerial side, Farrell has performed admirably at juggling replacements. His pinch hitters have set a team record with 7
No matter what happens from here on, Cherington's identity is established. He lacks the brashness of a Theo Epstein or the contentiousness of a Dan Duquette, but he has gone one better. In just two years, he has made the Sox again a team worth rooting for.