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Ben Cherington showed that he was ready to take charge when he traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Allen Webster, Ruby De La Rosa, James Loney, and other prospects. The Dodgers will absorb about $260 million of salary, which will free up some money for the Sox to spend.
The 2012 season was one of the worst seasons in Red Sox history. Sox have missed the playoffs three years in a row and competition is improving. The 2013 season should be a make-or-break year for Ben Cherington.
The Red Sox had a terrible 2012 season. The best player during the worst season was Cody Ross. It was expected that since Ross had a terrific season, that it be a slam dunk for the Red Sox to re-sign him. Surprisingly, the Sox went a different direction, signing Shane Victorino to a 3-year deal worth $39 million. In turn, Ross signed a 3-year deal worth $26 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Both players are 32 years old, but Victorino has shown signs of decline by hitting a career-low .255 last season. The biggest plus about Ross was he hit .298 at Fenway (but hit .232 on the road). Even so, when Ross has played 120 or so more games, he is most likely hit more than 20 home runs. If Victorino continues to decline while Ross puts up similar numbers in Arizona as he did in Boston, it could hurt Cherington’s credibility.
One of the first players the Red Sox signed in the offseason was OF Jonny Gomes for 2 years and $10 million. With options like Nick Swisher, Cody Ross, Melky Cabrera, Torii Hunter and other outfielders on the market at the time, signing Gomes was surprising, considering he holds a career average of .244.
However, Gomes routinely crushes left handed pitching, hitting .299 against southpaws in 2012. With several options being available at the time, it may hit Cherington in the end if all of the other more enticing outfielders outplay Gomes in 2013.
Last year, the Red Sox traded away Josh Reddick and few prospects to the Oakland Athletics for closer Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. At the time, it seemed like a great deal because Bailey, a 2009 AL Rookie of the Year and All Star, was a young dominant closer. Bailey ended up missing half of the 2012 season with an injury while ironically, Reddick was putting up solid powers numbers, hitting .242 with 32 home runs and 85 RBI. Andrew Bailey never got back to dominant form having blown three saves while pitching half a season.
After the season, the Sox traded away Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimental for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt. If Hanrahan, who has one year left on his deal, becomes another disappointing closer like Bailey, while Pimental becomes a decent pitcher for the Pirates, the blame would fall with Cherington.
The Red Sox finished 34-47 at Fenway Park in 2012, the worst home record for the Sox since 1965. Since the September collapse of 2011, the Sox have not been able to regain their form and the hiring of Bobby Valentine caused several unnecessary controversies. Even though the 2012 season was Ben Cherington’s first season as general manager, the last thing Red Sox Nation wants to witness is the Red Sox finishing in last place in the 2013. With the Yankees and Rays being competitive in the past years, the Orioles showing their team can compete, and the Blue Jays having a terrific offseason, the Red Sox reside in the deepest division in baseball.
The Red Sox have to get back in the form of where they can compete in their division or the 2013 season will be another disaster. After the way 2012 ended, it was crucial for Cherington to look at the problems and address them. If the problems are still repeating in the 2013 season, there is no other person to blame other than Cherington himself considering he had the full offseason to make changes.
In defense of Cherington, when the 2012 season started, he had little control of what moves he could possibly make for the Sox. In the eyes of many, Cherington started calling the shots when he pulled off the huge blockbuster trade with the Dodgers and has since been the main man in control. The ball is in Cherington’s court. If the Sox fail to live up to expectations and repeat another disaster season, Cherington’s job will be in jeopardy.