By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The repercussions from the rashness of then team president Larry Lucchino and former general manager Ben Cherington following the implosion that was the 2014 season lessened a bit this week, with the sizeable – pun intended – bust Pablo Sandoval sidelined with season ending shoulder surgery.
Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, maybe not exactly.
The story of the signing of Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez following the yard sale that took place at the trading deadline that summer and saw what was a World Series Champion just a year before disintegrate quicker than anyone could have imagined, is not likely to go away anytime soon.
While Sandoval will likely be stashed away in Florida being slipped saltines for sustenance under the door of his guarded hotel room until his body no longer has a gravitational pull, Ramirez will remain in Boston and will inevitably have a Hanley being Hanley moment at some point this summer.
It is true that Ramirez has impressed almost everyone with the adeptness which he has made the transition to first base, but when you really think about it, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He spent the bulk of his big-league career playing an adequate short stop, so his glove and hands couldn’t be that bad. Perhaps the way he played left field like a blindfolded Mike Greenwell last year weighed more heavily on Red Sox fans’ opinion of his defensive – or lack thereof – skills, therefore leading to an over-valuing of his actual performance so far this short season.
Ramirez has won his way into the good graces of many of the Boston baseball fans because he actually looks like he is trying for once, which is pretty pathetic when you think about it. While he seems to have settled into his new position defensively, his lack of production will draw everyone’s ire should the offense begin to struggle, and his OPS remain at a ridiculously low .717.
Which brings us back to the damaging duo that was Lucchino and Cherington. For all the good that Larry did in reviving a franchise and a ballpark in his role as team president for the first several years he was here, his overbearing management style forced out perhaps the most successful player personnel producer in the last 50 years, Theo Epstein.
For as much as it was said that Epstein won with Dan Duquette’s team in ’04, he built the team – minus Manny Ramirez – that won in ’07, and provided the core that won in ’13. When Lucchino succeeded in strong-arming him out of the organization following the collapse of ’11, Epstein went to the only club that had more of a lovable loser mentality than the Sox did prior to his taking charge, the Chicago Cubs, and now has them playing as the best team in baseball with a core of players whom he developed.
Do you ever wonder if Red Sox principal owner John Henry wakes up with cold sweats at night knowing he picked the wrong guy when he chose Larry over Theo?
It was the “feed the monster” mentality that went into the signings of both Sandoval and Ramirez, but not so much because the beast they had built was having success; it was because the monster was beginning to starve to death. With moves such as hiring Bobby Valentine to manage the team in ’12, and low-balling Jon Lester prior to the ’14 season, Lucchino proved he should stick to the business side of baseball, instead of running the organization with one hand up the back of his hand puppet general manager.
And with his inability to formulate a plan and choose a direction in which he wanted to take the franchise – and most likely lacking the power to execute such a plan even if he had been capable of developing it – Cherington proved he was better off being a front office do-boy, instead of the guy responsible of getting things done.
The irony of all this, of course, is that in the end, Lucchino became what he claimed to despise; the New York Yankees. His ‘throw it against the wall and hope it sticks’ spending practices led to the Sox being in possession of two of the worst contracts – it may be three if Rick Porcello goes back to being Rick Porcello – in all of major league baseball.
With each day that passes, the farce that was the final years of the Lucchino/Cherington administration gets further away. The team is playing well, and if they keep winning, their colossal mistakes will remain on the back burner. However, should the Sox stumble and Ramirez relapses into Hanley the Hound, the talk of the worst signings in Red Sox history will be louder than ever.
Last year, Larry and Ben learned that if you listen to the pink hats, you will soon be sitting with them. Too bad it cost the Sox close to $200 million, and another lost season, for them to learn their lesson.