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John Henry: Red Sox thought about making Theo Epstein president, Ben Cherington GM 10.21.13 at 2:18 pm ET
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Red Sox owner John Henry appeared on WEEI on Saturday and discussed the Red Sox’€™ transformation from AL East cellar-dwellers in 2012 to American League pennant-winners this season.

Henry revealed that Ben Cherington, who took over the general manager position in 2012 after Theo Epstein left for the Cubs, was being groomed for the position, and that Boston had a plan that would have paired Cherington and Epstein together in the front office.

‘€œWe knew for years that [Cherington] was going to be our next general manager,’€ Henry said. ‘€œAt one point we’d even talked about Theo becoming president, allowing Ben to become general manager.’€

That plan never materialized, as Epstein became president of the Cubs in 2012, and Larry Lucchino remained the team president, while Cherington slid into the position vacated by Epstein.

In his first offseason with complete control, Cherington acquired vital free agent pieces of the 2013 puzzle in Koji Uehara, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew.

‘€œWe made a decision where we were going to concentrate on having more depth,’€ said Henry, before the Red Sox’€™ Game 6 ALCS win that sent Boston to the World Series. ‘€œInstead of spending 20 or 25 million dollars for a player, we’€™re going to go out and get two or three players.’€

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John Henry on M&M: ‘I probably would have preferred to play Cleveland’ 10.03.13 at 1:09 pm ET
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Red Sox owner John Henry joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday, one day before the Red Sox open the American League Division Series against the Rays at Fenway Park, and talked about the challenge his Red Sox face against their AL East rivals.

“I was watching the game last night, and I probably would have preferred to play Cleveland, because Tampa is so tough,” Henry said. “We play them 19 times a year. Every game is tough. We got the better of it this year. But their pitching is extraordinary. And our offense is the best in baseball. So it should make for an exciting three, four or five games.”

A meeting with Cleveland would have meant a reunion with former Sox manager Terry Francona, who had a falling out with Henry and the Sox ownership after his departure following the 2011 season.

“It would have added an extra dimension, no doubt about it,” Henry said. “It would be sort of like playing the Dodgers in the World Series.”

Henry said the in-house projection for this year’s Red Sox team was to post a win total in the high 80s, as it was a year ago when the Sox stumbled to a 69-93 mark.

“It was an incredibly frustrating year,” Henry said of 2012. “You lose 93 games, that’s 93 nights — and more, because you have off nights sometimes following. It’s just, I don’t know how to put it other than pure suffering. You suffer through that. The games were painful.

“This year it was just really fun to watch and be a part of.”

Henry said the key was a return to the team’s core philosophies, including on-base percentage.

“If you just look at simple things like the at-bats the players had, grinding out at-bats,” Henry said. “The difference between last year, when we had consistently poor at-bats, and this year, it’s amazing to see that turnaround in one year.”

Added Henry: “I think the players and John Farrell and his great staff and Ben [Cherington] and his staff are what got us back to where we were. You saw our on-base percentage last year dropped to either 13th or 14th. And we led the majors this year in on-base percentage. So, there’s definitely been a change in that regard.”

Henry also pointed to the Red Sox’ strategy last offseason, when they stayed away from the big-name free agents and instead loaded up on solid but unspectacular players.

“You saw Ben become much more depth-oriented, as opposed to going after, say, Josh Hamilton or someone like that last year,” the owner said.

Added Henry of Hamilton: “To my knowledge, we didn’t pursue him. Any time he was brought up for discussion, we weren’t pursuing him.”

Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino‘s name has come up as a possible candidate for MLB commissioner following the departure of Bud Selig next year.

“People have talked about Tom [Werner], as well, as commissioner. But they both seem pretty happy here,” Henry said. “Last year, I think people on the outside thought we were — you remember we had one phone call over whether or not the team was for sale.

“Even at the worst of it, I think Tom and Larry were committed. We were all three — and everyone in the organization — pretty much committed to getting back on track. And now that we are, I don’t see any of that changing, at least personnel-wise.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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Ben Cherington on D&C: Rays ‘just a good team, period’ at 10:24 am ET
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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the Red Sox’ upcoming ALDS series against the Rays.

The best-of-five series is set to kick off on Friday at 3:07 p.m. at Fenway Park.

Asked if he was pulling for the Indians or Rays in Wednesday night’s wild card playoff, Cherington played it down the middle.

“Well, I don’t know. They’re both good teams,” Cherington said. “Obviously, they finished with very similar records. The Indians were so hot at the end with the way the pitching had come together.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to say, we know the Rays very well, we’ve played well against the Rays this year, we will be well prepared, we know they’re good, we know their pitching’s tough and obviously they’re going to play smart baseball and make good decisions, and we think we will, too. It should be a great series.”

While the Rays may have hit a few rough stretches during the regular season, Cherington believes that Tampa Bay will be a big test for Boston.

“[The Rays] are just a good team, period,” Cherington said. “Every team goes through lulls and highs, and you guys know that. They hit a little bit of a snag there in September a bit but pulled themselves out of it, and that’s not surprising because they’re pitching is good and they’ve been there and done that and they know how to do it and won the game that they needed to in Toronto and then won two obviously crucial games in the last few nights in Texas and then in Cleveland.

“This is not a mysterious opponent. … I just think in this particular series, it will come down to who executes the best during the games.”

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Ben Cherington on D&C: Everyone in Red Sox clubhouse ‘understands that this is about something bigger than themselves’ 09.12.13 at 11:27 am ET
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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning and discussed his team’s clubhouse atmosphere, Mike Carp‘s role on the team, and how the team’s medical staff handled Clay Buchholz‘s injury.

The Red Sox, who hold a 9½-game lead over the Rays in the AL East, have had been boosted all season by a strong clubhouse atmosphere, which Cherington said is due to all of the Boston players focusing on one goal: a chance at a World Series title.

“I think it has a little something to do with the guys, certainly,  something to do with doing well, and obviously a lot of the moves that John [Farrell] has made have worked, that helps. And then something to do with the time of year we’re in,” Cherington said. “I think it’s just, right now, everyone in that clubhouse understands that this is about something bigger than themselves. It’s about team. There are other times where it would be appropriate to sort of think more about personal goals and priorities, but right now, that’s just not the time. And everyone knows that.”

One player who has fit into this team-first mentality has been Carp, who has hit .314 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs despite being limited to a backup role, playing in only 74 games.

“I think anybody that is a good hitter and a good player in the big leagues wants to play. These are competitive guys and they want to be in there. But I think on this team, Mike walked into this team in spring training … and I think he recognized the role that he was going to be in on this particular team and he’s accepted it and to his credit, has done really, really well,” Cherington said. “It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to play more. I’m sure, down the road, that’s something that he wants to do. But right now he’s just been ideal in that role.”

Cherington also talked about closer Koji Uehara and how important he’s been to the team this season, especially with injuries to relievers such as Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan.

“Thankfully, we were able to sign Koji,” Cherington said. “There were some people in the organization that were really really pushing to sign Koji, even though at the time it didn’t seem like maybe it was the biggest need on the team. We just felt like he was such a good fit and had such a sort of unique skill that it made sense.”

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Ben Cherington discusses Cuban defector Jose Abreu 08.15.13 at 10:01 am ET
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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an interview on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show, was asked for a scouting report on first baseman Jose Abreu, one of the most renowned sluggers in the history of Cuban baseball who recently defected to Haiti.

Abreu, 26, is months away from being open for bidding to the highest paying big league team, as he needs to establish residency in a country and then get cleared to play by both Major League Baseball and the U.S. government. But, given that the Sox do not have an everyday first baseman signed beyond this year (Mike Napoli is wrapping up a one-year deal and will be free-agent eligible again; Daniel Nava and Mike Carp are under team control, but neither has been an everyday first baseman for the Sox), the potential fit of a player like Abreu is apparent.

Cherington, however, could offer little information on Abreu, who will be eligible for unfettered free agency — costing the team that acquires him only money rather than a draft pick. Abreu hit .382 with a .535 OBP, .735 slugging mark, 13 homers, 37 walks and 21 strikeouts in 42 games while playing for Cienfuegos in the Cuban Serie Nacional season.

“I can’t give you much of a scouting report,” Cherington said of Abreu. “We just don’t know him well enough yet. And of course until he’s gone through the process of getting cleared and all that, there’s really not much to say. As with any player that comes out of Cuba and has a chance to help us, we’ll certainly do the work that we need to do. In a few months, I may be able to answer that question better. But the numbers in Cuba certainly were impressive.”

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Ben Cherington on D&C: Decision to call up Will Middlebrooks over Xander Bogaerts ‘easier than perhaps the public narrative would make it seem’ at 9:37 am ET
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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Thursday morning to talk about Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and some of the surprise performers for the Red Sox as of late.

There has been a lot of buzz around the possibility that Bogaerts, who has an .853 OPS in 56 games with triple-A Pawtucket, could be called up to the majors within the next few weeks. Cherington was noncommittal over when Bogaerts would finally make it to Boston.

‘€œWe will see,’€ Cherington said. ‘€œI understand why there is so much talk about Xander because he is a really good young player, he is in Triple-A. It almost seems like at times there is more talk about him and less about the guys that are actually on the team and we have won a lot of games with the guys that are actually on the team. We are excited that he has gotten off to doing what he is doing at Triple-A. The rule this time of year is if there are ways to make us a little better and help us win games ‘€” every game is important ‘€” then we will try to find a way we can do that.

‘€œThey have got to have a role. Right now every one of our position players [has] a fairly distinct role and generally everyone is doing pretty well in that role. There has got to be a role but certainly it is a good feeling to have a guy down there. If there was a need in the infield at shortstop or third base ‘€” if something happened to Stephen [Drew] or Will ‘€” I’€™m sure we would have no hesitation going to him.’€

When Middlebrooks was called up to take over third base on Aug. 10, it was speculated that Cherington had to make a tough decision between Middlebrooks and Bogaerts to get the call-up. However, Cherington said that the decision was not as tough as many thought. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cody Ross on M&M: Red Sox ‘lied to my face’ regarding contract negotiations 08.02.13 at 2:07 pm ET
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Diamondbacks outfielder Cody Ross, who was one of the few bright spots on the 2012 Red Sox, joined Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon as he prepared to play his former team in a three-game series at Fenway Park. Ross expressed his disappointment that he was not able to re-sign with the Red Sox, and he talked about the difficulty the 2012 Sox had playing for Bobby Valentine.

Ross left Boston as a free agent, but he said it was his clear preference to stay with the Red Sox. He said he still doesn’t understand why the team did not give him a fair shot.

“We might have made the mistake of going to them first and saying that I like it here, kind of I guess you would say showing your hand,” Ross said. “I guess it’s called showing your hand when you tell a team that you want to come back, you want to play here. I don’t see how that could hurt me, but I guess it did.

“When they didn’t trade me [during last season], I thought we were going to get something done. Ben [Cherington] sort of [dragged it out] and let it go to the offseason when we could have gotten it down easily during the year. The problem was they were hung up on the years. They wanted me for two, and I wanted three. We could never come to terms on that.

“To be honest with you, the day until I signed with Arizona, I thought it could still possibly happen someway, somehow. Maybe it was wishful thinking.”

In the end, the Sox went in another direction — giving other players the contract length they told Ross he could not have.

“Once I got into free agency, I didn’t drive the price up or do anything that would possibly affect me coming back here,” Ross said. “I just wanted fair value and fair years. They weren’t willing to go there — for whatever reason, I have no idea.

“They told me that they didn’t want to sign guys to long-term deals, and then they gave [Shane] Victorino a three-year deal, and then [Mike] Napoli a three-year deal or four-year deal, whatever it was [later shortened to a one-year deal after health issues popped up]. So, basically they lied to my face. At that point, I kind of got a bad taste in my mouth and wanted to move on, and that was it.

“It is what it is. Like I said, it was a great time being here.”

Ross joined the Red Sox as a free agent in January 2012, just as Valentine took over for the popular Terry Francona. Valentine had a tough time in Boston, and it ended with his removal as manager after one season.

“There were a lot of people here that were unhappy,” Ross said. “Maybe it was the fact that a lot of the players were just so used to the way Tito ran things and the way he did it, and then Bobby comes in and tries to change the whole culture and the whole everything. Nobody really wanted to buy into it, and it sort of rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. That’s just kind of how it went. … We could never really get on a roll or never play well. The injuries sort of tampered it a lot, too.”

Added Ross: “Bobby and Mike Aviles had a little deal that happened [a confrontation in spring training], and from then on it was just like one thing after another, player after player. It was tough. It was tough having to answer the questions every time day in and day out just about it. You know how the media is here, obviously. They’re not going to let up on it.”

Ross was one of the few Red Sox who did not make news for a dust-up with Valentine.

Said Ross: “To be honest with you, I might have been the only guy who didn’t have issues with him.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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