The Boston Red Sox are back in the playoffs. After two straight last-place finishes, the Sox won the AL East and will face off against Cleveland. And former Boston manager, Terry Francona. Dave Dombrowski will likely receive much of the credita��and in a weird way for a veteran, some beginner’s luck. But he wasn’t the sole architect of this team.
Theo Epstein, of course, was responsible for David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, and others. But his time with the Sox ended in 2011. Even prospects still on the farm at that time were having their development overseen by someone else: Ben Cherington.
Cherington, who was unceremoniously replaced by Dombrowski late in the 2015 season was GM for all of the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons. Despite calls to trade prospects for a startera��like Cole Hamelsa��Cherington held on to Xander Bogaerts. Cherington also held on to Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr.
The trio has reshaped the offense, the defense, and the overall climate and perception of the team. Mookie Betts has multi-sport ability while focusing on bowling in the offseason in addition to a 31-homer, 26-steal 2016. Bogaerts was in the hunt for the batting title for the first half of the season. And, showed off the power everyone had been waiting for since he arrived in the majors. Bradley shed the label of a defensive star who couldn’t hit by posting an .838 OPS with 26 home runs of his own.
Jackie Bradley Jr ..26th HR during Red Sox win at Baltimore.
“Not bad for a defensive specialist.”
a�� Tom Cuddy (@TomCuddySports) September 21, 2016
Cherington traded pending free agent Yoenis CA�spedes (who has been tremendous for the Mets) for a young starter in Rick Porcello. After taking a step back in 2015, in the shadow of a looming contract extension, Porcello roared back to life in 2016 by putting himself firmly in the race for the AL Cy Young. Ultimately, Corey Kluber or even Zach Britton may take home the hardware, but his turnaround has been one of the best stories in baseball. Right now it’s Porcello, not David Price, exciting people.
Did all of Cherington’s free agent signings go well? No. Rusney Castillo and Pablo Sandoval have contributed little since their arrival in Boston. But Koji Uehara has remained one of the steadiest relievers to come out of any bullpen. Dombrowski brought in Craig Kimbrel, but 2016 has been uncharacteristically wild for the former Brave. Koji, given a little rest, still has that stuff baseball fans remember from the miracle 2013 World Series run.
And then there’s Hanley Ramirez. After an incredible April 2015, Ramirez, who voluntarily shifted to left field, ran into a wall and was never the same. Given an offseason to heal and learn a new positiona��first basea��Hanley showed he is capable of being a big, middle of the order bat. With home runs and hits rivaling the drama of his mentor David Ortiz, Ramirez returned to greatness in 2016. Just like John Lackey, who fans didn’t want to see pitch a single inning in 2013, Hanley proved his doubters wrong with a fresh start in the infield and a 30-homer campaign.
Steven Wright and Sandy Leon were both acquired during the Cherington years. So was Heath Hembree. And Brock Holt. And Andrew Benintendi. Oh, plus Yoan Moncada, who didn’t do much in the majors this year but showed brilliant ability across the minor leagues. Without a top pick in the 2017 draft, those last two Cherington acquisitions could be his gift that keeps on giving for years to come.
Did Dave Dombrowski construct the roster and assemble the 2016 Red Sox on the field? Absolutely. Is this team standing on the shoulders of the surprisingly bad 2014 and 2015 clubs? It sure is. And the man who believed in those teams shouldn’t be forgotten just because he wasn’t employed by the team to see his plans come together.