Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thoughts on Cherington Moving In

First things first: Good thing the Red Sox aren't in the World Series:  If tonight and tomorrow night were both rained out in Boston, stupid stuff like major league baseball would get in the way of Spooky World at Fenway!  My GPA in college was a gillion.

Although I'm the chief negativity-monger here on How Youz Doin Baseball and I have been for nearly five years, there is little negative I can take out of the arrival of Ben Cherington.  This guy is gonna be good.  Despite the fact that he went to Amherst College (one strike) and, like me, was an English major (two strikes), he seems to be a guy who realize that baseball games happen on a field and not on a computer screen - something that, especially in later years, seemed to elude the grasp of John, Tom, Larry, and even Theo. 

This is something that you could actually glean from listening to this guy speak to the media both Tuesday and Wednesday.  He seemed to think that the Red Sox were on the wrong tracks in the last couple of years and were listening to numbers and "objective" analysis (otherwise known as Carmine the Computer) instead of actually looking at what happens on the baseball field.  Given the fact that everyone has already recognized the last real inefficiency in baseball (OBP and OPS) upon the popularity of moneyball, and given the overwhelming fact that Moneyball II (fielding metrics) were a loud, 2011-level, failure, doing all of your baseball operations in Microsoft Excel is not the best way to go.  As Bandi said years ago and as Pat noticed more recently, numbers should be only a guide.

And Cherington is the right guy to take us away from the Strat-O-Matic machine and back in between the lines.  He's been doing scouting with his eyes since 1999 and might actually realize that an RBI very well might be valuable in a situation (such as a Bill Mueller RBI single in 2004, a Coco Crisp RBI single in 2008, or a pair of sacrifice flies in the World Series in 2011), even if racking up RBIs on the aggregate might not be a great way to evaluate a player.  He might realize that 9 guys who are dogging it constantly might need to be shaken up a little bit.  This is stuff that Theo at least paid a little attention to in the early years before seemingly abandoning it for 100% Carmine analysis in the later years (not surprisingly, I draw December 6, 2006 as the turning point).

He's scouted.  He's directed farms.  He's been on a baseball field, and has been in front of a baseball field for more than he's been in front of a spreadsheet.  He also seems receptive to keep looking for insight from the stat geeks - a pleasant balance that is really what baseball should be heading back toward.

Plus, he seems to be a fan of accountability instead of accounting.  A fan of "multifactorial" instead of factorials.  I'm looking forward to the Ben Cherington era.  Maybe, just maybe, we're on our way back to selling jeans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

DV -

This is a really good post. And I agree with everyting you're saying about Cherington. I think he's going to do a really good job. One thing to consider is that, for anyone who follows the Red Sox, or even baseball, closely, Ben Cherington is a name you've heard. For a while. And always associated with the Red Sox.

What does that tell us? He's been with the Sox a long time. He's worked really hard behind the scenes, and been invested in this team, for a long time without getting much of the publicity or recognition. He's likely done all of that because this is the job that he wants.

You always want a guy in a "dream job" scenario because they'll go all out to succeed. They have invested in it for a long time and know how precious the opportunity is. Really, a lot like Theo when he first got to Boston.

For the Sox, though, Cherington in a "dream job" scenario (and I should note I don't know, at all, if this is indeed his dream job, but I'm guessing becoming GM of a major market baseball team you've worked for for more than a decade is, at least, pretty close) is particularly important right now. Because they need a change of pace, and one that is driven by more urgency. Cherington is likely to bring that urgency because he's unproven and wants to show, right now, what he can do. He doesn't have past successes he can fall back on that allow him to think only big picture, long term, and 5 year plan. He is thinking (within reason - I don't expect him to sell the farm to win in 2012) about a right now plan. And that is exactly what the Red Sox need at this moment.

Like a lot of things recently, we are shifting back towards the middle. We went from trading whoever you have to get Major League talent, to almost being risk averse and too conservative with holding top prospects, not wanting to "sell the future for the now". When the best mode of operation is probably between those two things. The Sox have not been making aggressive enough movements back towards the middle, and in some ways by tying to always get out in front with new (mostly sabermetric driven) ideas all the time were actually behind, because a lot of teams in baseball are re-simplifying (ie - no, the RBI is not meaningless, as DV references in the post). It seems like Cherington is just the guy, with his baseball/player evaluation background, to bring them closer to the middle. And at the very least, bring some fresh ideas with a sense of urgency.

I have long thought that it is beneficial to work below a really smart coach/executive in sports, because you can take their general philosophy, but then eliminate some things you don't like and add those that you do. It's no mistake that we have so many modern day "coaching/executive trees", where a lot of the successful people in sports in modern times studied under some of the greats. Cherington has that going for him, and in his case it may be particularly useful because the stuff Theo was doing was so cutting edge but also unproven. So he really got a bird's eye view of the best and worst of Theo, and can hopefully put that to good use.