While Rick Hahn of the White Sox seems to be the most popular man for the job right now, I believe there is a better fit for the Cubs out there -- Ben Cherington, VP and Asst. GM of the Boston Red Sox.
Let's break down some of the things Ricketts talked about in his press conference today as well as some things he has talked about in the past...
1. Someone from a winning background. Who has a better winning background than the Boston Red Sox. On top of that, which franchise can empathize better with an organization that's been "cursed" and hasn't won a World Series in a long, long time? If any team knows how to turn the culture of a franchise 180 degrees, it's Boston. And we know Ricketts looks at Boston as a model for success.
2. Someone who understands player development...likely this means someone with a scouting background Cherington started his career in Boston as an area scout under Dan Duquette and was entrusted with a lot of responsibility. Interestingly, he actually developed his affinity for player development while with the Indians organization. He told Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors
There are a lot of things that I saw in Cleveland that I’m not ashamed to say we’ve tried to copy in Boston. There’s some things that I think that they were ahead of the game on in terms of player development, principles, developing people within a front office.
3. Someone with knowledge of sabermetrics: Boston is a team that has been at the forefront of teams who use this kind of statistical analysis and Cherington has been a big part of that.
4. A young, energetic GM: Cherington is just 37 years old.
5. Financial savvy Cherington handled a lot of the arbitration cases with Boston. It has become something of a specialty with him. I think this is something the Cubs could have handled better during the Hendry era.
6. He has extensive experience in Latin America: Judging by the Cubs recent investment in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, we know this is something Ricketts values deeply. Cherington once headed Boston's scouting efforts in Latin America.
Cherington understands what Ricketts talked about, that sabermetrics is a useful tool, but it's not the end-all. It's a part of the game, but it shouldn't be the only thing you rely on. As Ricketts said, "we're not going to run our team like a computer model". A blend of scouting and statistical analysis has been the hallmark of the more successful teams, while teams like the Mariners who relied very heavily on statistical analysis at the expense of scouting, have floundered. Per his interview with MLB TradeRumors, Cherington understands that balance is needed...
You can blend appropriately information from those two extremes. Depending on the player and the circumstances, you may lean more on one than the other. Obviously if you’re evaluating a 16-year-old in the Dominican, you don’t have a lot of hard performance history, so you’re going to rely more on subjective evaluation.
As you get closer to the big leagues, the more performance history you have and the more you can incorporate that into the projection for the player. And you factor in other information like their health, contract situation, etc.
That’s what Theo strove for from the very get-go. From the day he took the general manager’s job, he did not want the Red Sox to be a quantitative-driven baseball ops department, he didn’t want it to be a subjective, traditional scouting-driven baseball operations department, he wanted to do both.
I read a discussion with Will Carroll, who listed his own top 10 GM candidates for SI , where he said that guys like Cherington aren't really candidates because they have it too good where they're at right now. I respect Carroll's knowledge of the game, but that's just utter nonsense. Any baseball man worth his salt wants to see what he can do on his own, to see if he can take the reins and lead a team to a championship. If they don't, then why are they even in the game?
Besides, Cherington himself has said that he wants to be a GM.
I learned more [from Epstein] about the game and people and how to get things done and how to do all of that with a sense of humor and compassion. It has made me a better person and if I’m ever lucky enough to be a GM it’ll make me a much better GM. I’ve been incredibly lucky and I think the only reason my name is out there at all as a GM candidate is because of those experiences.
There is no better opportunity right now than the one here in Chicago. It's a great baseball city with enormous resources and fans with an overwhelming passion for the game. Ricketts has said he wants the Cubs to win a World Series and will provide whatever the next GM needs to help him make that happen. And if a GM wins here, he will be a hero for life. Winning the first championship since 1908 may just go down as the greatest accomplishment in all of sports. What prospective GM wouldn't want to be in that kind of situation?
I certainly think Ben Cherington would and he should be the guy to get that opportunity.
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