For a few weeks, now, we've been hearing so much about the Chicago Cubs, and Theo Epstein, and the mutual flirtations between the two of them. Things have evidently gotten serious, to the point where, on Wednesday, reports emerged that Epstein and the Cubs had agreed on a five-year contract. It's all but official now that Epstein will be Chicago's next general manager.
So, great, that solves things for Chicago. What about Boston? Boston's already picking up the pieces of a disastrous season, and they're in the market for a new manager, what with Terry Francona's departure. But Epstein's bolting leaves them with another vacancy, high up in the front office. What's the solution?
That was fast. Fast, and unsurprising, as Cherington has long been the assumed favorite to take over were Epstein to leave. As soon as rumors began to circulate that Epstein could go to the Cubs, Cherington was seen as the most likely guy to fill his seat, and now here we are, living a predictable future.
Who is Ben Cherington? I'm glad you asked! Ben Cherington is a 37-year-old man. He is one of two men in suits pictured above. He is older now than he was when that picture was taken, and I'm not just making a Mitch Hedberg joke - that picture was taken in 2005. The other man in a suit in that picture is Jed Hoyer, current GM of the Padres.
Cherington has long been a member of the Red Sox front office, and has served most recently as Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager. He joined the Red Sox as an intern in 1997, hired by Dan Duquette, and he started working full-time in 1999. Like many people at the top of a front office, he worked his way there, filling a number of roles along the path before becoming Theo Epstein's primary assistant.
One might remember that, in 2005, when Epstein disappeared for three months, Cherington served as co-GM along with Hoyer. Then Epstein came back and Cherington and Hoyer were demoted. But it was a blissful three months.
Cherington is pretty well-known for his work as Boston's Director of Player Development some years back. The expression Scott Lauber likes to use is that, under Cherington, the Red Sox's system had a "leave-no-stone-unturned organizational philosophy," where both prospects and non-prospects were valued and treated well, and much more good than harm was done under Cherington's oversight.
How might Cherington fit as a general manager? Here are a couple quotes, from the linked articles:
"He has great leadership skills and is very authentic," Colorado Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd said by phone. "It hasn’t shocked me that he has gone on and done what he has done with Theo. I’m sure he would do a great job as a general manager there."
Mark Shapiro [...] described him like this: "He was thoughtful, prepared, highly intelligent and very respectful of others. He was not a guy that had to beat you over the head with what he knew, but instead had a quiet self-confidence that I think has served him well as he has developed as a leader."
This might come as a shock, but Cherington is young, bright, analytical, and more quiet than not quiet. Say hello to basically every hot new general manager candidate around the league. What the Red Sox hope sets Cherington apart are his supposed leadership skills, as a general manager doesn't just sit in his office making trades and drafting contract proposals. A general manager is supposed to lead an entire organization, building strong and productive relationships with every person and every department, and the Red Sox think Cherington is capable.
His familiarity most certainly doesn't hurt, both with the team and with the region. (Cherington is from the region. I should have noted that earlier.)
I don't know if Ben Cherington is the answer. Or rather, I know that Ben Cherington is the answer, but I don't know if Ben Cherington will be the right answer. Neither do you. Neither do the Red Sox. It's all just guesswork until Cherington actually occupies the role and gets some experience. But it certainly looks like he's a good man for the job, and I wouldn't expect that he'll operate all that different from the way that Epstein operated. In a good way. Because Theo Epstein was a good general manager, and the Red Sox did a lot of good things. Under Cherington, they will probably continue to do good things in the future.