It’s official: with Theo Epstein headed to the Cubs, Ben Cherington ’96 has taken over as the Red Sox General Manager. Epstein, who had unofficially resigned from his post three weeks ago, formally announced his departure last Sunday. Although Epstein’s move comes under sour circumstances, he took time to thank the city of Boston, taking out a full-page ad in The Boston Globe.
Cherington was an English major and baseball player at the College, where, according to longtime Amherst coach Bill Thurston, “he was a real mature young man — and all the players looked up to him. He couldn’t pitch any more after [a junior year shoulder injury], but his senior year and the year after he graduated, he was my assistant coach.” Thurston remembers, “after he graduated, on our spring trip, he was rooming with our catching coach, Chuck Roys, who had been a longtime head coach at Springfield College. After a couple of days rooming together, I’m having breakfast with Chuck in the morning, and he asks me, ‘how old’s Ben... 35?’ Of course, Ben was 22.”
Cherington, who was often described as precocious, has no shortage of executive experience. In 1997, while working on a master’s degree in Sports Management at UMass, Cherington received a scouting internship under Cleveland Indians Director of Player Development Neal Huntington ’91. Soon after, then-Red Sox GM Dan Duquette ’80 found space for Cherington in his own scouting department. Cherington was named Assistant Director of Player Development in 2002 and was promptly promoted to Director upon Epstein’s arrival that winter. His achievements in the role include work on the official Red Sox player manual, which is distributed organization-wide and provides the basis for “the Red Sox way.”
Technically speaking, this is not Cherington’s first go-around as Red Sox GM. After the 2005 season, Theo Epstein briefly left the team, leaving Cherington and Jed Hoyer to take his place as co-GM’s. Months later, however, Epstein decided to return.
Cherington served as vice president of player personnel from 2006-09 and senior vice president/assistant General Manager — essentially Epstein’s right-hand man — from 2009 through last season.
Now, the Meriden, N.H. native ascends to the top of the Red Sox organization at a difficult period. After the epic collapse of 2011, Red Sox fans will be anxious to see what moves Cherington will make. His first task, of course, will be to find a manager to replaced two-time World Series champion Terry Francona. Cherington has reportedly has begun interviews with former Red Sox third base coach Dale Sveum and Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, among others. He will be equally concerned with free agents, including ag David Ortiz, who says he would like to remain with the Red Sox but would not mind playing elsewhere. Others free agents include Jonathan Papelbon, J.D. Drew, and the aging Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. Cherington may also be called upon to address physical conditioning policy, an issue that rose to notoriety following the team’s collapse.
Thurston is positive that Cherington is the right man to guide the Red Sox through uncertain times. “He’s a great listener, very observant, well-researched,” he said. “I’ve got great respect for Ben, and I’m really happy for him. It’s the job he always wanted.”