Cherington faces a mountain of work

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Cherington faces a mountain of work

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ben Cherington has been part of the Red Sox organization for more than a decade.

No one has to show him how to get from the clubhouse to his office. He doesn't need to be introduced to people throughout Fenway Park.

All of which means Cherington can hit the ground running when he's introduced as the Red Sox new general manager Tuesday.

Which is good for Cherington, because there's a long list of things that require his immediate attention.

Among them:

1) Find a manager.

This, naturally, is Job One. Terry Francona parted company with the Sox two days after the ugly conclusion of the regular season.

For most of the last few weeks, Cherington has split his time between researching potential candidates for manager and working on compensation with the Cubs in exchange for Theo Epstein.

The compensation issue should be decided by Tuesday's press conference or soon thereafter. That will free Cherington to pay full attention to his first big hire.

It's not as if Cherington is going to deviate from the list of potential candidates put together with Epstein. There will be no search for a high-profile, big-name manager such as Bobby Valentine or Joe Torre. Cherington will probably select from among the group of current major-league coaches -- Philadelphia's Pete Mackanin; Tampa Bay's Dave Martinez; Cleveland's Sandy Alomar Jr.; Milwaukee's Dale Sveum; Los Angeles's Tim Wallach and one or two more.

This isn't any hire, of course. It will be the first significant move of Cherington's tenure and he must find someone capable of bringing together a clubhouse that seemed more obsessed with beer, chicken, and mostly, self.

2) Hire a coaching staff
This will be done in conjunction with the new manager. Don't rule out the return of hitting coach Dave Magadan and perhaps third-base coach Tim Bogar, though it's more likely Bigar would move to bench coach.

Either way, given that almost all of the managers under consideration have little or no major-league experience, a strong and capable coaching staff will be a must if the Sox are to succeed in turning around the culture that infected the clubhouse in the final months of the season.

Special attention needs to be paid to the pitching coach. The starters took advantage of easygoing Curt Young in his one season in the role and a more authoritative personality is a must.

3) Make some tough decisions on the Red Sox' own free agents.

David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and J.D. Drew are all eligible for free agency.

It seems likely that Varitek, whose tenure with the Red Sox goes back to 1997, and Wakefield, who joined the club in 1995, have reached the end of their careers in Boston.

Wakefield needed 10 starts to reach his elusive 200th career win and though he held up rather well physically, at 45, his value to the team isn't what it once was. As for Varitek, he may still be a capable backup, but with Ryan Lavarnway ready for some playing time, it's probably time to move on.

Ortiz and Papelbon will present interesting challenges.

Ortiz finished with the fourth-best OPS in the American League and was easily the top DH in the league. It will likely take a two-year commitment of around 20 million to keep Ortiz and that seems a reasonable price.

Papelbon will present a tougher decision. Though clearly one of the handful of best closers in the game, the Red Sox philosophy -- developed under Epstein, but shared by Cherington -- is that closers in their 30s are risky investments.

Papelbon has looked forward to free agency for years and won't settle for a one-year arbitration deal. A three-year deal for somewhere near 40 million might be a reasonable compromise for both sides.

4) Develop a strategy for the offseason.

Do the Red Sox aggressively pursue some big-name free agents (C.J. Wilson; Japanese-Iranian import Yu Darvish) or use the trade market to re-tool their roster?

Given the team's poor track record in recent years with free agents (John Lackey, Carl Crawford), it's difficult to imagine ownership green-lighting a big bucks shopping spree.

More likely, Cherington will use some tradeable parts (Kevin Youkilis? Jed Lowrie? Josh Reddick?) to address some of the needs and hope that Lavarnway, Ryan Kalish, Felix Doubront and Jose Iglesias are ready to contribute in meaningful ways in 2011.

5) Steer the Red Sox back to normalcy.

This is at once the toughest and most important chore on Cherington's list.

The team's brand has been sullied by the stories coming out of the clubhouse in the aftermath of the club's disastrous September and a steady hand is needed.

He needs to convey to the fan base that the Red Sox are running smoothly again following two months of disappointment and chaos. The best way to send that message is to go about his normal business, with one goal in mind: Getting the Red Sox back into contention and into the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Around baseball, too, people will watching to see if Cherington gets to exert his independence in his new position or whether he's dominated by president and CEO Larry Lucchino, who may see Cherington's ascension as a chance to exert his influence on the team's Baseball Operations department.

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”