Cherington reflects on 2012 season

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Cherington reflects on 2012 season

NEW YORK -- Ben Cherington wouldn't address a report that the Red Sox will fire manager Bobby Valentine shortly after the conclusion of the season, but the general manager had plenty else to say during a wide-ranging pre-game interview Wednesday afternoon.

-- On Valentine's contention that was at times undermined by members of the coaching staff:
"He expressed his feeling and that's his feeling. If he feels that way, I'm sorry he feels that way. It's hard for me to comment on it because I don't know of any examples that would lead to that kind of feeling.
"I'm not in his office all the time. I'm not in the clubhouse all the time, so I don't know what exactly he was referring to. But he's got a right to his opinion and he expressed it. If he feels that way, I feel bad. I don't want any manager feeling that way.''
Cherington acknowledged that "we did have to work through some issues,'' between Valentine and some coaches, but said Valentine never communicated to the GM that he was being undermined.

-- On his own first year as GM:
"It's tough,'' he said. "We're nowhere near where we want to be. On a personal level, I've been here 14 years and we've had some highs and lows and this is certainly a low. I take it personally. As long I'm here, I'll do whatever I possibly can to help restore the team to what our ownership and fans deserve. It's been hard. It's been hard on all of us.''

-- On getting a head start on the off-season:
"We fell out of it earlier than we wanted to,'' he said, "and when that happens, you have to start looking forward and looking at to potential opportunities in the off-season. We've done a lot of work and we'll continue that work.
"I'm confident we will improve. But it's not going to happen overnight and we have to get after it this off-season and start working at it. I'm confident we can be better (next year). I think people are tired about hearing how good we can be before the season starts. We talked a lot about that the last several off-seasons and it hasn't worked out that way. I'm just confident we're going to be better. I'm confident in time we're going to be very good. I don't know yet whether that's going to be April 2013 or beyond. But I know we'll be back. This team will be back.''

-- On off-season priorities:
"We've got a couple free agents we're talking to now,'' said Cherington. "David (Ortiz) is a priority and we're talking with Cody Ross also. David is someone we feel strongly about bringing back. We're trying to figure out a way to do that. I hope that happens.
"With Cody, he came in here this year and fit in well and had a good year. It's an area of need going forward, we've talked to him. We'll have to see how those conversations go.''

-- On what went wrong and the role injuries had:
"I don't think we're doing our jobs if we just assign blame for the season to injuries,'' he said. "We've got a look a little deeper than that. We've got to look first at our own decisions, my decisions, last winter, what I did or did not do to help the team more.
"We've got to look at players that are here and guys we feel can perform better and why they didn't and how we can help them get back to the level they've been at before. Yeah, injures are a part of it. But they've been mostly of the traumatic variety and those things happen on the baseball field.
"As far as getting better, we really need to look at the decisions we've made, and aside from that, the guys that are here and how we can help guys perform at their best level.''

-- On his own failings:
"I made some decisions that didn't work out. No other way to put it than that. I still believe in a lot of the players here and the players we acquired, but this year, they didn't work out, so that's on me. I think I didn't do enough to help stabilize the rotation last off-season.
"We can parse out how or why or what we could have done differently, but the bottom line is the performance of the rotation wasn't good enough to be the team we wanted to be, so I didn't do enough to help that.''

-- On the failings of the starting rotation:
"I think we need to find ways to improve it,'' said Cherington. "A lot of that is going to be the guys who are here. Jon Lester is capable of being better than he was this year. He knows that. He's said that. We believe he will be. He's healthy, he's pitched 200 innings again. We know he's one of the best starters in the league when he's feeling right and it's our job to help him feel right.
"(Clay) Buchholz is a very talented pitcher who can be as good as anyone in the league and had a stretch of very good performances after a tough start. So we feel confident about him in the rotation. (Felix) Doubront showed a lot of potential this year, particularly late when he's in uncharted territory as far as the innings total and has shown really good stuff lately. That's a really good sign and he has a chance to be an important part of the rotation.
"John Lackey worked his tail off coming off Tommy John surgery. He's going to have a normal off-season. Our hope is that we see a healthy John Lackey and he's been really good before.
"A lot of it is helping the guys here be as good as they can be. But it's an area we need to improve in and if that means some additions from the outside, we need to consider those, too.''

-- On the disappointing late-season play of callups Ryan Lavarnway and Jose Iglesias:
"Neither guy has lit the world on fire offensively, obviously,'' Cherington said. "Both have shown flashes and I think Ryan has done a good job behind the plate handling the pitchers. He's driven the ball some but probably hasn't quite gotten into a groove offensively.
"Jose has made some highlight plays at short and struggled a little bit with the bat. He's made some hard contact here and there and hit balls at guys. A work in progress for both guys. But there are plenty of big leaguers who have struggled in their first September and both guys are going to be good players going forward.''

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

Drellich: MLB could explain umpire rulings more often

BOSTON — We know that Red Sox manager John Farrell did something wrong. In the absence of any sort of formal announcement otherwise, we’re left to assume the umpires did everything properly — but there’s room for MLB to make that clearer.

If the NBA can put out Last 2 Minute reports, why can’t MLB provide more regular explanations or reviews of contested calls?

Farrell on Tuesday said he’d like to see more public accountability in the umpiring realm, hours before the manager was to sit out Game No. 77. Farrell was suspended one game for making contact with crew chief Bill Miller on Saturday night as manager and umpire rained spittle on each other over a balk call that went against the Sox.

Well, was it a balk or not? Did Miller do anything wrong as well?

“I don’t know if there was anything levied on the other side,” Farrell said. “I don’t know that.”

But would he like such matters to always be public?

“I think there have been strides made in that way,” Farrell said. “I guess I would. I think everyone in uniform would prefer that to be made public. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know, but that would be a choice I would make.”

The league has a thorough internal review system. But it is just that: internal. Most of the time, any way.

On most every night at Fenway Park, there is someone on hand watching just the umpires and reviewing them.

MLB, to its credit, has announced suspensions for umpires in the past. The league has made public acknowledgments when calls have been made incorrectly. More of that seems viable — even if it’s an announcement to reaffirm that the call was made and handled properly, and here are the reasons why.

“I haven’t received any further determination or review of what transpired,” Farrell said. “My position, my stance, remains steadfast. I still firmly believe that time was called [before the balk call was made]. I wasn’t arguing the balk. I was arguing the timing of it. As I reiterated today to those that I spoke with, I still stand by my side of the argument. Unfortunately, there was contact made.”

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.