The Boston Red Sox went from disgraced in last place to World Series champion in one season, and general manager Ben Cherington is being recognized as a result.
Cherington was named Major League Baseball executive of the year Monday night by the Sporting News, which determines the winner based on a vote of 31 league executives. Cherington received 15 votes, followed by Neal Huntington of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had nine. The Pirates won the NL wild card after missing the playoffs every season since 1993.
Supporters of Huntington also might point out Boston's $150 million payroll, fourth in the majors in 2013. The Pirates were 20th, at about $80 million. Cherington had more capital with which to work, but the Red Sox also were a colossal mess at the end of 2011 and for all of 2012, when they went 69-93 and finished 26 games out of first place. Some of Boston's problems were Cherington's doing, but there's also no denying he's the first one responsible for the Red Sox turnaround.
Via the Associated Press, Cherington spread around the credit:
''Definitely unexpected,'' Cherington said. ''I consider this to be an award for the organization, not for me. Coming off the year we had in 2012, I also sort of see it as usually an award that goes to an organization that does work over a period of time and not necessarily in one year.''
Cherington's first move was to hire John Farrell, the former pitching coach at Fenway, as manager. After the collapse under Terry Francona in '11 and a season of discontent under Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox needed stability on the top step and Farrell played his part perfectly. Cherington also gave himself payroll flexibility by trading the huge contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers. But the Red Sox also needed players for 2013 and Cherington hit on most of his free agent choices.
Mike Napoli bounced back to provide a big bat in the order after "Big Papi" David Ortiz. Shane Victorino played a Gold Glove right field and came up with timely hits time and again. Jonny Gomes and David Ross played their roles as part-timers. Stephen Drew was one of the best shortstops in the league (and above average for his position at the plate), freeing Cherington to trade defensive whiz Jose Iglesias for Jake Peavy. Ryan Dempster was a solid fourth starter. And closer Koji Uehara had one of the best seasons a relief pitcher has ever had.
In just about any other season, Huntington would have been the easy pick for top baseball executive. Nothing comes easy for the Pirates, does it? But that doesn't mean Cherington doesn't deserve the award. He does.
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