NEW YORK — You can see in his eyes and in his demeanor and in his body language how badly Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington feels about this season.
He has done mea culpas about his lack of offseason moves, which left Boston’s pitching rotation short, and about things he could have done differently to improve a roster that was Red Sox Light.
But nobody should have only one season to prove themselves. With the complete backing of ownership, he will return to give it another try.
He deserves the chance to rebuild this team, because with 27 players on the disabled list and 56 players on the roster, how could it possibly have succeeded?
Cherington’s first order of business likely will be to end the managerial tenure of Bobby Valentine . . . after one year.
Cherington wouldn’t talk about that before the season finale against the Yankees Wednesday night amid speculation that Valentine is gone — a report by CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman said that Valentine would be fired at the conclusion of the season.
“I’m not gonna talk about it,” Cherington said. “I’ve said many times, Bobby is with the team until the end of the season and then we’ll talk about it at the end of the season.
“When the results are this at the final days of the year we’d better all look in the mirror and figure out what went wrong and what our contribution to that was. Bobby said things he wished he could have done better as a manager, and his job is to deliver results. As GM, my job is to deliver results and help build a roster to help win games. Together, we didn’t get it done.”
There’s no doubt that Cherington and Valentine were like oil and water. They tried to work things out, but while they had peaceful, constructive moments, there weren’t enough of them.
Cherington’s roster left Valentine having to perform a daily miracle. After the deal with the Dodgers Valentine was expected to win games? How fair was that?
Cherington also seemed to grow tired of Valentine’s statements, particularly on talk radio, which often got him in trouble. And let’s cut to the chase — Valentine wasn’t his guy.
Valentine had problems with the coaches from the Terry Francona regime, namely bullpen coach Gary Tuck and bench coach Tim Bogar. It was an ongoing issue, and when Valentine said on WEEI that a couple of his coaches undermined him, it shouldn’t have been a major shock to Cherington, who claimed he never had heard that sentiment, when everyone else associated with the team had.
“He expressed his feeling and that’s his feeling,” Cherington said. “If he feels that way, I’m sorry he feels that way. I don’t have examples that would lead to that. That’s his feeling. I’m not in his office all the time. Not in the clubhouse all the time. I don’t know exactly what he’s referring to. He has a right to his opinion and to express it. If he feels that way, I feel bad.”
Cherington did acknowledge that he and Valentine spoke about the coaching staff all season. The two finally agreed that pitching coach Bob McClure should be replaced, and that happened.
Cherington said he and the owners have spent a lot of time trying to sort out next season. Obviously, Valentine was not part of those discussions, which is unusual. The owners and front office gang likely decided Valentine was going to go long ago and decided to keep their end of the bargain and keep him until the end of the season.
E-mails to John Henry and Larry Lucchino have gone unanswered.
“We fell out of it earlier than we wanted to,” Cherington said. “You have to start looking forward. We’ve done a lot of work and we’ll continue to work. Spent a lot of time with ownership the last few weeks and the better part of September talking about that. I need to look at myself and the operation to see where we can improve. We’ve done a lot of work and we’re confident we can improve. It’s not going to happen overnight and we have to get back at it.
“I’m confident we can be better. I think people are trying. I’m confident we’re going to be better and over time, very good. I don’t know yet whether it’s April of 2013 or beyond or what. I know we’ll be back. Too many good people here. Too much strength and support at the ownership level despite a really low time in the team’s history. We have strengths. We have strong players at the minor league level and major league level.”
Cherington spoke about trying to improve the performance of the players who underperformed this season and how make them better. He spoke about Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Felix Doubront as if they were top pitchers.
He spoke about a comebacking John Lackey and how hard he’s worked at recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“I made some decisions that didn’t work out,” Cherington said. “I still believe in a lot of the players here and those we acquired. It didn’t work out. That’s on me. I didn’t do enough to stabilize the rotation last offseason. The rotation wasn’t good enough. I didn’t do enough to help that.”
He thought he had made the right decisions. Daniel Bard to the starting rotation. Andrew Bailey as the closer after trading Josh Reddick. In Cherington’s defense, there weren’t many who thought Reddick would turn into a power hitter except for former Pawtucket hitting coach Chili Davis, who went over to the A’s and convinced David Forst and Billy Beane that could indeed happen.
Carl Crawford was a nightmare for the Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury got hurt again. Injury after injury. Good depth turned into bad depth. Pretty tough on the GM. Pretty tough on the manager.
“There’s a couple of different ways this could go,” Cherington said. “We felt there was a chance we’d be really good if things fell our way. It didn’t happen. So I don’t know if the pressure is more than it was last offseason. I’m confident in myself, confident in people I work with and ownership. For as long as I am here I’ll do everything I can to make the situation better.”
He will get more than one year. He likely will get two or three years, and he should. He will get a legitimate amount of time to get things straight and to rebuild after some of the poor decisions he helped Theo Epstein make back then.
But let’s be clear. As much as Cherington admitted his missteps and failures, the person who will take 100 percent of the punishment is Valentine.
Because he’ll be the one who pays the ultimate price – the loss of his job.