Extra Bases

Red Sox Disappointing Season Leads to Offseason Challenges


BOSTON – Less than 24 hours after the Red Sox lost their season finale to the Yankees, general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell sat inside Fenway Park’s interview room discussing the disappointing season.

The Sox finished with a record of 71-91, 20 games below .500 , 25 games behind the American League East-leading Orioles, and just two games better than the abysmal 2012 team, which is generally looked at the organization’s recent low-water mark. And after last season’s World Series championship, this year’s team finished with 26 fewer wins, a difference of 173 points in winning percentage.

It is almost impossible to reconcile the worst-to-first-to-worst swing of the past three seasons.

“Yeah, it’s hard and it’s been hard on us, the extreme outcomes,” Cherington said. “Obviously you like the upside but the downside is hard to deal with and painful for everyone. And it’s not at all what we want to be. It’s not at all what I’ve said we want to be in the past. We want to build something that’s got a chance to sustain and be good every year. You can’t plan on a World Series every year, but we ought to be playing on winning teams and contending teams and teams that are playing meaningful games in September and getting into October more often than not.

“So obviously based on the results the last three years we haven’t been, we haven’t accomplished that yet. So we need to find, we need to figure that out and find a way to do that. I still, I believe that we will. I believe that there are too many strengths in the organization not to do that. But we have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves honestly what we can do to make sure that happens and that’ll be a big part of the offseason and moving forward.

“It’s a very competitive landscape, I think, in baseball. I think the talent is more evenly distributed than it was 15 or 20 years ago. So we’re obviously going to need talent, we’re going to need good players, we need to construct the roster well. And then we also need to look for every other possible area of competitive advantage. If we do well enough in all those areas, it will lead to what we want. And we haven’t gotten there yet.”

There were plenty of reasons the Sox didn’t get there this season: lack of timely hitting, reliance on too many young players, acquisitions that didn’t work out, players who couldn’t duplicate what they had done in the World Series campaign of 2013, certain moves that were made – or not made – in the off-season,

The bottom line, though, is the season fell well short of expectations.

“The shortcomings, I think, when we look at offensively, this might have been kind of a nightly theme that we would come up [after a game] and talk about what transpired that night on the field,” Farrell said. “And while we, I thought, for the majority of the season created a number of opportunities for ourselves, it wasn’t finished through with overall runs scored. So when you look at our overall production, offense was one area that was a shortcoming.

“What we could have done differently, when someone asks you, do you feel like you’re partly responsible for the season, my first response is yes. And that’s in a way that could we have done something differently with the, a different offensive identity, given the strengths of our roster and who populated it. But in the end, I think the overall thing was where we came up short offensively as a team.”

The Sox have a lot of work to do this offseason to get back into contention. Starting pitching is just one of the priorities.

“We’d certainly like to add to the rotation,” Cherington said. “A bunch of different ways to do that. We’ll look at all ways. And I think we’d have some interest in adding a left-hand hitter somewhere. There’s different ways to do that, too. And then I would imagine there would be some work done in the bullpen. So, for a player perspective, those would be the, I think, the three areas, the basic three areas.”

Another area that may undergo some changes is the coaching staff. Farrell alluded to the idea the some of his coaches may be gone.

“I think any time we finish in the position we’re in, we’re always looking for ways to get better,” Farrell said. “Last year this is the same group that I think had a very strong impact on our success a year ago. Our staff is always going to be an integral part to this organization and to our success going forward. But we still have a number of conversations to be had with each guy on the staff.

“[Sunday] was kind of a quick day; we were in and out. Some of those conversations have already taken place. But I think the most important thing is we’ll always have a group of people here that are a big part of what we do.”

Much was made last year of the tremendous chemistry the team had. The team’s failures this year were not because of a lack of good chemistry, Farrell said.

“No, we had personnel change. We had changes to the roster. That’s going to create a different dynamic immediately,” he said. “I can’t say there’s a lack of leadership, the players that we had or the staff that is in place. Ultimately we didn’t win a number of games we expected to and needed to. To say it was a direct result of chemistry or leadership, I wouldn’t say that’s the ultimate reason.

“I don’t know just by virtue of winning the World Series changed our outlook. There was a cohesiveness in 2013 that’s probably going to be difficult to repeat or duplicate. The bottom line is the wins didn’t come as they did a year ago.”

Cherington, though, believes his team is well positioned for a productive offseason.

"We have a challenging offseason ahead of us that's in a way simple to say but that doesn't mean it's easy to execute.” Cherington said. “Basically all the things an organization needs to be successful year in and year out are basically in place. You need stable ownership, you need support from ownership. You need resources - financial and otherwise. You need good people, we have good people in the front office. We have good people in the field, at the major league level and farm system. We have both. We have to add to it and construct a roster that works and wins games. Ultimately the results are what we're judged with. I feel good about the strength we have in the organization but we have to learn from what happened this year and do whatever we can to avoid it from happening again.”

The Sox will also need to address third base, back-up catcher, the abundance of outfielders and some redundancies, the closer’s role, a possible extension for Yoenis Cespedes, and possibly changes to the development system after this season’s struggles by so many young players, along with other issues.

Boston.com will look at each of these issues in a series throughout the week.

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