With Larry Lucchino stepping down as President and CEO of the Red Sox, attention has swiftly turned to the future, with many observers keen to outline their vision for resuscitating baseball in Boston. There has been no official indication of further changes to the faltering hierarchy, but Red Sox Nation is tired of losing, to the point where ownership has little choice but to act.
Ever since Theo Epstein left town, this franchise has lurched from fleeting success to demoralizing failure, with last place finishes becoming the trademark of a strained and uninspiring regime. As General Manager, Ben Cherington enjoyed one miraculous season, but otherwise has been amongst the most inefficient executives in baseball history; his payroll-to-win ratio ranking with the very worst of all-time. Meanwhile, Lucchino, his boss, seemingly got lost amid the enormity of his role, leading to general chaos on Yawkey Way.
Now, with the Red Sox once again commanding the American League basement, the time for genuine change, not a showcase moving of furniture, has arrived. And, in the modern baseball environment of increased specialization, that means separating the business department from the baseball operation, and replacing Lucchino with two, not one, executives.
That’s right: it’s time for the Red Sox to adopt the model used by Theo’s Chicago Cubs and Andrew Friedman’s Los Angeles Dodgers, where one guy oversees the business aspect of the franchise, and another looms as the President of Baseball Operations, responsible for setting the roster-construction philosophy and hiring the men needed to make it reality.
For too long, Lucchino was in charge of both strands of the juggernaut Red Sox, which led to him doing neither role sufficiently well. Thus, with Sam Kennedy already earmarked as his replacement on the commercial side, the opportunity is ripe for Boston to spawn a new front office role for a chief baseball executive.
However, for it to be successful, that incoming President of Baseball Operations must have full autonomy to set the organizational ethos and draft in his own General Manager, much like Epstein did in Chicago and Friedman did in Hollywood. Merely shoving a guy above Cherington wouldn’t work, because philosophical differences may once again arise within the chain of command.
Ideally, this omnipotent baseball executive would be a young visionary, in line with the industry’s prevalent theme. A few candidates immediately spring to mind, namely Jed Hoyer, Chris Antonetti, Neal Huntington and Jon Daniels. However, if Red Sox ownership would prefer a more experienced guy, people like Dave Dombrowski, Billy Beane, John Mozeliak and even Brian Sabean would be worth serious consideration.
In my rebuilding plan, once in place, this head of baseball ops would then hire his own General Manager, replacing Cherington, who is now in an untenable position in Boston.
Ultimately, whether John Henry and Tom Werner are this aggressive in repairing a wounded franchise remains to be seen. The names may not change so suddenly and severely, but, without doubt, the team’s core philosophy, and the hierarchy that enforces it, must be altered now, or risk further turmoil in the years ahead.