Red Sox GM Ben Cherington: “I didn’t do a good enough job building a complete offense”

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It’s been less than nine months since the Red Sox hoisted the World Series trophy and less than eight months since general manager Ben Cherington won the Executive of the Year award, but with the team sitting at 43-52 he’s already started to apologize for this year’s product.

Appearing on WEEI radio in Boston this morning, Cherington admitted that “I didn’t do a good enough job building a complete offense” and also said of the Red Sox’s last-ranked lineup:

I think obviously our biggest issue, at least up until very recently, has been offensive production. I think our pitching has been good enough to win, we just haven’t produced offensively. It certainly wasn’t our intent. We thought we would have that, we thought we had reason to believe that we could have that going into the year, but the reality is that we have not through a big chunk of the first part of the season. That has hamstrung our ability to win games.

Last season Boston led all of baseball in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs scored. This season the Red Sox rank ninth in on-base percentage, 27th in slugging percentage, and 25th in runs per game.

As far as big changes from 2013 to 2014? Well, replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia with A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate worked out horribly, leading to Pierzynski getting released. Stephen Drew sat out the first two months and has been a mess since taking back over at shortstop. Shane Victorino has been hurt. Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled to step into Jacoby Ellsbury’s big shoes in center field. And stars Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz (plus fellow holdovers Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava) have seen their production plummet.

Cherington got a ton of the credit last season, so it’s good to see his willingness to take on lots of the blame this year, but even with some better offseason decision-making from the front office injuries and off-years seemed destined to derailed the Red Sox’s offensive train no matter what.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”