Mike Hazen, who on Thursday was promoted to Red Sox senior vice president and general manager, checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning and said he believes the team is not far away from competing for another championship. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Hazen, 39, has been with the organization for a decade, including two World Series titles and two (closing in on three) last-place finishes in the AL East.
“There has been a lot of success. Certainly the last few years are unacceptable and we need to do a better job of what we’re doing at the major league level specifically,” he said. “I think if you look at the farm system — and many consider it to be the No. 1 farm system — you look at the youth on the major league roster, I think there are a lot of good things going on here and I hope that is a reflection of that. Maybe this promotion initially is a reflection of that, because there are a lot of good, hard-working scouts, front-office people, player-development staff that have been here for a long time that have been very successful.”
Hazel said he wasn’t sure what would happen after Dombrowski was brought in last month and Ben Cherington stepped down.
“You never know. These things go in many different directions,” Hazen said. “I didn’t know Dave very well at that point in time. And so at that point you just don’t know. You never know how he’s going to assess the situation. Thankfully for us, a lot of us, I think he’s come in and been open-minded to how the front office could be constructed and how, depending on what he needs, what he needs to make the best decisions. Thankfully for a lot of us he took his time through that. It’s been a month, I’ve had the opportunity to work with him now for a month. We just jumped right in on Day 1, just getting after it. Hopefully that connection was started then and has continued to now.”
Hazel pointed to the farm system as a point of pride for the Cherington staff, and something that undoubtedly impressed Dombrowski.
“I think there’s a lot of building blocks here that I think he’s come in and said, there’s [Xander] Bogaerts, [Mookie] Betts, [Blake] Swihart, [Christian] Vasquez, E-Rod [Eduardo Rodriguez], Henry Owens. There’s a lot of good things that have led to those players being on the major league team. There’s also a lot of really good prospects, some of the best in baseball, that are in our system that are also going to be fueling the next run of success. There’s a lot of work that’s gone into that,” Hazen said.
“Yes, we’ve made some poor decisions. I’ve been a part of those poor decisions at the major league level and I take responsibility for that, too. We’re going to have to make some adjustments with how we do things. But that’s why Dave is here. He’s going to help us make some of those adjustments. But again, I think there’s a lot of good work here. And I think in a reflection of that Dave has seen that.
“But again, you never know how these things are going. A month ago everybody in that front office thought the same thing, things could go in either direction. And thankfully they didn’t.”
Asked how close the Sox are to being competitive again, Hazen sounded an optimistic tone.
“I know I’m biased, but I think we’re right around the corner. I really do,” he said. “I think the way we’ve played. Pablo [Sandoval] and Hanley [Ramirez] and some of the stuff that’s been written a lot about these guys — these guys are good major league players. I think they’re going to bounce back. We’ve already seen [Rick] Porcello bounce back since the All-Star break. We’ve seen some of the younger guys really step up. Obviously, [David] Ortiz and [Dustin] Pedroia have had good years, great years in some cases for the them. The emergence really of Bogaerts and Betts, Swihart sitting in the middle of the lineup in a lot of cases, [Jackie] Bradley bouncing back, I think our outfield defensive alignment as you see it now, we’re saving runs on a nightly basis.
“There’s a lot of pieces that are coming together. Again, we have a lot more work to do. We have a lot more building to do in the offseason. But I still think it’s right around the corner.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.
On Cherington’s future: “I think he’s in a good place. I’ve been talking to him for a long time in the past month. I said it yesterday [at the press conference], I’m not in this position if it’s not for Ben Cherington. Nobody has helped develop me, mentor me more than Ben Cherington did. And that will always be the case for the rest of my life. Ben’s going to be able to pick his spots, in my opinion, whenever he wants to. I don’t think that time probably is now. But I think when you look at it, when you step back, life’s about timing. If you evaluated the John Lackey contract after Year 1, and now we’re talking about this guy leading us to the World Series in 2013. I believe that that’s going to be the way some of these play out. You can’t always just judge these things through the first six months of their deal. But look, the record is the record, and we all have to live with that. That’s part of the gig.
“Ben’s going to be fine. Ben’s one of the smartest, most engaging, human people that I’ve ever met. And people love working for him. Some other owner out there is going to recognize that and hire him.”
On the possibility of making a big move in the offseason: “It’s too hard to predict right now because we don’t know exactly how the free agent market is going to unfold or the trade market is going to unfold. But certainly starting pitching is an area that we’re going to be focused on, and pitching in general as we go off into the offseason.”
On Ramirez playing first base after struggling in left field: “Yes, I am [confident he can make the move]. He was a shortstop at the major league level for a long time. He knows how to field a ground ball. I think his hands work pretty well. Given his history at shortstop — yes, it’s a different technique, different footwork that goes on at first base that he’s going to have to figure out. But we have all the confidence that that’s going to happen.”
On which team he believes is best positioned for the postseason: “I still like Toronto. What those guys did at the deadline, I think those four guys in the middle of their lineup, along with Russell Martin and then David Price. That offense, I think in a lot of ways how it carried us. Even though I know they talk about October pitching. But you have to still be able to beat that pitching in October, too. I know the Blue Jays may be a little thin in other areas, but you’ve got David Price and you’ve got that offense. I’d probably I’d take them.”