Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, during an appearance on the Mut & Merloni show, said that while former Brewers hitting coach and new Cubs manager Dale Sveum emerged as an early front-runner in the Sox' managerial search, he did not believe that in the end the former Sox third base coach would have represented the right fit for the Sox. Cherington suggested that experience did become a separating factor, to the point where Bobby Valentine (armed with 15 seasons of experience as a big league manager in the majors and seven more in Japan's NPB) was hired over Gene Lamont, a veteran of eight seasons as a manager with the White Sox and Pirates.
"I don’t think [Sveum would have been hired at the end of the process]," said Cherington. "I think the way this evolved, as we got deeper into the process, this was a learning experience for me. This was the first time I’ve run a managerial search process. I was involved in a much smaller way when we hired [Terry Francona], but this was the first time that I’ve engineered it.
"I learned a lot through the process. I think I did start out sort of thinking about it more in a theoretical sense. Who is the person who has sort of the theoretical qualities I’ve been looking for? As we got deeper into it, actually got into formal interviews, talked about X's and O's, we talked about what would you actually do in this situation and this situation, what would you do on May 15 when this happened -- those sorts of questions, the real questions -- it sort of came to light for me that experience really did matter in this particular situation, for this team, for this moment, given where we are.
"I did feel like we were going to be headed in that direction, and I think ultimately that’s why Gene and Bobby became the finalists."
Sveum became the first candidate to have a second round interview with Sox owners, a meeting that occurred during the GM/owners' meetings in Milwaukee last month. Shortly after that interview, Sveum was offered the job by the Cubs and accepted and a few days later, Valentine visited the Sox front office to interview for the job. On Thursday, Valentine became the 45th manager in Red Sox history.
A few other highlights of the interview:
Cubs compensation talks: Cherington said that the unresolved compensation talks with the Cubs for the departure of former Sox GM Theo Epstein has been treated as something other than a front-burner issue.
"It’s like cleaning the garage. You know it’s out there and you’ve got to do it, but you’re going to do everything else first," said Cherington. "It’s that thing that you know you have to do at some point, but you’re sort of working on other stuff."
Cherington also suggested that the matter doesn't seem like one that would require the attention of the Commissioner's Office.
"It doesn’t seem like it raises to the level of something that would be a huge concern for baseball," he said.
On Jonathan Papelbon's deal: Cherington said that it was clear enough that the Sox weren't going to match what the Phillies offered Jonathan Papelbon (four years, $50 million) that the closer never owed the team a phone call or an opportunity to match Philadelphia's contract, since the Sox were unlikely to do so.
On how Daniel Bard will fit into next year's team: Cherington said that Daniel Bard is ready to take on a larger role with the Sox, though it remains to be seen what that role is. He said that the right-hander is capable of becoming a starter based on physique, stuff, intelligence and the way he takes care of himself, but that it remained to be seen whether that would be something that the team pursued in 2012.
"I know whatever role he's in in 2012, it will be an important one and he'll be prepared for it," said Cherington.
On finding a closer: In terms of the closer for next year, Cherington suggested that the team was taking an open-minded approach, exploring candidates who were already in the organization as well as the free agent and trade markets.
"The thing about closers, there are very few that keep doing it at an elite level over a long, long period of time. There’s just very few Mariano Riveras and Trevor Hoffmans," said Cherington. "The key often times is finding a guy at the right part of his career where he’s getting ready to go on a run and do it. That’s our challenge moving forward.
"We feel like we have some internal options. We’ll continue to explore external options, both through trade and free agency. It is a position that sometimes evolves out of areas that you’re not expecting. The Cardinals went into the season with Ryan Franklin as closer. I’m not even sure he was in the ballpark when they won the World Series. ... But it’s important. We know that, for a team like this, as we go into the season, it’s important to have a closer defined. I’m not sure it’s important to have next week or two weeks from now."
On David Ortiz: The GM restated the team's desire to bring back DH David Ortiz, calling him a "remarkable guy" and "remarkable hitter." Cherington said the Sox will meet with his representatives at the winter meetings next week in Dallas, the continuation of ongoing talks with the club that recently included an offer of salary arbitration.
"When you [offer arbitration], it’s the most official example of our interest in bringing him back," said Cherington. "We do want him back. We want him on the team. He’s a force, still, in the lineup. He’s certainly meant a lot to the organization. ... We want him on the team. We’ll keep talking to him and try to bring him back."
For more highlights from the conversation, check the Full Count blog . To listen to the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page . For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox .