Re: What is Ben thinking....
posted at 12/23/2011 12:02 PM EST
When Cherington joined the Indians front office in 1998, Cleveland was amidst a run of five straight AL Central titles. That run was fueled by an extraordinary young core of players on the field and a group that could be described in similar terms in the front office.
The 1998 Indians featured seven current or future general managers. In addition to Cherington (assuming one counts his tenure as co-GM of the Sox), GM John Hart had a staff that included Mark Shapiro (now Indians president after a decade as GM), Dan O’Dowd (Rockies GM), Huntington, Byrnes (who went on to become Diamondbacks GM) and Paul DePodesta (former Dodgers GM).
That front office, as much as any, was responsible for changing the landscape of baseball operations. The profile of the traditional “baseball man” who had played and/or scouted before graduating to a front office was being challenged, with the Indians unleashing a wave of liberal arts-educated twentysomethings who were ready to rethink traditional forms of talent evaluation.
Cherington fit right into the mold. He was named video advance scout -- a role previously held by Byrnes and DePodesta -- in which he was solely responsible for breakdown of the opposing teams whom the Indians were preparing to face.
The hours were long, the work all-consuming but immensely rewarding.
“I still go back to that time as a pretty important and fundamental experience for me in my career. … In some ways it was the Moneyball theory looked at through a different lens,” Cherington recalled this spring (in this podcast). “It was finding undervalued assets, finding people who could make an impact on the team through good decisions, and finding them when they were young, finding them when they would work incredibly cheap, when they would work incredibly long hours, and putting them in an environment where they could learn enough about the game and where they would interact with the staff and scouts to eventually be in decision-making positions and impact the team.
“The year that I was there, a 100-hour week was a light week,” he added. “[The hourly pay] was embarrassing. I lucked out, because at the time, I had a friend from college who’d gotten a job from Nestle, which was based in Solon, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland.
“They used to own Stouffer’s and a bunch of other food brands. And he would give me supermarket coupons where you could literally go into the supermarket, and it wasn’t a discount, it was free. You could grab a Stouffer’s mac and cheese and it was free. So I would go to the supermarket once a week, haul out 50 boxes of Stouffer’s frozen foods, and that’s what I lived on for the summer. That, and I paid rent, and that was my life.”
Just as Byrnes and DePodesta had done before him, Cherington made a strong impression with his work. Though he was a one-man department in his video advance role, he connected to other parts of the Indians front office, producing strong work at the same time that he tried to absorb the rich opportunity that existed in the Cleveland front office.
“To see Ben interact first hand with a major league staff member, with a player, the general manager, the assistant farm director, the baseball operations assistant, in that role, he showed us very quickly that he had a good feel for what played, why it played and how it played at the major league level in his role as an advance scout,” said Huntington. “He showed an advance baseball feel at a young age, as well as a maturity and an intelligence beyond his years.
“Ben had the ability to impact an organization on both fronts, the subjective front and the objective front. Obviously the intelligence to understand, maybe not perform advance metrics, but to understand advance metrics. And then, having the baseball background -- despite not having played professionally -- to understand evaluation, development and projection. That’s what led him to a variety of roles in Boston.”