When Ben Cherington was effectively forced out from the Red Sox organization last August, the team was on its way to a second-straight last place finish in the AL East—and just two years removed from a World Series win.
He wasn’t fired, per se. Instead, the organization took advantage of the ballooning bureaucracy in MLB front offices to render him a general manager made obsolete, hiring Dave Dombrowski to serve above Cherington as the president of baseball operations.
“Although I didn’t leave under the circumstances I wanted to, I did have the benefit of some distance to look at it again,” Cherington told the Boston Globe in May. To get that distance, he stayed away from baseball for a full year. When the Globe spoke to him, he was wrapping up a semester as a guest lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, teaching a class on “Leadership and Personnel Management.”
At the time, he seemed cautiously wistful about his GM stint in Boston saying, “I don’t know that I can answer in a simple way what the job was like, but I’m definitely glad I did it.” Asked about his plans for the future, Cherington emphasized that if returned to the world of baseball, he wouldn’t get caught up in specific titles.
“There probably was a time in my career where I was aspiring to a title because at a certain point in your career, and if you have aspirations to be a GM, which I did, there are steps you have to do to get there,” he said. “There are titles that are of importance to some degree as you’re sort of building yourself to be prepared to be a GM and then be a GM. I was aspiring to that. I don’t feel that anymore.
Perhaps that zen approach to labels explains why now, after about a year away from baseball, he has accepted an offer to the join the Blue Jays as their vice president of baseball operations—a role which reports to the executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager, Ross Atkins.
It’s hard to judge through the thicket of title inflation, but it seems like Cherington accepted a job analogous to the position that Boston’s hiring of Dombrowski put him in—that is, with someone above him in baseball ops—which inspired him to leave the organization he’d worked for since 1999. But a statement put out by the team said that Cherington’s focus will be on player development, which makes sense considering he’s largely responsible for assembling the Boston team currently leading the division.
Perhaps this time around, the World Series ring—and the cushy professor job waiting in the wings—allowed Cherington to take his time, interview around, and find a likeminded boss.