NEW YORK -- In his first season as general manager of the Red Sox, Ben Cherington watched the team finish in last place for the first time in 20 years while producing the worst winning percentage since 1965.
How hard was it?
"It's tough," Cherington said. "As I've said before, we're nowhere near where we want to be. On a personal level, I've been here 14 years, and we've had some highs and some lows, and this is certainly a low. I take it personally. We all take it personally, but as long as I'm here, I'll do whatever I possibly can to help restore the team to what our ownership and fans deserve. It's been hard -- hard on all of us."
The utter lack of success has only increased Cherington's focus to make sure it doesn't happen again.
"We've talked a lot about it," Cherington said. "We fell out of it earlier than we wanted to, so when that happens, you have to start looking forward and looking at potential opportunities in the offseason. So we've done that. We've done a lot of work. We'll continue to do that work. I've spent a lot of time with ownership the last few weeks, the better part of September, I guess, talking about that, looking at different opportunities and also looking critically at myself and the operation to see where we can improve. We've got a lot of work on that."
As far as Cherington is concerned, the work will be exhaustive.
"I'm confident that we will improve. It's not going to happen overnight. We've just got to get after it this offseason and start working on it," Cherington said.
The last three seasons, the Red Sox failed to make it to the postseason. Therefore, Cherington is reluctant to say what he projects for the 2013 team.
"I'm confident we're going to be better," Cherington said. "I'm confident we can do better. I think people are tired of hearing about how good we're going to be before the season starts. We've talked a lot about that the past several offseasons and it hasn't worked out that way.
"I'm confident we're going to be better. I'm confident that, in time, we're going to be very good. I don't know yet whether that's going to be April 2013 or beyond or when, but I know we'll be back. This team will be back. There are too many good people here, too much strength and support at the ownership level. I'm confident this team will be back. How long it takes, I don't know, but we'll be better next year than we were this year."
While no team in baseball had more injuries to key players than the Red Sox this season, Cherington knows he can't use that as a crutch in evaluating the season.
"The injuries were certainly part of it, but I don't think we're doing our jobs if we just assign blame for the season to injuries," said Cherington. "We've got to look a little deeper than that -- look first at our own decisions, at my decisions, what I did or did not do to help the team more. I've certainly done that.
"We've got to look at the players that are here and the guys we feel can perform better and why and how we can help them get back to the level they've been at before. The injuries are a part of it, but the injuries, for the most part, we've had some bad luck with injuries, but they've been mostly of the traumatic variety.
"And those things happen on the baseball field. As far as getting better, we really need to look more at the decisions we've made, and aside from that, the guys that were here and how we can help guys perform at their accustomed levels."