Buster Olney

Buster Olney on MFB: Ben Cherington 'going to have to make hard decisions' soon

May 13, 2015 - 9:30 am

ESPN's Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk Red Sox and other baseball news, as well as offer his thoughts on Deflategate. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page. The Red Sox continue to plod along, a few percentage points away from last place in the American League East 1 1/2 months into the season. General manager Ben Cherington has come under fire, and it doesn't help that the team has $17 million worth of outfielders in Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig playing in Pawtucket while the Sox offense struggles. "I'm sure that based on what we know about how ownership has gotten involved in the conversion with Ben in the last week, I'm sure that that type of question has been asked," Olney said. "I think probably what Ben has been doing is trying to maximize the value of all of his assets. In other words, he knew that in the winter if he traded Shane Victorino he was going to get pennies on the dollar. If you trade Allen Craig a week ago you'd get pennies on the dollar. So he kept everything in a holding pattern. And if the team was winning, then you could continue that. But I do think he is probably going to get smoked out a little bit in that strategy as long as the Red Sox continue to lag behind in the standings. "At some point he's going to have to make hard decisions about what to do with Victorino, about what to do with Allen Craig, about what to do with other parts of this team. The fact that there doesn't appear to be a dominant team in the division does buy them perhaps a little bit more time." Justin Masterson, signed as a free agent in the offseason, had another rough outing Tuesday night, giving up six runs in just 2 1/3 innings in a 9-2 loss to the Athletics. Afterward, manager John Farrell suggested something is physically wrong with the right-hander. "There's no question that Masterson's not right," Olney said. "Whether it's a physical issue or just an issue of performance, the Red Sox are going to have to answer that for themselves. But I can tell you -- and I think I told you guys in spring training -- when I talked with evaluators of other teams, they were a) surprised at the Red Sox' commitment to Masterson, the signing, and b) they wondered if he can get the ball down. I was looking at it this morning, his ground ball ratio is at a career low right now. . . . When you throw from that angle, and your whole thing is being able to generate ground balls, if he's not generating ground balls, he doesn't have a lot of use to them -- certainly not in a starting pitcher role. "Let's face it, with his ERA over six, with the team having the worst rotation ERA in baseball, with the ownership now involved and asking questions about what's going on, you've got to believe they're going to talk about either minor league options or maybe they'll be one of the teams that's aggressive in calling up Oakland and saying, 'Hey, you know what, what's it going to take to get Scott Kazmir?' Because he presumably is going to be one of the first guys on the move in the trade market this summer." Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox. On Pablo Sandoval's struggles hitting right-handed: "During the postseason last year, as the Giants are going through, and I was around that team every day, his struggles as a right-handed hitter were something that were on the front burner for the Giants. They were really concerned about it. I talked to scouts in the spring about him and they were even asking the question, 'You know what, he just doesn't look comfortable batting right-handed. Maybe it's reached the point where he needs to think about' -- as Victorino did, only batting right-handed -- they wondered if Sandoval would just be more comfortable just batting left-handed." On rumors of increased use of PED use in baseball: "It has spiked. Players have told me about knowing that you're not going to be tested on a getaway day, for example, when you're on the road. There are loopholes like that. There's more talk among players about therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone. ... Let's face it, during the Biogenesis case, on one one hand it was a victory for baseball because they rooted out Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz. But on the other hand it also revealed a weakness, because all those guys passed their drug tests. That means a lot of people knew how to beat the system." On MLB's reaction to Deflategate, warning umpires to be more careful protecting the balls before games: "You guys see during games [the balls are] in play for like one or two pitches, and then they're thrown out. So I don't think it's as big of a deal, but I do think baseball probably plowed in the wake of what they were seeing in the NFL." On his opinion of Deflategate: "My guess is that if Tom Brady had come out the day after the Super Bowl and just acknowledged that it had happened, I think he would have gotten like a game and maybe a fine. I've got to believe that a lot of it -- and this is certainly something that gained prominence within the dictum that came down the other day -- that a lot of this was based on the fact that there was obfuscation, obstruction, whatever word you want to use, non-cooperation from the Patriots. And it's a private business that sets up its own rules. And if you don't go along with the rules, like you guys or me in my job, that's where you're going to get hammered. And that's why I've been surprised the whole time at the way he's seemingly handled this."