John Farrell deserves a full season as manager of the Boston Red Sox. The rumblings are calling for a managerial sacrifice and Farrell just may not survive.
I have put away my tar and feathers, pitchfork and poison pen – at least temporarily – regarding manager John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox. My own against the grain and in reality 100% meaningless stay of execution on Farrell.
Manager Farrell is on the performance hot seat after back-to-back last-place finishes in the American League East. The new boss man – Dave Dombrowski – didn’t hire Farrell so that means a simple “Not his guy.” Ask Ben Cherington about how DD responds to dismal decisions and performance.
In Boston the plus .500 performance under the tutelage of bench coach Torey Lovullo put the onus on Farrell – the manager must go mantra circulated on talk shows, media sources and water cooler talk. The players simply responded to Torey – who was resigned as apparent manager in waiting. The baseball sword of Damocles is slowing etching towards another manager – Farrell.
"The great thing about baseball is that there’s a crisis every day. ~Gabe Paul"
The complexity of the clubhouse certainly would require a manager to have some skills most often found on someone labeled Dr. Phil. The diverse player personalities and complexities of being together for extended periods of time – often with someone hoping for your failure or injury so they can grab your job. Tension? You bet and don’t leave out the womenfolk – think Mrs. Brady and football.
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So the managerial skills set goes beyond reams of printouts, instincts, situational baseball and who is in a funk and drifts into the realm of Father Confessor, father figure, warden, Mr. Sympathy, counselor, social worker and a multitude of other facets to keep the baseball ship afloat. No doubt Farrell is certainly involved in the daily maintenance issues for petulant players.
"Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in. ~Casey Stengel"
This is all done under great scrutiny from fans, media and – of course – your own players. Judgment errors are not hidden. What happens in the clubhouse rarely stays in the clubhouse. This is not a bygone era of train travel and camaraderie between players and media – it is the TMZ age of the millennials. Boston is a microscopic place on the daily moves of the baseball franchise – both on and off the field.
The Red Sox clubhouse during Farrell’s tenure has been a rather serene place with little animosity surfacing. Farrell does present a physically intimidating presence as attested to by Clay Buchholz, who apparently has fear that an enraged Farrell could remove that useless 13 Million appendage of an arm in a blink.
With such a dismal track record one would expect internal issues among the high priced pampered millionaires to surface either directly of via the famed innuendo or as media types love to state – “A reliable internal source.” Sure. Right. But little has surfaced. Players – especially Pablo Sandoval – have taken full responsibility and ownership of their misdeeds. So internal strife apparently is minimal.
Enough articles have surfaced regarding Farrell’s position in the pantheon of managers in baseball. That Farrell just is inconsistent and incapable of maintaining a consistent performance and with the development of young players. But young players have suddenly taken root in Boston and done rather well. And with young players there is – especially in Boston – to consider every name on the top twenty prospect list to be a future HOF inductee.
Managers make bonehead moves. And the stupidity is there for all to see and can you say “Grady Little?” The reality is managerial moves are like umpiring calls and are overwhelmingly mundane and routine. But there is the fortuitous planning ahead and not making a panic move too early only to be left at the late inning altar without a bride. That is a separator for some managers who can instinctively and consistently plan on using the right players at the right spot or avoid a too early commitment.
Gamesmanship is crucial, but with gamesmanship comes the caveat that one must actually have the chess pieces to make the correct moves. Casey Stengel managed the Boston Braves for six seasons and accomplished a .432 winning percentage. When Stengel was hit by a cab in Boston and had to miss games, a local pundit wished to award the cab driver an MVP award.
Stengel also had no success with the Dodgers and the Mets were a disaster for three seasons. Yet “The Old Perfessor” has a plaque in the Hall of Fame that reads ten pennants and seven World Series titles with the Yankees. Push button manager? Farrell failed in Toronto and failed in Boston except for 2013 and now that raises the flag that has anomaly written on it. A one-year wonder?
Farrell makes decisions that make a baseball observer wonder if the manager has had a mini stroke. If a fan or media type manages along with the game and not hindsight – as I have done countless times – one will soon discover that errors in gamesmanship are not isolated to just the manager.
Terry Francona and Joe Torre both did amazing managerial performances in Boston and New York. Both managed to keep a lid on some of the more outrageous behaviors of their pampered millionaire players and walk through the media landmine with relative ease. Some players can’t play in Boston or New York and certainly some can’t manage in either city. Farrell certainly faced the inspection with the recent personal involvement with a former media representative and was not rattled.
To me, the key ingredient is does a manager put players in the best possible position for them and the team to succeed? That is where I have some real issues with Farrell and with many others who have managed in Boston. Are they asking a player to do something that cuts down on their ability to succeed?
"Managers are hired to be fired. – Unknown"
Quite naturally there are directives from above, but whose idea was it to place a player in a position he had never experienced. Just how much input is the manager allowed on trade and free agent decisions? This is a relative unknown and bits occasionally leak out. Was it Farrell’s decision to put Travis Shaw at third? If so – congratulations on a sane decision.
The Rusney Castillo and Blake Swihart moves – were they instituted by Farrell? Did he tell management – most notably Dave Dombrowski – these are my guys and I can win with them and thus have Brock Holt in left field and Christian Vazquez with the big club.
Managers must consult with baseball ops on player decisions, but to what extent is the final decision up to – in this case – Farrell? Or is Farrell merely given the pile of clay (I will avoid another word) and told to mold it?
If Farrell is the main motivator behind the recent flurry of moves and roster manipulation I give him a world of credit since it was obvious that what they had was not working or working as well as expected. The change was certainly needed and taken.
Farrell has a grace period for the next few months and apparently has a team he is relatively satisfied with, but it is also a work in progress and will be tweaked. Just how much of that tweaking is Farrell’s remains unknown. If Farrell suddenly has the baseball life span of a fruit fly, then it will be apparent this entire operation is DD’s.