Red Sox John Farrell Is Not The Problem, Per Se

Apr 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) smiles in the dugout during the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) smiles in the dugout during the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Nobody should dispute that Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell has made some mistakes in his recent tenure. That doesn’t mean he’s at fault for this season.

The Red Sox, as of today, have eight wins and nine losses, making them 3.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East division. Nobody wants a losing record, even if it is only one game; however, does that mean that the skipper should lose his job? If the name is Farrell, then possibly. It’s also possible that maybe he’s being blamed for more than just his share of decisions on the field.

Remember folks: it’s not like the Red Sox are in last place after the first month of the season, like they were in 2015. They are actually in third place, in front of the Tampa Bay Rays and their archrivals the New York Yankees. If the fans are only judging Farrell on this season, then shouldn’t the Yankee fans want the head of Joe Girardi, too? Instead, Joe is considered a great coach who is getting the most out of his players for years, while John is considered the vile pestilence that needs to be weeded out of the Fenway garden.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe thinks that a move in the Red Sox managerial position is a bit premature, as well: “The Red Sox are as flawed as every other team in the American League East. There’s no runaway here. So if your expectations are that high, it’s understandable that you think a change of manager would be in order. But if you thought going in they were fair-to-middlin’, then yes it’s premature.” Cafardo believes that “what sticks out for the Red Sox are two consecutive last-place finishes. That’s why the angst.”

Torey Lovullo further complicates the situation. When Farrell had to leave the team for his cancer treatments, Lovullo was made to be the interim manager and seemed to have the players ears enough to start winning again. Granted that it was way too late by then, Lovullo was able to get some wins out of the team and leaving Red Sox fans to wonder if he was the real difference in the team or that they just finally found where their talents went in late 2015.

By moving back behind Farrell, who was ready to take back his duties for this season, Lovullo’s presence makes for Red Sox Nation to be jumpy at second-guessing everything that Farrell does from now on.

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It also doesn’t help that the way fans were reintroduced to having Farrell around the team was one of scandal and distraction. The issue involving the Red Sox reporter who may have

resigned from her post

for possible involvement in Farrell’s marriage breaking apart was a sensitive matter that was not needed at a sensitive time in the team’s attempt to put their own pieces back together for 2016.

The optics, on the surface, are certainly not good. Yet, none of those are specifically and directly to do with Farrell’s managing decisions, no matter how much that they indirectly influence the team. Farrell’s decisions off of the field or the assistant who remains on the team will not be as distracting to the players as the constant waves of questioning his role with them.

Did Farrell make Jake Peavy a 7-13 pitcher in 2014? The signs were already there that Peavy, as tough as he was, wasn’t the same pitcher that he was for the White Sox before coming to Boston during their 2013 championship run.

Did Farrell make the bats go quiet? In fact, the Red Sox are third in all of Major League Baseball in batting average (.273). They are also, as a team, in ninth place for runs batted in (78), ahead of every team in the American League other than the Texas Rangers. Boston has also scored the sixth most runs in 2016, crossing home plate 83 times. And, it’s not like they are just relying on the bats for their offense; the Red Sox are in fifth place in the majors for on-base percentage (.335), which is just behind the Orioles (.348). If people have a problem with Farrell, it can’t be because of the run support.

Did Farrell screw up the third base situation? Cafardo says it best: “Farrell can’t be blamed for Sandoval not missing a meal. Farrell also made the bold move to take his job away. Not sure a lot of managers would have exercised that power given Farrell’s standing, but he did it anyway.” To back up Cafardo’s opinion, it was Ben Cherington, not Farrell, who signed Sandoval through 2019 for $95 million to gorge himself at the dinner table and eat himself out of his belt, let alone out of his job.

Farrell cannot be seen as the culprit of Eduardo Rodriguez getting injured during spring training, who has yet to return to the team. It was not his fault that Cherington, the former general manager of the team, signed Rick Porcello to a huge contract just for him to flop throughout 2015 like a flounder bouncing on dry land. It is not Farrell’s fault that Joe Kelly hasn’t pitched like he did for the last eight games of last season because of another injury.

And, let’s also not forget that the entire starting outfield, the shortstop, the catcher, and some of the pitching staff are either recent-prospects-turned-starters or forgotten players of other teams who are just beginning to rediscover their talents. Talk about a rebuilding transition, Farrell is balancing the growth of these young men with the retirement year of future hall-of-famer David Ortiz, the questioning of how long second baseman Dustin Pedroia has before Yoan Moncada eventually takes his job, and keeping the faith in big-name acquisitions David Price and Craig Kimbrel as well as the 40-year-old Koji Uehara, not to mention Carson Smith not even throwing a pitch yet.

Arguably, the decisions that Farrell has had to make this season has been pretty spot-on.

Making Price the ace of the starting rotation was always a given, regardless of how he’s been lately; however, to choose Steven Wright, who has a 1.40 ERA in three starts, as the fifth starter was the best decision Farrell has made. He also put Junichi Tazawa as the seventh inning reliever, who has allowed only one run and two hits in seven innings, walking three while striking out nine opposing batters for a .087 opposing batting average.

The Hanley Ramirez decision has turned from the outfielding disaster of 2015 to a possible sign of brilliance at first base in 2016. Han-Ram has a perfect fielding percentage and has shown a great feel for the position, making incredible plays every couple of games that could be considered highlight-reel worthy. He only has a .265 batting average and he has drove in eight RBIs, compared to the amazing start that he had in 2015, but it seems that it will be more consistent with less opportunities to re-injure himself this season.

Red Sox Nation should remember that Boston is not in last place. If you wanted to blame Farrell for Porcello being 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA in 2015, then you must give Farrell responsibility for Porcello’s 3-0 start to this season, by that same logic. If you wanted to fire Farrell for Ramirez continuously injuring himself in left field, then you must want to hug Farrell for putting Hanley at first base, under that way of thinking.

The fact is that there is as much blame to spread around as there are things to cheer for when discussing the 2016 Red Sox. To focus on one person, like Farrell, to either punish or praise for the results of this early part of the season is premature to say the least. Farrell should not be put on a pedestal, but he should not be thrown to the lions either. It hasn’t even been 20 games yet.

The flowers haven’t bloomed fully yet. The birds are only just returning north. Why all of the hostility?

Yes, this is Boston, and nobody should be happy with losing, but you have to give people a chance. This is not the Red Sox of 2014 or 2015. Many of the players are different or are improving. You want to trade or release Sandoval for incompetency or Clay Buchholz for inconsistency? Then, discuss that with the current Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

Next: Red Sox Fall 8-3 To Astros To Tie The Series

Until there’s been enough games for a serious evaluation, Boston should be given a bit of a longer leash. After all, it’s not like they’re in last place like the last two years. You can’t expect a team to go from last place to first place in one year without, at least, a few speed bumps. What do you think this is, 2013?