Red Sox: Can Farrell get some “Morgan Magic?”
Does Red Sox manager John Farrell need a dose of “Morgan Magic?”
Red Sox manager John Farrell has established a love-hate relationship with Red Sox fans and media. Nary has a day gone by when someone does not request his managerial head on a platter and toss in pitching coach Carl Willis to complete the task.
Few managers have longevity issues with one team. The Red Sox are certainly no exception as when problems surface with the performance it is far easier to fire the manager rather than 25 players. In some instances, the dismissal is completely justified and all one must do is point to 2012 and Bobby Valentine.
On July 14th, 1988 the ax fell courtesy of General Manager Lou Gorman on manager John McNamara, as third base coach Joe Morgan was appointed interim manager while a nationwide search took place to find new leadership. On July 15th – the following day after the McNamara departure – the Red Sox played a Twinight doubleheader and so began the odyssey of “Morgan Magic.”
"“6-2 and even.” – Joe Morgan"
Morgan was local, growing up in Walpole, Massachusetts and being a lifelong Red Sox fan. Morgan’s local roots went deeper as he attended Boston College, from where he received a BA in 1953. The prior year, Morgan signed a contract to play with the still then Boston Braves and eventually played for the Braves, but in Milwaukee.
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Morgan’s baseball career was one that was not unusual as he played for numerous minor league teams and five organizations. The Morgan stat line shows 88 MLB games and a .193 average, but that was just the beginning of Morgan’s baseball journey.
Morgan managed in the minors for years and a good portion of that was with the Pawtucket Red Sox before scouting for Boston and eventually becoming a coach – first, third and bullpen and never receiving an offer to manage a big league club.
The debut of manager Morgan I distinctly remember since he went to Roger Clemens in the first game of a twilight doubleheader and the result was the Royals being shutout 2-0. I left halfway through game two, but the Red Sox completed a sweep and that was just the start.
The Red Sox went 12 straight before finally losing at Texas, but then went on another tear of seven straight wins. The Red Sox then cooled off, dropping 10 of their next 15 games, but the pattern was set. Morgan was also no longer interim, but the manager of the Boston Red Sox. From nine games behind when he took the helm to the division championship.
Morgan finished the season with a 46-31 record and Johnny Mac checked in at 42-41 before his departure. The magic did not go over to the playoffs as the Red Sox lost four straight to Oakland and the season was over.
In 1989 the Red Sox sunk to third place with 83 wins, but 1990 they were back in first place on the last day of the season and into the playoffs. Once again, it was Oakland and once again history repeated itself and it was four and out for Boston. In 1991 Morgan was gone and Butch Hobson was in as manager and it was a bitter parting for Morgan. Was there internal strife? Had Morgan alienated management? There were situations with a star slugger and reportedly some issues with Clemens that I recall being regurgitated by the talking heads.
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One thing was sure and that is Morgan was a fan favorite. Often called “Turnpike Joe” such he drove a snow plow on the Mass Pike in the off-season. A manager who had a hardscrabble baseball life and didn’t care about a player’s salary or ego in his decision-making.
The Managerial noose may be tight around Farrell’s neck, but changes in leadership rarely spark such a turnaround as Morgan accomplished. Morgan’s style was certainly different from Farrell’s and Morgan’s game management skills I always admired. All those minor league seasons prepared Morgan – a former Manager of The Year in the International League – for about every conceivable game situation.
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What Farrell needs is a “Morgan Magic” type run to put some distance from the other teams in the American League East and put a damper on critics such as myself.