Red Sox managerial conundrum: Hold or fire?

Jul 3, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) celebrates with manager John Farrell (53) after defeating the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 3, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) celebrates with manager John Farrell (53) after defeating the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Red Sox manager John Farrell has a tenuous position as the team flounders and flourishes, but he may return from the road trip as a former manager.

Boston Red Sox management has reportedly given manager John Farrell a mulligan on this season, but that may change if the Red Sox continue to perform in some type of ill-fated baseball stupor. Invariably failure becomes the responsibility of the manager and that may certainly have an illogical connotation. Managers assume far too much blame for failure and far too much acclimation for success.

There are two areas that a manager must perform exceptionally well to continue his employment. The first is the unseen since it is the clubhouse and trying to maintain a civilized and social atmosphere among a diverse group of professionals with unique and probably over inflated assessments of their individual skills.

Grousing is a natural occurrence in any workplace environment, be it the assembly line at Rouge River, the corporate offices of a Fortune 100 company, or the locker room of a professional baseball team. The financial rewards present an exceptional incentive and players – especially those in the questionable spots on the roster – with  job security is always on the front burner.

The diverse workforce on a major league team forms natural cliques based on a variety of factors from star power to ethnic backgrounds to personality – some players are reticent by nature and others are extroverted and a parallel can be drawn to virtually any workplace. The player does have a more insular situation than most others since they are in close proximity to one another thanks to travel. No escape that a normal nine to five drone would have.

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The Red Sox apparently have a rather stable workplace since little if nothing has leaked out by “unnamed sources” regarding some type of internal strife or palace revolt against management. Manager Farrell does have his own version of lictors in his coaching staff and – of course – veteran players who can quietly within the confines of the locker room mention the right and wrong way to do things.

If any type of grade was to be issued for keeping a lid on rambunctious players then Farrell deserves an A. The respect factor appears intact for Farrell. The lines of communication appear mostly open and various shifts of personnel within the lineup and shifts regarding positions being played have had no negatives surface. Everyone puts on a happy face and readily accepts whatever may be offered without any petulant public display. Not one uniform has been mutilated on Farrell’s watch.

The second part of the managerial toolbox is the very visible game management. Just about every fan in Red Sox Nation feels they could make moves far more astute than Farrell. This is a natural happening that usually has a strong connection to hindsight.

What I have found most revealing is a daily ritual that now takes place after every game with special emphasis on losses and that is the beat reporters becoming inquisitors over managerial moves that simply seemed not only questionable but often bizarre.

A laundry list can certainly be provided by cruising through the game and post-game comments on any posting board. When I find myself making the “right” call within a game more frequently than the manager then something is terribly deficient.

To be quite blunt, Farrell has performed at a mediocre level in game management and that is where the rubber meets the road with fans and media – especially the baseball sophisticates that are part of Red Sox Nation. My ambivalence to the managerial situation has slowly shifted from the positive to the negative as I have been called to task on attempting to defend the indefensible for in-game moves.

Firing a manager can sometimes have a bounce impact as a team will be temporarily energized. I wrote about this a few weeks ago regarding Joe Morgan where the team went from stagnant to the playoffs. Last season Torey Lovullo took charge of the same cast of characters and they played over .500 ball.

A managerial switch is always a risky proposition and there are no guarantees it will cure whatever ails a team, but there is certainly a potential upside.  A new shift may be a new look at how things are done – just a minor change here and there that are incremental, but cause positives results.  Sometimes a new voice gets attention where the old voice may be tuned out no matter how much respect it has.

A shift in leadership to Lovullo would not be a dramatic change since he is the bench coach, has led the team before and is from within the organization. This is no Bobby Valentine coming in from the hinterlands to direct the squad.

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A manager cannot make the play for the players and each and everyone deserves some level of responsibility for accomplishing their assigned task, but, likewise a manager is supposed to put players in a position where they can best utilize their talents and succeed. I see this as an issue – simply placing or trying to place – a round baseball peg into a square hole. Or is it square peg in a round hole? Idioms always had a confusing impact on my brain pan.

Farrell had a spotty track record in Toronto and when the Red Sox traded Mike Aviles to Toronto for Farrell a few Toronto baseball friends snidely stated that Aviles would be a better option for the Jays as manager.

With the Red Sox Farrell’s first season was a spectacular success – if this was Broadway it would be “Hamilton” or “Book of Mormon” since it resulted in the ultimate being another flag to adorn Fenway Park. Then came the crash. A very, very big crash.

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Back-to-back has a nice connotation if it is a championship, but not the last place finish type. Ben Cherington has already been disposed of for the two failures and several questionable signings. Dave Dombrowski and Mike Hazen are now in charge of baseball operations and in my view, Farrell is on borrowed time. The current road trip may end with a new manager unless they win and win big.