Red Sox: Is it time to consider a change in manager?

Apr 9, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) in the dugout prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) in the dugout prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

With a 21-20 record and four games out of first place in the American League East, could the Boston Red Sox be considering a replacement for manager John Farrell?

The Red Sox won their series finale with the Oakland Athletics 12-3 on Sunday which should be taken as a positive. Instead, it’s a reminder of the opportunity they wasted to make up ground in the division. They entered the four-game series in Oakland riding a two-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals – a first place team that was playing well. For many, this looked like an opportunity for the club to finally get on a run that it’s desperately needed.

Rather than roll into Oakland and capitalize on a four-game set with a last-place team, the Red Sox played three uninspiring games – save a few individual performances – before finally putting it together to save the final game of the series.

Hector Velazquez got the call up from AAA on Thursday and started his major league career by throwing batting practice to the A’s. He was rocked for six earned runs in five innings as the Red Sox lost 8-3. On Friday, the club wasted another gem from Chris Sale as he racked up 10+ strikeouts for the eighth consecutive start. They’re now 6-3 in games he’s started despite his 2.19 ERA and league-leading average of 7.1 innings per start. And then they lost 8-3 again on Saturday due in part to Drew Pomeranz’s four-inning, 97 pitch effort, and a bullpen implosion in the fifth inning.

Pomeranz then had the guts to argue with John Farrell’s decision to lift him prior to the fifth, which NESN cameras were able to pick up and display to the world.

This incident is a bad look all around. Pomeranz has no right to dispute his manager’s decision after he struggled through four innings and racked up a pitch count that high. In eight starts this season, he’s averaged just 4.2 innings pitched and hasn’t made it into the fifth since May 3. He’s the last guy in this rotation that has a right to fight for more time on the mound.

It also says a lot about the potential vibe the players have in regards to Farrell. These are grown men that have a vested interest in their own performance so it’s not a surprise to hear that they’ll argue with each other when it comes to their playing time. What is surprising is that Pomeranz was willing to display that publicly by standing up to his manager in the dugout. It’s something worth reading into, which Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe evidently has.

"With 120 games remaining, panic would be premature. But Farrell’s job security is growing increasingly tenuous with the Sox having lost 10 of 18 this month."

The #FireFarrell crowd is probably loving this, but Abraham’s right – with 120 games remaining, it’s too early to let panic set in. When things are going well for the Red Sox, Mookie Betts, or Chris Sale, or Craig Kimbrel get the credit – when they’re going poorly it’s because Farrell’s a bad manager. This isn’t a unique phenomenon in Boston, every manager in the majors faces similar circumstances, but it does seem heightened here.

While he does have to bear some of the responsibility, it’s not his fault that the team hasn’t had a competent third baseman all season. It’s not his fault that the back of the rotation has a combined 7.28 ERA. It’s not his fault that two of his three best relievers have been injured. And it’s certainly not his fault that David Ortiz isn’t in the lineup this season. For all the criticism he’s received this season, he’s gotten little credit for his advanced use of Kimbrel in high leverage situations and extended innings.

The truth is, firing Farrell wouldn’t change any of the problems the team is currently struggling through. He isn’t a black cloud in the locker room the way Bobby Valentine was in 2012 and there aren’t any better options on the open market. There isn’t a manager out there that will walk through that door and bring with him a competent third baseman, back of the rotation starter, and perennial silver slugger.

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On paper, this team is better than the way they’ve played and still have ample time to work their way back to the top of the division. If things really fall off, it could be time to make a change in leadership. For the time being though, the Red Sox need to find a way to win with what they have – and that includes John Farrell.