And so ends the John Farrell era in Boston. Whatever your opinion of him as a manager, let’s give him credit where credit is due. Under his tenure, the Red Sox clinched three division titles and won the 2013 World Series. You can’t take that away from him.
You also can’t take away a couple dead-last finishes, either.
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III
There seems to be some mixed emotions among Sox fans and the media about Farrell’s departure. Some say it was time to move on, and others are confused to see a manager who won the division get canned. Me? I have to agree with the former. Farrell needed to go.
And I don’t feel this way because of the ALDS. If anything, this series just sealed the deal on a belief I had for most of this season. John Farrell, while not a horrible manager, is not the right guy for the Sox at this stage.
I should point out, of course, that there were some questionable strategic decisions made in this recent series against Houston. But to elaborate on them would be to digress from the real reason why Farrell is not the best option moving forward. I think that he’s not the right fit for this team given the culture he has allowed to develop with this ball club over the last few months.
Take the Dennis Eckersley/David Price incident as an example. To recap for those who are unaware, NESN color commentator Dennis Eckersley (who has been a national treasure in the booth this year) made some mildly critical comments about a poor rehab start for the injured Eduardo Rodriguez during a live broadcast over the summer. David Price proceeded to call out Eckersley on the team plane following the game in an attempt to stand up for Rodriguez. In front of all his teammates and the Red Sox staff, Price taunted Eckersley for piling on players, being overly critical in the booth, and acting like the game of baseball was “so easy for him.”
Price felt comfortable enough to embarrass an MLB legend in the confines of the team plane, and then felt no obligation to apologize. As a fan, I couldn’t help but look at this behavior and question the type of culture that exists in the locker room. Seriously, how could something like that happen? I can’t imagine David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, or Dustin Pedroia pulling that kind of stunt under Terry Francona and having it go unchecked. I’m not saying this incident falls solely on Farrell, but it happened under his watch. When he had the chance to set things right, he failed to get Price to offer an apology. And Farrell didn’t offer one to Eckersley either, admitting so publicly. I’m not going to speculate as to why he sided with Price over management (perhaps it was an attempt to win over Price, or protect him from any more media scrutiny). But in doing so, he failed to make one of his players accountable for his actions.
Flash forward to this past week. The Red Sox are eliminated by Houston three games to one in a series that, were it not for an insane catch by Mookie Betts and a gift in right field from Houston’s Josh Reddick, would have likely ended in a sweep. Disappointing? Absolutely. But what frustrated me almost as much were the comments made by some of the players in the Red Sox clubhouse after Game 4. I caught some of the post-game interviews on NESN, and heard the typical “We just didn’t have it, they played better than us” stuff you’d expect to hear from guys. But squeezed in between those generic, routine comments were things like “We were right there with them… We battled… Only one or two pitches away… We almost won the series.” And these things came from the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts.
Save for parts of Game 3 and 4, I never got the feeling that this team was neck-and-neck with Houston. And I certainly don’t think the Red Sox came close to winning the series. They were outclassed beginning to end, highlighted by consecutive beatdowns in Games 1 and 2. Boston failed to play to their potential, showed a lack of focus at times, and more often than not, crumbled in crucial situations. I don’t get how any of the players could think the series was all that close, or that they were a few bounces away from winning it.
— Houston Sports Focus (@HouSportsFocus) October 9, 2017
Are these comments from the players horrendous? No. But like the Price fiasco, they speak to the culture in the clubhouse. Instead of owning the loss and generally poor play in the series, I got the vibe that the players didn’t really want to acknowledge any shortcomings. Instead, they focused on how well they kept pace with a superior team. To me, no matter how talented they are (which they most definitely ARE), I can’t see a team with this attitude getting over the hump come playoff time. What they need is a culture shock. And that starts with a new manager at the helm.
Like I said, Farrell is not a bad manager. He may very well go on to have success elsewhere. But he is not what is best for the team at this time. I think the Red Sox need a skipper who can relate to the players, but is also willing to challenge his players to be better. To set higher standards, and hold everyone accountable for their play on and off the field. Whether this is admitting you played terribly after a playoff loss, or admitting you made a mistake to embarrass the a broadcaster in front of the entire team and staff.
Now, replacing the manager is just one of many steps the Red Sox will need to take this offseason in order to compete for the division title again next year (this one just seemed like more of a “low-hanging fruit”). Included on this to-do list will be the acquisition of a power bat in left field and/or first base, more depth in the infield, and a reliable eighth-inning guy to pair with Craig Kimbrel to close out games. While all those things will impact how well the Red Sox perform on the field more directly, a new manager could be the catalyst that puts the Red Sox over the top come 2018. They need to find the person who can bring a strong, positive voice in the clubhouse and provide the leadership that has been strikingly absent since the departure of David Ortiz.
So I thank Farrell for his service here in Boston. After all, he managed this team to a World Series title (and that 2013 team was a hell of a lot of fun to watch). But all that was almost five years ago, and it’s time for a new direction. Apparently, Red Sox management feels the same way.