Red Sox Need To Examine John Farrell Objectively

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Before the Red Sox go crazy in trading players and doling a lucrative long-term contract on their main target to replace Bobby Valentine, John Farrell, they had better make sure that they know exactly what they’re getting. It’s not a matter of, “We’ll hire Farrell and everything will be okay.” That straw man is was erected under the supervision of those who went to the Josh Beckett school of “don’t blame me.” Valentine was part of the problem for the Red Sox this season, but only a small part. Hiring Farrell doesn’t repair the rotation; the bullpen; the pockmarked lineup; and the jockeying for power in the front office.

Because Farrell was popular amongst the players and media and an audible sigh of relief would be exhaled en masse if they hire him is another reason to hesitate. Giving the players, fans, and media what they want is one of the things the Red Sox intentionally got away from when they began rebuilding the organization as far back as Dan Duquette’s era. Considering their brattish behavior when it came to Valentine, the players lost all rights to dictate anything to the front office, let alone whom they wanted in the manager’s office. Many of the players who betrayed the “beloved” Terry Francona are gone; some remain and some undermined Valentine from the start. Now they want Farrell? And the front office is prepared to give them what they want and possibly trade players to do it?

The Red Sox had better look at Farrell objectively, not as a man but as a manager. He’d handle the media better than Valentine and the players wouldn’t overstep their bounds as they did with Valentine, but these are no longer the days in which the Red Sox had such an overwhelming array of talent that they were able to overcome controversies and dysfunction to win regardless of their issues. The team is not very good and Farrell’s managing isn’t much better. Strategic mishaps happen with every manager and they sometimes cost games; but sometimes the mistakes managers make wind up succeeding. I would say that the number of mistakes a manager makes over the course of a game are mitigated by an unknown pitcher having a great game; a hitter doing something he doesn’t normally do; or the opposing manager committing a worse gaffe. There’s a difference between a strategic and a fundamental error and I’m not talking about a shortstop booting a ground ball or the left fielder missing the cutoff man. I’m talking about a manager insisting, “This is the way we play,” when it diametrically opposes what they should be doing and what works.

The Blue Jays were mediocre in 2011 under Farrell, but they had an excuse because they were retooling the organization under GM Alex Anthopoulos. In 2012, they had expectations of playoff contention. Injuries have been proffered as an excuse as to why they’re currently 19 games under .500, but they were a .500 team before Jose Bautista, Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Drew Hutchison got hurt. They’ve gotten a career year from Edwin Encarnacion and are frequently cited as a team with plenty of prospects and money to spend in the upcoming off-season.

When the actual on-field improvement will come is anyone’s guess and a large chunk of their failures have stemmed from the managerial mishaps of Farrell. He allows his players to run wild on the basepaths, stealing bases—and getting thrown out—seemingly at will; they swing for home runs and are over-aggressive at the plate. In short, they don’t play the game correctly.

Last night, for example, the final result of the game looks to be an 11-4 Yankees blowout, but in the bottom of the eighth inning, the score was 9-4 when, with one out, Rajai Davis singled off of David Robertson. Anthony Gose came up, the count went to 2-0, and Gose swung at the next pitch grounding out to the first baseman.

The Blue Jays were down 5 runs with a pitcher who has the propensity to walk people and has been shaky of late, and Gose—a speed player who has shown occasional pop in the minors—swings at a 2-0 pitch. Why? Even if he’d achieved the best possible on-paper result and hit a home run, then what? The score would’ve been 9-6. And the likelihood of that happening, with Gose having hit 1 homer in 151 plate appearances in the big leagues this season, was nearly nonexistent. Had he gotten on base with Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus behind him, there was a chance that one of them would run into a pitch and hit it out of the park to get the Blue Jays back in the game. The proper baseball move was to tell Gose to take a strike. Is it possible that Farrell did that and Gose swung anyway? I suppose. But given the way the Blue Jays play with trying to hit home runs and overaggressiveness on the basepaths, and their overall underachievement, does Farrell deserve that benefit of the doubt?


It’s similar to him not deserving to be anointed the Red Sox manager just because he was a coach on the team when they were contending for World Series wins and that people like him. The Red Sox need to think long and hard before making a desperation move on Farrell because there’s a chance that he might actually make things worse.


Bard Gets Joba’d…Sort Of

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Say this for the Red Sox: Their handling of Daniel Bard has not followed the calamitous lead of the Yankees in their “development” of Joba Chamberlain as a starter.

Bard’s transition has been rocky, but he’s salvageable wherever they decide to put him long term.

They didn’t muck around with overt, public ambiguity of his role. They were reportedly debating on whether he should start or relieve and did in fact use him out of the bullpen as a set-up man for a game before sticking him back in the rotation but it didn’t degenerate into open organizational warfare between factions that wanted him as a starter versus those that wanted him as a reliever.

That happened with Chamberlain.

They didn’t limit him to some absurd set of floating rules designed to “protect” him but in reality contributed to his ruination.

That happened with Chamberlain.

They didn’t allow public demands and the media to interfere with what they were going to do.

That happened with Chamberlain.

Now the Red Sox have demoted Bard to try and straighten out his control problems.

On Sunday Bard had a horrific start against the Blue Jays in which he had no idea where the ball was going. He walked 6 and hit 2 in 1 2/3 innings. His 2 hit batsmen resulted in the Blue Jays’ Drew Hutchison hitting Kelly Shoppach and Kevin Youkilis.

The retaliation on the part of the Blue Jays was somewhat absurd. If Bard couldn’t throw the ball over the plate what made the Blue Jays think he’d have been able to hit them if he was aiming at them? How do you retaliate for the unintentional?

As for Bard, he’ll try to regain his release point and rebuild his confidence at Triple A. Contingent on the pending returns of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook, it’s possible that the Red Sox will put Bard back in the bullpen for the rest of the season.

I’ll guess that there was a debate as to what they should do with Bard with the same factions who didn’t want him to be a starter in the first place lobbying for him to move back to the bullpen on the big league level and the other side wanting him to continue starting in the minors. The problem with moving him back to the bullpen in the big leagues immediately as he’s having control problems is that it’s more damaging to have a reliever who can’t throw strikes—especially a set-up man—than it is to have him as a starter.

The Red Sox can’t make the mistake of taking Bard’s disappointment with the demotion and fan/media reaction into account when determining when to bring him back. They have to have a plan and adhere to it to try and get him back on track and then decide what role he’ll have at the big league level and then bring him back.

Anything other than that will be a repeat of what the Yankees did with Chamberlain and all they succeeded in doing was to take a Roger Clemens-level talent and turn him into a nondescript middle reliever whose reputation for shaking his fist after meaningless strikeouts and his leaguewide perception of being overrated are more prominent than anything he’s done on the mound.

Bard will be back with the Red Sox eventually. Whether it’s as a starter or reliever is the question and right now, I don’t think the Red Sox know. Nor does Bard.

He’ll be wondering at Pawtucket for the foreseeable future and it’s not the worst thing in the world.