2017’s Boston Red Sox has been a strange team. The team is good in many areas. They have one of the best closers in baseball currently. They have future potential MVPs in Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts, however, somehow the team is not firing on all cylinders.
The Red Sox should have won the American League East after one of the Yankees slow streaks. Instead, the Yankees are still in the thick of the division. Some blame can go to the players. However, most of the blame has to go to John Farrell, the manager.
The Red Sox are four seasons removed from winning their third title in a 10-year span. The 2013 Red Sox were a great team. However, the magic can wane off and it seems, with the retirement of David Ortiz, it has. Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez have not brought the same flare to the team that Big Papi did. (Pedroia’s injury-ridden 2017 does not help the cause.) Some of the flare is missing, and in its place is some frustration. 2016 was a magical year for the Red Sox with the retirement of Ortiz and another trip to the postseason. 2017 has been something else.
Farrell was a great pitching coach. In his time in Toronto and Boston, he’s shown he can be a great manager. Then this year hit. Without all buttons firing like they were, problems in Farrell’s managing appear. A personal note is on how he uses his lefties. Fernando Abad is a LOOGY by trade, but every time he wants to mix and match with lefties, he immediately calls upon the unproven Robby Scott, who has velocity but not necessary the command Abad does. Full disclosure as a Yankees fan, it has been questionable to see him bring out an ineffective Scott over the known product in Abad against the Yankees.
Sticking to the bullpen for a minute, Farrell makes Girardi look like an old-school manager when it comes to mixing and matching. Several of the recent Red Sox/Yankees games have taken 3 ½ to 4 hours and more because of the numerous pitching changes to ineffective pitchers that Farrell has brought in. Stopping a bleeding bullpen is not easy, but man, it can turn into a drag when you are making three pitching changes to get three outs. Not all the blame on this should be on Farrell as his players should be pitching better. However, it does turn into a massive grind.
Twice now this season, John Farrell forgot key obvious rules in baseball. During the nationally-televised game between the Yankees/Red Sox on ESPN, Farrell tried to come back onto the field mid-at bat to make a pitching change. However, pitching coach Carl Willis had visited the mound the same at bat, meaning Farrell could not come out except for injury. National television embarrassed Farrell for forgetting a basic rule and the media wasted no time roasting him for it.
Next, on August 27, in a blowout loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the skipper somehow managed to get away with an illegal batter. The Red Sox put Mitch Moreland on the field to pitch, meaning the Red Sox would sacrifice their designated hitter. Moreland came to pitch while Hanley Ramirez took his position at first base, replacing the DH spot owned by Chris Young. However, in the bottom of the inning, when Ramirez’s spot came up, Young batted again. How the umpires, Orioles and Red Sox could miss an error like this is beyond paygrade. However, when trying to say whose fault this was, you have to go back to Farrell. He should have a lineup card in front of him with the updated lineup. He took responsibility for the goof-up post-game, but still.
Last week’s scandal, now known as “AppleGate”, seems to be the nail in the coffin for the job of John Farrell. When Red Sox writers are turning on the managers, it is a bad sign. His statement that he had no knowledge of what was going on with the trainers is an even worse sign. Farrell’s statement has two interpretations. Either a) Farrell was legitimately out of the loop or that he has lost some sense of control of his clubhouse when his players are using illegal ways to steal opposing teams’ signs; or b) he is basically lying to cover up his own involvement in such a scheme. Either way, it looks horrendous on the manager.
A final reason the Red Sox stand to get a new manager comes to their front office. Dave Dombrowski did not hire John Farrell, Ben Cherington did. While there has been nothing about disagreements between Farrell and Dombrowski, one figures at some point the latter will want someone of his picking that fits more his style than Farrell does. This one is rather miniscule compared to the other cases, but it is something to keep in mind.
The magic from the 2013 season vanished. In its place, John Farrell becomes a questionable manager in numerous ways this season. As a result, fans and the beat writers are frustrated. The team should have walked away with the division by now, given the roster construction. Instead, they have no guarantees of winning anything. No matter how deep they make it in the postseason, the Red Sox need a new manager in 2018, no questions asked.