It’s time for a change in Boston.
That’s not necessarily a great reason to fire a manager, especially a manager who’s finished first three out of his five seasons managing the Red Sox. But it’s going to have to suffice.
If you want to look a little bit deeper, John Farrell managed the team to two straight quick exits, with the first one being way more surprising than this one.
And if you want to go deeper still, word is filtering around the league that a good portion of the clubhouse didn’t love him, that by the end they didn’t think he’s a great communicator, or even a decent one.
Farrell should get a gold star, a gold watch and a thank you. If he does go, he leaves with a winning World Series ring from the first year in addition to the three division titles in five years (he finished last the other two years.). Farrell did a nice job overall, and should be a quality candidate for any job he applies for.
Red Sox people haven’t said anything about what their intentions are, so who knows? But others around the game would be a little bit surprised if he survived. While ownership is said to like him (though it seemed off a few years back when the report about him dating a Boston sportscaster showed up first in the Red Sox-owned Boston Globe, leading one player, then on another team, to tell me, “That’s it. He’s in trouble.”)
Turns out, if he was in trouble, he still survived another few years – at least.
Farrell’s a solid manager, of that there is no doubt. But he didn’t seem all that creative. He seemed to be outmanaged in that 2013 World Series by Mike Matheny, though ultimately the Red Sox won it — making it three titles in 12 seasons, the first two with Terry Francona at the helm. He was highly respected as a pitching guy. He never did much overtly wrong (and believe me, in Boston it would have been noticed). But he never captured anyone’s fancy like Francona (with perhaps one exception).
While ownership generally seemed to like him, Farrell’s popularity may not extend too far beyond that.
Red Sox president/GM Dave Dombrowski hasn’t really made his feelings known, but he did keep Farrell for two more years after he was hired late in the 2015 season. Dombrowski, who accompanies the team on the road more often than not, certainly has given it enough time to form an opinion, even if he hasn’t made it known.
Dombrowski must be aware of the feelings in the clubhouse, too. And he can’t be too thrilled to see his star-filled, high-priced club go 1-6 the last two years in the playoffs.
Last year’s playoff exit really hurt. It was David Ortiz’s final year, Boston looked better than Cleveland with two of the Indians’ top three starters out. Yet, it was a three-game wipeout.
This year, the first-round defeat was much more understandable. The Astros have a better lineup, and their August pickup of Justin Verlander meant their pitching was pretty close to Boston’s. The Astros were the fair favorite, and that’s the way it played out.
One issue going forward could be who to go to next. For all his great strengths, and there are many, Dombrowski doesn’t have a great track record of hiring managers. He has made two superb hires — which is probably about par for that course – and both times it was Jim Leyland. But Leyland is 73, and no surprise, he told me he is not interested in managing anywhere anymore. “Totally done,” he said in an interview this week. It’s not easy finding the right guy, especially for a tough town like Boston.
Torey Lovullo, who did an exemplary job in the second half of 2015 after Farrell was diagnosed with lymphoma, was the obvious guy, but he was wisely snapped up for the Diamondbacks by Mike Hazen, who had previously been the GM of Boston.
As luck would have it, the best first-year manager in the game, Lovullo, was in Boston, and very likely the best veteran manager, Francona, was in Boston. (He ain’t going anywhere by the way, he loves Cleveland.)
Following Francona even a year after he left – Bobby Valentine was in between the two — could not have been easy, but Farrell did fine. He actually did more than fine. But every manager, even good ones, have a shelf life, and his time should be up now.