John Farrell is the Red Sox’ new manager.
This is a good move by the Sox. Today is the proverbial first day of the rest of their lives.
The lost season is officially over. The trainwreck of 2012 is still smoldering, but now the Sox can plow aside the rubble and begin to put the machine back on the rails. They have a manager. They have an adult in the corner office, someone who “knows how we do things around here,’’ to use a painful expression.
Hiring Farrell before the start of the 2012 World Series is a much-needed demonstration that the Sox are moving forward. Bengie “Molina” Cherington finally has acted decisively. And Larry Lucchino’s ego didn’t get in the way when it came time to part with good soldier Mike Aviles.
The only fair criticism of this move is the dog-and-pony show of bringing Tim Wallach, Brad Ausmus, Tony Pena, and DeMarlo Hale to town when the Sox knew they wanted Farrell all along. They were required to interview a minority candidate (baseball’s Rooney Rule) and Messrs. Pena and Hale fulfill that mission, but it’s unfortunate that four worthy men had to be used in such fashion.
They all probably knew what they were getting into, but it can’t be fun spending a day with Boston’s baseball ops commandos when you know the first and only choice was Farrell. Maybe the Sox needed the leverage with Toronto. Whatever. Wallach, Ausmus, Pena, and Hale are grown-ups and they will recover. Maybe they’ll benefit from the experience.
But I digress.
Back to Farrell.
Pitching coaches traditionally make poor managers. Farrell did not win in Toronto. It’s been popular in recent weeks to denigrate Farrell’s candidacy for the once-coveted position of Boston field manager. We’ve seen Farrell sarcastically painted as the “white knight”, with the cynical drumbeat of, “What’s so great about John Farrell? What did he ever win in Toronto?’’
Unfair. No one is saying that Farrell is Earl Weaver or Sparky Anderson. But there was no obvious, proven candidate available. Joe Torre and Jim Leyland were not walking through that door on Yawkey Way. It’s certainly possible that the Sox could have found gold in outside-the-box options such as Ausmus, Gabe Kapler, or Bill Mueller, but of the candidates available to the Sox, Farrell looks like a solid and safe option.
He knows the bosses. This is no small qualification at Fenway. Managing the Red Sox has become ridiculously difficult, in part because of the dysfunction of the ownership and front office. The manager of the Red Sox has to listen to the opinions of three owners — Jacko Henry, the distracted billionaire who sends the 3 a.m. e-mails wondering about your lineup; TV Tom Werner, ever-mindful of NESN ratings; and Angry Larry Lucchino, the smartest man in the room. The manager of the Red Sox also has to deal with Cherington and sidekick Ben O’Halloran in his office, before and after every game. The manager of the Red Sox also has to deal with missives from a kooky contrarian in Lawrence, Kan. — a man intent on the reinvention of the way we all think about baseball.
John Farrell knows all of these people. He worked with all of them for four years. And he rarely had a problem with any of it.
Farrell knows what makes Jon Lester tick. And Clay Buchholz. And John Lackey. And Daniel Bard. Perhaps Farrell can tell Lester to stop walking around like he’s done something good lately. Enough with the entitlement and snarliness. Perhaps Farrell can remind Buchholz to take care of himself and stay in shape. Perhaps Farrell can straighten out Bard, and bring out the best in Lackey. He knows these guys. He coached them when they were good. (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration with Lackey.)
Farrell knows Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Jacoby Ellsbury. He was with them when the Red Sox were champions.
He was Terry Francona’s teammate with the Cleveland Indians in 1988. From 2007-10, Farrell was Francona’s pitching coach in Boston. Everyone loved Farrell as pitching coach. He took time to learn Japanese when Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima came on board in 2007. He intimidated the likes of Buchholz and Lester. He was prepared, measured, and tough. The chicken and beer, remember, happened in the year after Farrell left.
Farrell always knew he wanted to manage here, but he never thought he’d have a chance. That’s why he took the Toronto job after the 2010 season. It looked like Francona was going to manage here forever.
Then came The Collapse. And The Firing. The Sox tried to get Farrell last autumn, but Toronto said no. And so we had Bobby V and the Goofball Tour of 2012.
Now Farrell is back. Unlike Bobby V, he knows his bosses. Unlike Bobby V, he’s got time to assemble his staff and his team.
There are still a lot of things wrong with the Red Sox. But let’s give John Farrell a shot.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has written a book with former Red Sox manager Terry Francona that will be published in January.