John Farrell is starting to look a little like the “after” version of one of those “before-and-after” photo features in which we see how much the sitting president of the United States ages while in office.
Red Sox seasons last only six months, but they are like dog years for the man in the corner office and your handsome 51-year-old manager has that hound dog look these days.
Can you blame him? Farrell’s defending world championship ball club was resting in last place in the American League East when he arrived for work at Fenway Monday. By the time he went home, after a hideous 4-0 loss to Chicago, the Red Sox were a season-worst 11 games under .500.
Identifying the low point of this train wreck season has become a parlor game throughout New England: Was it getting swept in the doubleheader at home against the Rays back in May; losing three straight to Tito’s Tribe; the 16-9 beatdown at the hands of Theo’s Cubs last Wednesday; or was it Sunday when the Sox couldn’t finish in 12 innings after rallying from five runs down against the first-place Orioles?
In good times and bad, Farrell has managed the Red Sox without creating any brushfires. He has dealt with highly paid, sometimes selfish and excuse-making players, an aggressive media, loud fans, multiple voices of ownership, in-house stat geeks, and great expectations without making things worse. He has a world championship in his pocket.
But if things keep going the way they are going, the green walls of Fenway will start to close around Farrell. If the Red Sox fail to get back above .500 this season, Farrell will have managed four major league seasons (two in Toronto, two in Boston) with only one plus-.500 season on his résumé.
Adding to his burden is the honor/task of managing the American League team at next week’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis. This has become an unenviable chore for any skipper, especially when your highly touted, everything-is-awesome team (remember those spring hopes?) is sinking toward the deep end of the Atlantic.
Farrell had to finalize his All-Star roster Sunday. He had to sit down with David Ortiz and come to the conclusion that the Face of the Franchise is not going to the midsummer classic. He had to swallow the embarrassing notion that only one of his players (smilin’ Jon Lester) is on the 34-man All-Star team.
“It helped that we had a rainout and an off-day,’’ Farrell said with a sigh. “But it certainly didn’t take precedence over our team. A lot of it is handed to you when you’re putting the roster together . . . Unfortunately, you can’t make everyone happy.’’
The Sox are home for four games with the White Sox before heading to Houston and taking a break at this time next week. Tuesday’s match will be the Sox’ 90th game and still we wonder whether they are going to be buyers or sellers when the trading deadline comes at the end of this month. They have become prisoners of the inflated, artificial playoff system. The overrated second wild-card spot gives hope to almost every franchise and keeps you thinking that there is a chance when there is really no chance. The Sox are already going young (have they ever rushed players to the big leagues like this?), but they may get even younger after the break. Do you need to see any more from A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Drew, or Jake Peavy? What difference does it make if Shane Victorino (21 games) comes back this year?
Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington are still talking about 2014. Meanwhile, we hear only the sounds of silence from ownership. John, Tom, and Larry — always around for the trophy presentations, the White House visits, and those hard-hitting sessions on NESN — have been virtually invisible while the Sox have run off the rails at the beginning of our summer.
Wonder what the bosses are thinking about Lester? The ace lefty has been a champion of performance and comportment in his awkward free agent year, but as Mo Vaughn famously said in the 1990s, “the price goes up every day.’’ In the afterglow of the 2013 miracle (which grows more miraculous by the hour), it was easy for Sox ownership to wave goodbye to Jacoby Ellsbury and count on the support of the thankful Nation, but it’s going to be tougher to keep everybody calm if these Sox finish last and won’t pay Lester market value.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of Boston’s best starting pitchers . . . a word about John Lackey. He sounded ridiculous calling out Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz Saturday night. After cheatin’ Cruz crushed Lackey for three hits, including a homer and a double, Lackey said, “I’m not even going to comment on him. There’s things I would like to say but I’m not going to. You guys forget pretty conveniently about stuff.’’
Huh? No one has forgotten that Cruz was slapped with a 50-game suspension in the Biogenesis scandal last year, but Lackey seems to have forgotten everything about some of his past and present teammates.
Lackey won a World Series in 2002 on an Angels team that included steroid users Troy Glaus, Brendan Donnelly, and Scott Schoeneweis. Lackey earned another ring last year owed largely to the performance of Ortiz, who tested positive for PEDs in 2003. The Red Sox won World Series in 2004 and 2007 with Manny Ramirez (three positive tests that we know of) and Ortiz in the middle of the lineup.
Apprised of Lackey’s remarks, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, “Sometimes we need to check our own backyard before talking about someone else’s.’’
Amen to that. Things are bad enough around Fenway already. Lackey does his franchise and his teammates no favors by urging us to Remember the ’Roids on a night when he gives up three hits to Nelson Cruz.Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.