MINNEAPOLIS — John Farrell is articulate and has an imposing presence. That’s where he separates himself from most of his fellow managers.
But the Red Sox skipper is also morphing very much into the style of his longtime friend and mentor, Terry Francona.
The world could be crumbling around them but they will remain positive in public, they’ll never embarrass a player, and they always see the bright side of every negative situation.
That was Francona’s recipe for winning two championships in Boston. That was Farrell’s recipe for winning his title in 2013. And sitting in last place at the break, Farrell, who will manage the American League in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, hasn’t changed his approach. That’s not lost on his players.
“I’ve never seen John blow up,” said Jon Lester. “Even when he was a pitching coach. You see him blowing up at an umpire on the field, but I’ve never seen him confront one of us about anything. He learned a lot from Tito. He’s more of a ‘come into my office’ and talk to you and he’ll settle it that way. If you continue to [act out] there might be some consequences. I don’t think anyone’s gotten that far.
“I think there are times in games he gets mad when things don’t work out. He does a good job of holding that in. I think as a manager you have to do that. When you make a move and it doesn’t work, you can’t show your emotions too much. That can be displayed in the wrong way as far as showing up a player. I think he’s done a good job of that.”
That’s what the modern manager has to do.
Farrell certainly has referenced the Red Sox’ offense and the lack of ability to hit with runners in scoring position, but he’s always qualified it with the fact that the hitters are getting on base. He’ll reference the mislocation of a pitch but never call the pitcher out.
Francona’s and Farrell’s style is the preferred one by players over that of a Bobby Valentine, for example, who was blunt about player failures, which got him in trouble.
Farrell’s style and success is no surprise to Francona.
“I probably knew long before anybody that John was going to be whatever he wanted to be,” Francona said. “Whether it was a pitching coach or a GM, or a manager or a front office person. We knew we weren’t going to have him long as a pitching coach. He just has that skill set where he could do anything.”
Francona is certainly flattered when people say that Farrell took a lot of Francona’s traits and used them in a positive way. And Farrell thinks the world of Francona and his style of managing. He took the things that he saw Francona do so well and used them to his advantage.
It’s no surprise to Francona, the Indians manager who will serve as a coach on Farrell’s AL squad, that Farrell made the pitching coach-to-manager transition.
“I suppose people could say to me, ‘You don’t have that experience with pitchers, so how do you manage them?’ ” Francona said. “John wasn’t a positional player, but he learned how to manage them. That’s certainly not an issue. He won a World Series championship.”
Farrell has taken heat from the fan base this season. Whenever there’s a losing season, the general manager and manager get beaten to a pulp in Boston. The big thing for Farrell has been to shut out the cacophony and continue to manage as he sees fit.
“I don’t think John has done anything different than last year,” Lester said. “I think he’s the same manager. Last year was our year. I go back to the 2008 Rays and everything Joe Maddon did was right. You have years when you try to match it up and it doesn’t get executed. The moves he’s done are consistent with what he did last year. He does the lefty-righty switch with Jonny [Gomes] up to face a lefty there and uses [Mike] Carp against righties. He’s done the moves out of the bullpen the same way. He’s been very consistent.
“That’s all you can do as a manager. That’s all your players can ask of you is to be consistent with what you do.”
Farrell presented himself well before a national audience at the All-Star Game news conference Monday. He didn’t need a script. He didn’t need to do anything but articulate the reasons for his lineup and his choice for starting pitcher (Felix Hernandez).
Jose Bautista, who played for Farrell in Toronto, where things didn’t go so well, said of Farrell, “I really enjoyed playing for him. He treated people with respect. He respected the players and just tried to create a good atmosphere to work in. I think John always had our backs. That means a lot to players.”
So, sure, there are times when fans may want Farrell to throw his players under the bus, to tell it like we see it. When you’re in last place, things can’t be that great. But if he can get his team to believe that there’s still hope, why not carry out the positive mantra? What does that hurt?
The Red Sox entered the break winning four out of five games. They are 9½ games out in the AL East, in last place. Nobody is expecting miracles or a big run.
But the Red Sox do have three very good starting pitchers in Lester, John Lackey, and Clay Buchholz. They have a chance to win games after the break.
While managing the AL All-Star team could be Farrell’s last meaningful game of 2014, he doesn’t see it that way.
“We’re playing for 2014,” he said. “We’re not throwing out the white flag.”