NEW YORK — Before Wednesday night’s nationally televised Red Sox-Yankees game, John Farrell, manager of the last-place Red Sox, was reminded that the game would determine if he had a winning or a losing record. Despite winning a World Series in Boston in 2013, Farrell’s four-year record as a big league manager was 312 wins and 312 losses.
Smiling at the mention of his symmetrical won-lost record, Farrell asked, “Is that good, bad, or indifferent? It means maybe I don’t have any impact at all.’’
He was kidding, folks. Farrell knows he has a large impact on the fortunes of his ballclub. And like all of you, he knows that 2013 was fantastic and that 2014 is a disaster. Though it’s widely held that the affable manager of the local nine has gotten a free pass in this worst-to-first-to-worst season, Farrell is eating his share of the blame pie.
“I’m certainly part of this,’’ said the manager. “There’s no way that all of us collectively can’t share in the good and the bad along the way. I’ve always viewed myself with higher standards, and higher expectations than others. I don’t feel good about this year and maybe that allows me to keep things in perspective on the opinions of others. I will always look to do better.’’
What is his short answer when folks ask, “What happened this year?’’
“Offensive inconsistencies were somewhat of a recurring theme,’’ he said. “I still have a hard time reconciling our on-base percentage and our runs scored. There’s a gap there that’s unnatural and very uncommon. That to me, it’s very puzzling. If you want to say our lineup could have been managed more readily, so be it. I hold steadfast that we created endless opportunities and that’s the basis for creating a high-scoring offense.’’
Sox fans traditionally loathe smallball, but Farrell sounds like a man who wishes he’d tried to manufacture offense more often than he did in 2014.
“The Red Sox have been consistent over time about their style of offense,’’ he said. “Trying to go with that, instead of looking to manufacture runs, maybe using the sacrifice more in certain spots . . . maybe we could have more readily clarified our offensive identity based on the roster. Maybe that could have been ironed out a little more clearly early on. Looking back, I probably would have employed the small game a little bit more in certain spots in the order. You want players to grow as they establish themselves. We had a station-to-station team. Based on our stolen base rate early in the season, the running game wasn’t as dynamic, and yet we didn’t have the depth to impact the baseball as much.’’
Did he see this awful season coming?
“Didn’t expect it,” he said. “We felt like this was going to be a team that would contend. We knew there were some questions to be had, but we didn’t see some of the overall performances as they turned out.’’
Did you, as an organization, overrate some of your guys?
“I can’t say we overrated or over-projected,” he said. “It might have been helpful to insulate some of them more. Go back to Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and look at the lineups they broke into. Those teams were very deep with a higher number of established players at every position. This year we had some injuries that impacted our outfield and shifted a lot of the offensive burden on guys that were in the beginning stages.’’
Have too many of these Sox players been rushed to the big leagues?
“I don’t feel like they’ve been forced,” he said. “I think one thing that can never be avoided is a transition period. You can have endless conversation on the best ways to transition a player. We’ve had different cases — whether it’s a young guy and play him every day like Jackie [Bradley Jr.] and Bogie [Xander Bogaerts] or a guy like Mookie [Betts] that’s come up three different times with breaks in between. Based on our roster, those young players were in the lineup daily and were counted on heavily.’’
Asked if there will be a place for all of the Sox’ good young players (Bradley, Bogaerts, Betts, Christian Vasquez, Brock Holt, etc.) next season, Farrell said, “Sure. Some might be Pawtucket. Some might be Boston.’’
And some might be in Miami or Philadelphia.
Watching ownership draw a hard line on Jon Lester’s contract talks could not have been easy for the pitching coach/manager who oversaw Lester’s development into a big league ace. What was it like to see Lester leave?
“In my mind it didn’t happen all at once,” Farrell said. “It was over a period of time and it got to a point of being somewhat inevitable. Jon and I would have conversations along the way and I found myself reflecting over ’07 to now and seeing how far he’s come as a person and as a pitcher and seeing all that he’s overcome and how he handled everything. No one could have handled this situation better than he did. It didn’t affect his performance and he was very genuine along the way.’’
Does a season like this take a personal toll?
“It dominates your life from the first day of spring training until the last out, and maybe that’s when you pick up your head and look around and say, ‘What’s going on?’ ” he said. “You’ve got to be all-in, jump in feet-first, and live it for all that you’re involved in here.’’
Looking forward, are you secure in your position as manager of the Red Sox?
“I know these are passing times,” Farrell said. “I’m very realistic and don’t take anything for granted. I love my job. Without a doubt. It will be times like this that will make the next deep run in October that much more rewarding.’’Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org