Around every corner — especially during the recent 10-game losing streak — there was second-guessing of John Farrell’s managerial moves.
Joe Fan may not have a clue what the 25 men on the roster might be going through on a particular day, but if somebody that person thinks should be in the lineup and isn’t, Farrell must be wrong.
If he changed the lineup every day and lost, it must be because he doesn’t have a set lineup. If he had a set lineup and the Red Sox continued to lose, it must be because he wasn’t trying enough alternatives.
Red Sox managers have gone through all sorts of trials and tribulations, from Don Zimmer to Butch Hobson to Grady Little to Bobby Valentine.
Terry Francona took his share of abuse as well, and he would often joke about some of the mail and comments he’d receive. And he won two World Series.
You have to be very tough to do the job and shut it out, and realize you’re the manager who won a championship. So thanks for all the advice, but Farrell is happy doing it his way.
Farrell didn’t take a stupid pill during the 10-game losing streak. He has tried many combinations based on matchups, and lately he’s thrown out the matchups when it comes to Jonny Gomes, a player he feels makes a difference with the energy he brings.
Farrell understands the manager is the easiest target. Except for the fact that this manager won the World Series seven months ago. While he’s not immune from criticism because of it, nothing changes in his thought process just because his team has played poorly.
Farrell hasn’t been pleased with how the season has started. But he decided he wasn’t going to call a team meeting or scream at his team to wake up.
He didn’t do those things because he saw effort. He saw players trying to work themselves out of a funk. He had individual meetings with players to gauge their frustration. But he decided in the end that they would come out of this by sticking to their work ethic and principles.
The fact is, Farrell wasn’t costing the Red Sox wins. It was the players. The Sox don’t have the talent they did last season. They have Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino on the disabled list, they lost key free agents, most of whom were good against righthanded pitching, which the Sox have struggled with all season.
The Red Sox put their eggs in the young player basket, with mixed results. Farrell has tried to be patient with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, realizing that they are his best options and they need to be nurtured.
Farrell believes Grady Sizemore can improve, that his legs will feel better once the warm weather comes. He believes once Stephen Drew arrives they will be better against righties, and the return of Napoli and will enhance what’s already an improving lineup.
Farrell loves what Brock Holt has brought, a lefthanded bat and energy. But he knows he doesn’t have a prototypical leadoff man, and may never have one this year. Drew has done it. Dustin Pedroia has done it. That guy who can create at the top of the order is vital. That could be Sizemore, in time. Or perhaps the Red Sox go out and get a speed guy such as Emilio Bonifacio from the Cubs to create havoc on the basepaths.
“When I looked around the clubhouse and when I saw the work ethic and the way they were approaching it, I never felt the need to tip over the food spread or throw things against the wall,” Farrell said. “We have leaders in here like David [Ortiz] and Dustin who are great at being able to gauge for us the mood in here. The important thing is to keep working and doing the things we feel are important as a team.”
This season has had its challenges. Nobody thought Clay Buchholz would struggle this much, going from the team’s best pitcher to its worst in a short time. Farrell knows pitching, and in part he was brought here to straighten out Jon Lester and Buchholz, and he did it last season.
Now he must do it again with Buchholz, who is on the DL with a hyperextended left knee. There may be no bigger role for Farrell than that.
He’s going to face other “managing” of personnel. He has to make sure he rests Ortiz enough and doesn’t allow him to have a minor injury or discomfort turn into something big. The one player they can’t lose is Ortiz, so he sat out Thursday’s game against the Braves with a barking calf.
Farrell needs to get Daniel Nava going at the plate. Nava was huge last season in the team philosophy of grinding out at-bats, hitting .303 with a .385 on-base percentage. On Wednesday night, he was pinch hit for by Ryan Lavarnway, not a good sign.
There’s the managing of Bogaerts. Everyone has noticed he has started to play a better shortstop since the team signed Drew. The Red Sox haven’t started getting Bogaerts used to playing third. Of course, they stand by their decision to sign Drew, who should add stability to the defense and another lefthanded bat to the lineup.
A more immediate challenge is having to go to their youth in the starting rotation. Brandon Workman is already manning a spot vacated by Felix Doubront. On Saturday, another youngster — Rubby De La Rosa — will be called upon to take Buchholz’s spot.
The Red Sox have touted their young pitchers, but are they ready to take up two spots in the rotation and give Boston a chance to win?
The 10-game skid wasn’t the first time Farrell struggled as a manager. He did plenty of it in Toronto.
“The personalities in this clubhouse are tried and true,” said Farrell. “They produced a World Series championship, so we all believe in each other and we believe if we stick to our way of doing things we can turn this around.”
Farrell is smart enough to know that keeping the clubhouse upbeat was easy last season. He also knows teams are always changing. Players come and go, and that can alter the chemistry overnight.
Farrell is up for the challenge. And he’s sticking to what he does best, setting the tone with positive reinforcement.