ARLINGTON, Texas — Red Sox players like their manager, but if they want him to be around for a long time they’d better start playing better.
John Farrell seems to be taking the heat for his underperforming millionaires on social media and talk shows. Who knows how ownership feels about it?
The tweeps and the callers, many of whom don’t always truly represent the true tenor of the region, blame him for the inconsistent performance of the team, which was exacerbated Saturday night when the Red Sox played what was probably their worst game of the season.
They stumbled and bumbled in the field while being unable to hit a rookie pitcher named Chi Chi Gonzalez, a first-round pick of the Rangers in 2013 who was making his major league debut.
Farrell never will make the mistake that Bobby Valentine made and call out one of his players like Valentine did with Kevin Youkilis early in the 2012 season. Even though it was true.
That ostensibly lost the team for Valentine, and Farrell can’t afford to lose a team that already seems lost between the white lines.
So he continued to tread carefully with his words, even though there were many players he could have called out.
“That was an ugly game,” Farrell said. “I thought we were tentative on defense and that contributed to that four-run inning [in the fourth]. Offensively, against a first-time starter, you don’t take anything away from him. You don’t take anything for granted. We got into some hitter’s counts and he had some action where he put some balls on the ground.
“Still, that was not a good display of baseball.”
Hanley Ramirez has the worst body language of any left fielder in baseball. He appears to have very little urgency. Rusney Castillo, a center fielder playing right, took a bad route to a ball that Robinson Chirinos crushed for a double off Wade Miley in that fourth. Brock Holt made a pair of errors at shortstop.
Farrell said he thought things were going to be better.
“Yes. Quite honestly, yes,” he said. “The personnel is here. We all have to accept all levels of accountability. We’ve got to play with the aggressiveness we’ve shown in games for stretches of time. But that has been extremely inconsistent. On any given night it’s been a different reason. It hasn’t performed to its capabilities.”
While frustrated, Farrell isn’t ready to blow his stack. But before and after the game there seemed to be a different look on Farrell’s face, different from his usual even-keeled visage.
“Not at a loss for anything,” Farrell said. “We have to continue to prepare. That’s the one thing we do have control over is for each and every guy to do what he’s capable of. We’ve got to turn this around.
“This isn’t something where you feel you’re at the end in terms of personnel, but this is something about looking at ourselves collectively and [playing] with greater consistency.”
Farrell has called team meetings. He’s had individual meetings with players. He’s tried to offer tangible examples to struggling players on how to get better.
“This isn’t about talking. It’s about going out and doing it,” Farrell said.
Gonzalez no-hit the Red Sox for five innings before David Ortiz, who returned to the lineup after a two-game respite, doubled to lead off the sixth.
The Red Sox, 8-0 losers with a capital “L,” were a comedy of errors. If that’s the manager’s fault, Farrell accepts the hit because he’s supposed to take that burden on.
Forget this notion that he should tip over tables and throw things in the clubhouse to get the players’ attention. No manager does that in this day and age.
If a player didn’t notice that Farrell was in a bad mood before and after the game, then he wasn’t paying attention. One of Farrell’s strong suits is that he’s calm.
But after the Red Sox dropped to 22-28, six games under .500 for the first time this season, that attribute was in doubt.
Miley deserved better, but the bottom line was he lasted four innings, allowing nine hits and five earned runs. If he’s the ace of the staff then, OMG, he has a 4.97 ERA.
You already can see that the bloom is off the rose regarding Farrell.
The tweeps are saying 2013 was a fluke, that the World Series championship was an aberration.
Most reasonable people know that winning a championship requires more than luck. It requires tremendous mental and physical toughness, some luck, good health, and the right chemistry.
Many of those traits are missing on this team.
What hasn’t changed is who is in charge. Farrell was good enough to press all the right buttons in 2013, and he’s managing games the same way. The results just aren’t there.
The coaching staff still is terrific, constantly working on ways to improve performance. But we can’t keep saying things will turn around with no tangible proof.
While Farrell could easily point to the fact that his team is still in the hunt — only 3½ games behind the first-place Yankees, who played in Oakland late Saturday night — he didn’t shy away from the fact that while every team in the division is mediocre, he has to turn around the fortunes of his own team.
Things always are more magnified and dramatic in Boston. Three World Series championships in the last 11 years likely have spoiled the majority of Red Sox Nation, which no longer feels the obligation to show patience. There is no good will built with a World Series championship just two years ago.
In their eyes, if he was a great manager then, he’s a lousy one now.
That comes with the territory around here.
But while Farrell might be bordering on an implosion, he’s trying to keep himself even-keeled. Because that’s who he is.