Sports

Peter Abraham | Beat writer’s notebook

John Farrell needs to be tougher on Red Sox players

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 15: John Farrell #53 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after it was ruled that Andrelton Simmons #19 of the Atlanta Braves was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning at Fenway Park on June 15, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Red Sox manager John Farrell has tread too lightly with his underachieving team and needs to be tougher.

It was Feb. 18, 2013, a few days into spring training. John Farrell was in his first season as manager of the Red Sox.

Alfredo Aceves, who on his best days was a challenge to deal with, was lobbing pitches to the plate during live batting practice. Aceves was clearly testing Farrell’s authority, seeing what he could get away with.

One of the coaches went out to see Aceves but the speed of his pitches improved only marginally. When his session was over — in full view of fans and media — Farrell met Aceves as he walked off the mound.

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The conversation was one-sided and pointed. Farrell made it clear the team would be run his way.

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“There are 25 individuals on this team,” Farrell told reporters later that day. “There are certain things that are going to be accepted. If someone strays outside of that, it’s my job to make it clear on what’s expected.”

Where did that guy go?

Every player is different and it’s easier to go after a guy like Aceves than an established star under contract. But Farrell has tread too lightly with his underachieving team. His postgame comments, with only a few exceptions, have been tepid this season and the public perception of the Sox sinks every day. Fans see what happens on the field and don’t want the manager to sugarcoat it.

That wasn’t the Farrell we saw in 2013. What a manager says on the record counts, especially in tough times.

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Farrell has been a little tougher in recent days, especially on Hanley Ramirez. That’s a good sign.

A few other thoughts and observations on the Sox:

■ The Sox are 18th in baseball in OPS, 29th in earned run average and 19th in Defensive Runs Saved. This is, by any measurement, a team that does nothing well.

■ The Red Sox have to have an All-Star; those are the rules. Now here is the tough part: coming up with one.

Dustin Pedroia is far and away the best player they have. But the AL is loaded with second basemen and Kansas City fans trying to vote undeserving Omar Infante onto the team won’t help his cause.

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Xander Bogaerts deserves a spot and would be my choice to represent the Sox. Junichi Tazawa also should get a look.

■ The latest example of how badly the Red Sox have lost their way as an organization came on Monday night. With his team down 4-1 and trying to snap a long losing streak, Pablo Sandoval doubled to right field.

When he got to second base, Sandoval pumped his fist and was quick to yell over to Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons that he wanted the ball.

It was the 200th double of Sandoval’s career. To put that in some perspective, there are 933 players in big league history with 200 doubles. As milestones go, it’s a minor one.

Sandoval doubled again in the ninth inning, which gave him 1,000 career hits. Well done, that’s 1,000 more than most people. But 1,158 major leaguers have managed it including 93 active players.

Sandoval made sure to get that ball, too. Then after the game he took to social media to post video highlights of his accomplishment complete with logos and the hashtag #Pandamonium.

Misplaced priorities don’t get much clearer than that. Get the ball, sure. But make a little less display of celebrating a personal accomplishment in the middle of a losing streak.

■ The most disappointing part of Wade Miley challenging Farrell in the dugout during that game in Baltimore was that no Red Sox player stepped up to stop it. Think this team misses Jon Lester? He would have fed Miley his glove.

■ A quick way to improve the pitching staff: Call up Jackie Bradley Jr. and play him in center field every day. Put Mookie Betts in right field.

Since the season is over, at least find out if Bradley is a player. In the meantime he can track down all the rockets the pitchers give up and take balls in the gap Ramirez can’t get to.

Bradley is hitting .333 with a .902 OPS in Triple A. At this point, how it is not worth seeing whether he can do more than a replacement player like Alejando De Aza?

Farrell dismissed the idea of calling Bradley up the other day. It seems the Red Sox have given up on him.

■ Blake Swihart is hitting only .222 and has struck out 29 times in 108 at-bats. His being forced to skip Triple A will hopefully not hinder his development, because the Sox clearly have a player who can be at the core of their team for years. Swihart is a quick study defensively, throws the ball well and is one of the most athletic catchers in the game. Watch him run the bases some time.

■ It’s easy to see how Rusney Castillo could impress scouts in a workout setting. It would be interesting to find out how many times Red Sox scouts saw him play an actual game in person. Castillo is clearly talented but his understanding of the game is raw. That would be fine if he were 22. But he turns 28 in a few weeks.

■ Yoan Moncada is hitting .218 in low Single A Ball with 24 strikeouts in 78 at-bats and one home run. It’s early, he’s settling in, and he’s young. All true. But there must be some sleepless nights about that $63 million.

■ Farrell said on Monday the Red Sox would address the problem of their veteran players leaving it to rookies to speak to the media after losses. Farrell blamed it on timing, saying the players left before reporters arrived.

As excuses go, it was weak. When players want to be accountable and support teammates, they wait two minutes. It’s a character issue, not a timing issue.

Understand: this is not about being able to provide a pithy quote for the notebooks and cameras. This is about being responsible for your actions, acting professionally and setting the right tone.

It shouldn’t be up to the same players to speak for the entire team every time there’s a loss. The Sox have created a terrible climate for developing players like Bogaerts, Betts, Swihart and Eduardo Rodriguez.

■ Remember when the Marlins (29-37), Mariners (29-36), Padres (32-35), Red Sox (28-38) and White Sox (28-35) were among the big offseason winners?

■ Can the Red Sox strip their team down in July again this season? Given all the onerous contracts, the return might not be great unless they agree to pick up some of the money. Koji Uehara, for instance, has about $13 million left.

The 2012 Dodgers trade suggests nothing is impossible. But outside of maybe Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Mike Napoli, Alexi Ogando and maybe another spare part or two, the Red Sox don’t have much to offer. No team is taking Ramirez off their hands.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.