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Nick Cafardo | on baseball

You have to give John Farrell credit for a good managing job

Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez waits to be relieved by manager John Farrell in the eighth inning Saturday.John Minchillo/Associated Press

CINCINNATI — One of these days John Farrell is going to get credit for something.

It’s never been easy being the Red Sox manager. When there is success, it’s because the team has such a large payroll. When there’s failure, it’s the manager’s fault.

You can ask anyone who’s held the job. There’s more second-guessing done in this region of the country than anywhere else. There are couch managers by the thousands who don’t have a clue concerning the issues Farrell faces on a daily basis about players, yet they still feel the bravado to pipe up.

With the final week of the season here it appears the Red Sox, who have a five-game lead with seven games to go, are on their way to another division title. That means Farrell will have won three division titles and one World Series in five seasons. He also had two last-place finishes while his young players were developing into major leaguers and while he was battling cancer.

Most places would take that. That manager would be fondly thought of, but not in Boston. Farrell has to fight for every attaboy.

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All you hear is: If the Red Sox do well, it’s in spite of Farrell. Some people think he makes one wrong decision after another, as if they’re sitting in his office and they know all of the things that go on on a daily basis, all of the little fires he has to put out, all of the medical situations he has to deal with. Even without any of that knowledge, his critics aren’t afraid to call him out for something they have little knowledge about.

He deserved criticism last season as the team spiraled out of control over the last six games of the season and that downward spiral contributed to getting swept in the Division Series against Cleveland. Well, here we are again, the final seven days, starting Monday against the Blue Jays and concluding with a four-game series against Houston, the team they’ll likely face in the playoffs.

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Look at the way the team has played all-out. A lot of comeback wins. A lot of extra-inning wins. The Red Sox were down, 4-1, in the eighth on getaway day Sunday after a nine-game trip and they came back to win, 5-4.

Nobody’s quitting. But don’t give the manager any credit, right?

Farrell has managed his bullpen about as well as any manager in the game.

This is probably the most important aspect of the team and Farrell has had a pen that ranked second in the majors. He’s reinvented it as he’s gone along and now incorporates David Price into a significant role. He has managed to keep Craig Kimbrel healthy, managing his appearances and innings, giving him rest when he needed it. He’s managed to keep Joe Kelly healthy (except for the knee injury he suffered). But at the end Kelly is still throwing 100 miles per hour.

This is a team that also lost two starting pitchers for much of the year. He lost Steven Wright right off the bat in spring training. And then he lost Price, his $31 million pitcher. He also lost Eduardo Rodriguez for six weeks and he had a poor season out of Rick Porcello. Yet, Sox pitching is ranked third in the majors.

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He’s managed injuries, navigating through team leader Dustin Pedroia’s knee problems, which have been a huge problem. When you lose your leader it’s always difficult, but he’s managed to keep Pedroia relevant.

His most powerful hitter, Hanley Ramirez, had bad shoulders all season and he hasn’t been able to be the effective power hitter the Red Sox needed. So Farrell’s had to mix and match at that first base/DH spot and has found a way to make it work.

He successfully introduced two rookies — left fielder Andrew Benintendi and third baseman Rafael Devers — into the starting lineup and managed their ups and downs.

It’s not often a contending team breaks in two rookies in the same year as main contributors in a pennant race. Farrell had the right touch of when to back off and when to give them rest.

Farrell was widely criticized for the manner in which he handled the Price/Dennis Eckersley situation, but how could he have done it any other way? If Farrell had come out and denounced Price for his bullying of Eckersley, he would have lost not only Price but the other players.

Price isn’t going anywhere. Because of his injuries he’s not going to opt out of his contract after next season. He’ll be a Red Sox likely for the full seven years of the contract. Farrell knows this.

Farrell may not win Manager of the Year in the American League, but he’s closer to that level than where the know-it-alls who call for his dismissal think he’s at.

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As the Sox were scoring four runs to take a 5-4 lead over the Reds in the eighth, showing incredible resiliency, Reds broadcaster Jeff Brantley said, “That’s the result of good managing.”


Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.