Is John Farrell the right man?

Why am I so skeptical of Farrell? Why am I hoping the team goes in a different direction?

Farrell and Victor Martinez in better days —’s Kelly O’Connor

As the Red Sox embark on yet another hunt for a new manager, the availability of John Farrell has come up yet again.

After a second straight disappointing season north of the border, the Red Sox are hoping that Toronto will be more willing to move on from Farrell as skipper than it was last season, when the Jays demanded Clay Buchholz in return for allowing Farrell to manager Boston. Amid a flagging team that won 85 games two seasons ago and dropped all the way to 73 this year, Toronto might be ready to make a change. That would sit just well with the Red Sox, as the front office has a love affair with Farrell and desperately wants him in the manager’s seat.

On the face of it, it’s easy to see why the Red Sox would want Farrell. He’s one of the smartest men in the game, with Cleveland president Mark Shapiro saying once that Farrell could be a manager or a GM of any team. His pedigree as pitching coach in Boston, turning around the staff and allowing Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester to emerge, is safe. He has the trust of the front office and the players, and would guide the team with a firmer hand than Terry Francona, while also working to keep things internal. It seems like a match made in heaven.

So why am I so skeptical of Farrell? Why am I hoping the team goes in a different direction?

A lot of it has to do with Farrell’s tenure in Toronto, but not all. For starters, the Blue Jays have clearly regressed. Is that Farrell’s fault, or is that an organizational issue? The minor leaguers that came up haven’t produced as expected, which might be more of an organizational failure, but how about the major leaguers who have regressed? What about the pitching, which looked like a burgeoning strength and is now almost at the drawing board phase again? There’s also the case of Omar Vizquel, baseball’s elder statesman that is retiring. Vizquel came out and said that the team was inexperienced and prone to making mistakes on the field with no accountability. Farrell refuted this, stating that Vizquel doesn’t really know what goes on behind closed doors or in practice with fundamentals, which Vizquel did not attend. Who’s right here? Probably a bit of both, but the fact that Vizquel had to come out and say this publicly certainly piqued my interest.

Farrell is the easy choice. The Red Sox know what they would get with him. Having experience skippering a team, Farrell might even be better once he gets a new slate in Boston with which to work with. He can apply his beliefs, learn from his experience in Toronto and come into a situation with the full backing of management and players who are fans of him. But things change quickly. Players can fall out of love with managers, management can suddenly find out that a skipper isn’t as impressive as he came off as.

I’ve chatted with a few different Red Sox fans who also expressed trepidation about the hiring, mostly for the reasons above.

Would it be better to bring in someone with new blood? A new way of looking at things, with a strong reputation? Managerial experience should be irrelevant here. How well does the person communicate with players? Will they guide the players with a firm hand and force players to be accountable? How does he handle conflict — does he air it out in the public, keep it internal, or a mixture of both? There is so much that goes into determining the worth of a manager, and Farrell has a leg up on the competition simply because Boston already knows him. But is that reason enough to exclude such talented candidates like Ryne Sandberg, the heir apparent in Philadelphia? How about Dave Martinez of the Rays, who somehow hasn’t been handed a job despite the success of the Rays and Martinez’s presence on the team? Or is following the trend of Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura the way to go by tabbing local boy Brad Ausmus or 2004 hero Bill Mueller?

Right now, it’s obvious the Red Sox aren’t particularly keen on anyone else beyond Farrell. That’s unfortunate, because I think the Red Sox have a real chance here to hire not just who they are most comfortable with, but who the best person is for the team — and the Sox desperately need an innovative thinker, not just the same old every time. Hey, Farrell could be that guy, I’m just not as sold on it as Boston seems to be. They need to go into the interview process with an open mind, to allow Farrell to be judged against his competition. And if someone else is a better fit, then hire that man.

Categories: Boston Red Sox John Farrell

Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

11 Responses to “Is John Farrell the right man?” Subscribe

  1. John P. Martin October 11, 2012 at 10:37 AM #

    I agree that there are questions surrounding Farrell, specifically based on Toronto's record over the last two years in Toronto. I also don't know enough about the situation to lay that at Farrell's feet. However, I think the choice of manager matters much less than addressing the talent on the field (the first order of business is determining whether Jon Lester and Clay Bucholz are the pitchers they have been the last season and a half, top flight pitchers simultaneously suffering through a temporary slide, or something in between. If the answer is either the first or last, the Red Sox need to put all of its efforts in obtaining a real ace pitcher. Perhaps not for 2013, but soon.). The fact that Farrell is the easiest choice would be the best reason to hire him — quiet the controversy and allow the team to focus on building a baseball team. The biggest problem with hiring Farrell is that expectations would likely be unreasonably high, magnifying every losing streak. I'm not sure that is reason enought to not hire him, though.

  2. Hunter Golden October 11, 2012 at 11:12 AM #

    Personally I just think this team needs a fresh start. New faces, overhauled system, etc. I feel like John Farrell is the Uncle Rico pick of the lot. Pretending to relive days gone by with hopes that his mere presence will bring them back. I don't see where he's functionally the best candidate.

    • evanbrunell October 11, 2012 at 1:02 PM #


  3. LJM October 11, 2012 at 11:44 AM #

    As a Jays fan my observations about Farrell is he seemed to let the guys like Lawrie, Rasmus and Escobar play aggressively, especially on the basepaths.Perhaps it's just perception and completely anecdotal but it seemed like Escobar in particular made huge errors that cost the club and were seemingly unpunished. I think he's very laissez faire which works if you have veteran leadership but on a young club is disastrous. Maybe his experience in Toronto with perhaps a rebuilding Red Sox team will lead him to adopt a slightly different philosophy. He deals very well with the media, a must for a Red Sox manager.

    • evanbrunell October 11, 2012 at 1:02 PM #

      LJM, thanks a lot for leaving this comment! I don't know if I think laissez faire is a good thing to abscribe to Farrell. Sure, it works better with a veteran team, but look how that turned out for Francona.

  4. frankthetank October 12, 2012 at 7:25 AM #

    douchebag column

    • ChipBuck October 12, 2012 at 5:52 PM #

      I think you mean douchebag commenter.

  5. ChipBuck October 12, 2012 at 5:55 PM #

    @Evan – I was initially onboard with a Farrell hiring. Now, I seem to be leaning more towards a Brad Ausmus or Dave Martinez hiring. I kinda think the Red Sox would be better served by completely moving on, rather than reaching back to the Francona era.

  6. Mr Punch October 14, 2012 at 9:04 PM #

    I don't think the Sox should hire a manager because they want him as pitching coach. (He'll probably be available for that role in a year anyway.) I don't think they should hire a manager under circumstances where he may not be able to bring his preferred coaches with him. Moreover, I think the track record of the Sox with pitching is not very good, to the point that if pitching is the focus, experience in the organization is not a plus. Farrell had a mixed record here, I'd say – people always cite the development of Buchholz, for example, but I don't think he was handled all that well.

    • gerry October 15, 2012 at 3:00 AM #

      Probably a mixed bag of success. We have seen a number of pitchers succeed like Lester and perhaps as many fail like Hansen. Who can know? The Red Sox of 2013-14 will include A LOT of the kids: Lava, WMB, Iggy, Ciri, Sands, Brentz, Bogaerts as well as pitchers like Doubront, Hernandez, DeLaRosa, Webby, Wilson, Wright etc. Add in the rehabs by Papi, PD, Bard, Lackey, Atchison and several new plus players and there are alot of moving parts needing, whoever gets the job, (and the pitching coach job) deft hands to pull it all together. This is a new team with a strong core and will need a strong and supportive manager who gets it. Ryno with Beyeler as bench coach??

  7. kyle October 15, 2012 at 9:53 AM #

    i think it would be extremely beneficial if the sox could pick up mike lowell as a coach becuase he has been in the game forever. not to mention his ability to handle the constant media attention. lowell was once the face of the red sox and i think we need to restore that void in the clubhouse.