The Runner Sports

Red Sox Relieve John Farrell Of Manager Duties

The hot and cold reign of John Farrell’s Boston Red Sox has come to a close. Wednesday morning, the team announced that the manager will not return next season, and the search for a new manager would begin immediately.

A polarizing figurehead in Boston, Farrell ends his tenure with the fourth most wins from a Red Sox manager (432), a World Series (2013), and three AL East titles (2013, 2016, & 2017) including back-to-back AL East titles for the first time in franchise history.

Unfortunately, the highs have been buried in the lows with Farrell at the helm, including two last-place finishes in 2014 and 2015, and back-to-back first-round exits from the postseason. The Red Sox have just one playoff win in the last two seasons despite ending both with 90+ victories, and were just 12-11 over Farrell’s five years in Boston.

To put into comparative perspective –albeit this situation had plenty of other things factoring into it than just performance– Terry Francona’s eight-year Boston layover came to an end after never finishing worse than 3rd in the division with their worst benchmark being 86 wins in that span. Nobody is safe in this town.

The bar is obviously set very high in Boston; a height unmatched by most of the rest of the sport. That said, any team that makes it to this point is typically disappointed in exiting so rapidly. But to what extent can that disappoint be reprimanded? It’s easy for teams to want to operate in a World Series or bust mentality, but the fact of the matter is an MLB season is a gruelling 162-game/seven-month grind, and only one team can win a World Series. And the Red Sox lost to a truly superior Houston Astros, you’re lying to yourself if you thought otherwise.

The Boston Red Sox are through and through built to win right now. The best of their farm system is in the flesh on the MLB roster; they’ve made expensive moves to bolster the top of their rotation with Chris Sale and David Price; and while they were no Indians or Yankees, largely had a trustworthy bullpen bookended by Craig Kimbrel.

In regards to the roster being built to win, the pressure to do so is particularly there because of their young core. Players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and even Andrew Benintendi to a degree, are entering the heyday of their careers and that often comes with expectations of winning as much as getting paid.

Betts, in particular, has already turned down long-term extension talks over the previous offseason, opting to remain “year to year” for the time being.

Most of the above youngsters will remain under team control until beyond 2020, but these are the years that define their willingness to remain with a franchise. Front office and management stability are no doubt a key contributing factor to a player’s willingness to sign long-term.

Red Sox president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, plunges his team into an offseason of uncertainty, one of which can have a ripple effect lasting years.

While it sounds like Dombrowski has a shortlist of names they’ll seek to speak to, it doesn’t sound like the replacement will be internal at this point, saying, “Most likely not,” when asked in the press conference Wednesday.

The Red Sox went from one of the top offenses in baseball to finishing 10th in runs scored (785) and 27th in HRs (168). Losing a guy like David Ortiz is not easy on your lineup. But that deficiency doesn’t fall on the manager, necessarily.

John Farrell often times felt like he had little to do in victory but was often too close to the spotlight in losses. A guy who chartered his managing career path as a pitching coach often struggled to juggle his bullpen and pitcher management. Just think back to the debacle that ruined Steven Wright’s season last year.

Two years ago the sentiment to get rid of him and hand things over to Torey Lovullo was very real. Amid a battle with cancer, it just wasn’t the right thing to do, and would have been the most damaging decision a front office could have made.

Two division titles later, Luvollo well into a prosperous tenure in Arizona, it seemed even despite a nearly repeated disappointment in October, it at least felt like Farrell had bought himself another year. Afterall, when comparing his accomplishments over the last few years, he’s been one of the best managers in baseball, even accounting the two last place finishes in the division.

Perhaps Farrell wasn’t quite garnering the response from his clubhouse he once did. His control has shown cracks over the last year, and while it never escalated to chicken and beer (yet reported, at least), it certainly seemed to be a growing factor in the team’s decision.

Red Sox managers are longshots to win Manager of the Year awards because with their payroll they’re “expected” to do well. Yet, when things go awry it’s often the skippers who take the heat. A bit of a catch-22 from the baseball media as a whole.

John Farrell likely doesn’t deserve this firing, but with high expectations come tense outcomes. The Red Sox have, largely, a roster that can compete for the next three seasons. Some minor tweaking can make them World Series contenders, and we’ll see if the manager (and possible ensuing coaching staff change) is the trick they were hoping for.

Tyler Arnold

Tyler Arnold

I am the editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I watch more sports than is probably determined healthy and enjoy talking about them all. I am a firm believer in there being a "dropped peanut surcharge" at the ballpark when it's a good throw. Thanks for the read.
Tyler Arnold
  • Griffin Fuller

    What do you think about Dombrowski essentially saying that it did not matter how well the Sox did in the postseason in regards to the decision to fire Farrell?

    • Clearly that they felt a new voice needed to resonate around the clubhouse. Who knows to the extent Dombrowski has let this toil away and for how long. Most guys don’t get fired for back-to-back division titles, there’s a strong chance DD wants ‘his’ guy in the dugout.