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Rosenthal: Some Red Sox Players Believe John Farrell Doesn't Stand Up For Them Enough

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The Fire Farrell crowd might finally be getting what they want, but they’re not actually going to get what they want.

What do I mean by that? If you’re a Red Sox fan who wants to see the team move on without their current manager, John Farrell, then it’s because A.) You think he’s doing a poor job as the team’s manager and is a detriment to the team, and B.) You think that firing the manager will create a fresher atmosphere that will result in winning more baseball games. Well, yes and no.

Should Farrell still be managing the Red Sox? In my opinion, no. And it’s not even because of their mediocre 22-21 record — I just don’t think he’s a good manager. In 2016, his biggest flaw was his in-game managing skills. Last fall, Dave Dombrowski told us that in-game managing wasn’t as important as other parts of the job description.

“I do not feel in-game strategy is the biggest thing as a manager,” Dombrowski said on Tuesday, hours after the Red Sox were swept from the American League Division Series by the Indians. “I think it’s important, but there are other things that are probably more important. To me, the most important thing for a manager is that their club plays up to their capabilities day-in, day-out, which means they’re communicating with their players and getting everything they can. That means their club is playing hard. In-game strategy, of course, is very important. But having been through this so much, and I’ve answered the question in the past here and I hope I’m not being too redundant, I think that’s what makes our game so interesting. A lot of people think they know more than the manager when it comes to strategy.”

Okay, so we’re not putting a huge emphasis on in-game managing, but we are putting a lot of stock in Farrell getting his team to “play up to their capabilities day-in, day-out,” which means Farrell is “communicating with his players and getting everything he can.” Question — are you seeing the Red Sox “play up to their capabilities day-in and day-out” so far this season? Uh, no. And do you think that Farrell is “communicating with his players and getting everything he can” from them?

That’s not really a question for you or me, but rather a question for someone who’s actually played for Farrell. Here’s a clip from my interview with Travis Shaw a couple of weeks ago:

“The communication wasn’t there.” Was that an isolated incident with just you? “I’ve heard other guys have had similar accounts.” Great, grand, wonderful.

By the way, I’ve heard from other guys that are on the team currently who have described their relationship with Farrell as being rocky at best, so the whole Shaw thing certainly wasn’t an isolated incident, and it wasn’t just a 2016 thing, either. That brings us to Ken Rosenthal’s report from today about Farrell, which he titled, “Trying times for John Farrell as Boston Red Sox manager”. In it, Rosenthal writes that Farrell could’ve been fired on Monday, “if the Red Sox had not avoided getting swept four straight in Oakland by winning the final game of the series.”

Just because they salvaged that series doesn’t mean that Farrell is all of a sudden safe. He’s not. Rosenthal writes, “It might come next week, if the Sox fail to ignite during a six-game homestand against the Rangers and Mariners,” but also acknowledges that it might never come if the Red Sox actually start “playing up to their capabilities day-in, day-out.” Whether the team gets it going or not, it sounds like the issue between Red Sox players and their manager goes beyond just what NESN cameras have captured this year AKA Dustin Pedroia saying, “It’s not me, it’s them,” while pointing behind him to the Red Sox dugout after Manny Machado got a fastball up by his head, and Farrell’s blowup with Drew Pomeranz in the dugout this past weekend.

Farrell, even when he won the 2013 World Series as a rookie manager, was not popular in all corners of the clubhouse. Some players, but not all, believe that he does not stand up for them strongly enough to the media when the team is struggling, sources say. Some also question Farrell’s game management, talk that exists in virtually every clubhouse, but some more than others.

The part about questioning Farrell’s in-game management doesn’t even have to be anonymously sourced. Shaw talked about that on the podcast, too, how he’d scratch his head when Farrell would pinch hit for him against lefties when he had a .975 OPS against lefties the year before, and it’s worth noting that he has an .899 OPS against lefties this year.

It doesn’t sound good for Farrell, whether the Red Sox start winning or not. It doesn’t appear as though he has many allies within his own clubhouse. So, if the Red Sox do decide to fire him, the main point is that the team is still going to have their fair share of problems. They’re still going to have a black hole at third base, David Price is still going to be battling back from an injury that could very well still result in season-ending surgery, they still don’t have Tyler Thornburg or Carson Smith back, David Ortiz still isn’t coming back, and the offense still has pitiful power numbers.

And the number one issue of all is, who would you even replace Farrell with? The guy that you paid a manager’s salary to in order to keep him in Boston last year, Torey Lovullo, is now gone. He’s in Arizona, managing the Dbacks to a 27-19 record, good for second place in the NL West. That was the guy. Any time I’ve talked to a player about Lovullo, they’ve RAVED about him. Literally, they cannot say enough good things about him.

The Red Sox come off as completely tone deaf through all of this. If you had anonymously polled the players in the clubhouse after the 2016 season, I’d bet the results would’ve borderline unanimously preferred Lovullo over Farrell as the team’s manager, but instead, they let Lovullo walk to Arizona, and picked up Farrell’s option year for 2018. Fucking bananas. Now, if they want to fire Farrell, they’d have to replace him on an interim basis because there’s certainly no slam dunk candidate just waiting to take a call from the Red Sox.

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Also, I question Dombrowski’s willingness to whack Farrell, because he’s smart enough to know that when Boston’s scapegoat is no longer in the picture, the fans and media will now look to him as the person who’s most responsible for the Red Sox’s season not living up to expectations.