Mike Shalin's Working Press: Farrell should stayBy MIKE SHALIN
October 10. 2017 8:23PM
That was the question that is dominating talk radio. Fire John Farrell?
The easy answer is yes.
But while the move may very well be made, that doesn’t mean it’s the right move.
It’s easy to look at two straight playoff failures and point to Farrell as a scapegoat who should be sent packing. And while Farrell has made his share of goofy mistakes, and while the Red Sox did indeed fail to come through in the playoffs, is it Farrell’s fault?
And how about this: I’m going to blame David Ortiz for both failures.
Now before you accuse this typist of drinking on the job, hear me out. This isn’t entirely crazy.
The Red Sox failed in the 2016 ALDS after the unfortunate series of events saying goodbye to Big Papi. It was at best a distraction and the regular season ended being more about Ortiz than the club. When Derek Jeter finished his playing career in 2014, there were no playoffs where the distractions had to be dealt with. With Ortiz, there was. The festivities wound up hurting the baseball team on the field.
OK, that was last year. In 2017, the blame again falls on Ortiz, who had the nerve to actually stay retired and then become a well-dressed TV guy. The Ortiz power was gone. The Ortiz effect on the pitches the other guys in the order saw was a factor in the power drop of the entire roster. The Ortiz power in the clubhouse was also gone.
None of it was replaced.
With the luxury tax hovering, Dave Dombrowski didn’t pick up what this team really needed as the deadline approached: a thumper. A guy like J.D. Martinez in the middle of the lineup. They used to say pitching wins at this time of year. Not anymore. It’s the long ball that allows you to overcome your tired arms failing in the postseason — and allows you to take advantage of the tired arms of your opponent.
The Red Sox got neither pitching nor power in going 1-6 in the two playoff series.
The starters were a mess in both series. The seven-game total was 23 earned runs in 25 innings, an 8.28 ERA and 10 home runs allowed. Chris Sale lasted through five innings, making him the iron man of these seven starts.
The Red Sox entered the playoffs with one pitcher — Doug Fister, an afterthought early in the season — as the only pitcher on the staff with a postseason victory as a starting pitcher.
The Red Sox hit eight homers, including Rafael Devers’ inside-the-park home run, in the seven games. The young bats were basically limp and not even Hanley Ramirez waking up was enough to help.
There was no Ortiz.
So, the 2016 Red Sox dealt with the Ortiz retirement and won the division. The 2017 Red Sox dealt with Ortiz not walking through that door and won the division, the first time the franchise ever won two divisions in a row.
So, looking at Farrell’s five years in Boston, he won the division and the World Series in 2013, so he has three division titles and a World Series title and two last-place finishes in his five years.
That deserves to get a guy fired? Mike Scioscia hasn’t won anything since 2002 and he’s not going anywhere.
As we noted before, Farrell does goofy things. He messed up the rule on what happens when your DH goes into the field. He tried to take a pitcher out with a second mound visit in the same at-bat. The thing with Addison Reed leaving the bullpen without a sign wasn’t Farrell’s fault, but it didn’t look good.
Is Farrell alone in all this? No way. I watched A.J. Hinch make enough mistakes in two days to send the series back to Houston for a Game 5. I watched Joe Girardi mess up that foul tip review and lose his team Game 2 of the series with the Indians. And how about Dusty Baker and his butchering of the game later in the day Monday?
Sparky Anderson used to downplay his role as the manager of the Big Red Machine, saying the manager might make a difference in 5-10 games per year. Perhaps that’s too simple, but the bottom line is winning and Farrell has done more winning than losing.
Now, will he get fired? Last year, Dombrowski was quick to announce the manager would be back for the final year of his contract and did it quickly. He did it as the players were packing to go home. Tuesday, nothing, the club saying Dombrowski and Farrell will meet the media at a future date. Is that a sign?
The fans seem to be screaming for his hide. They say the NESN ratings are down. They say people don’t LIKE this team, that attendance dropped some. It says here that’s all the Ortiz/absence effect again.
Farrell lost 2016 All-Star Steven Wright (remember him?) early in the season. He never really had the real David Price, who next year will, assuming he’s healthy, be pitching for the right to opt out (he won’t do it if he has a bad year, right?).
“Hard not to be optimistic about this team for a long time,” said Chris Sale.
He’s right, but work has to be done on this roster. Does Dombrowski open the checkbook and bring in an Eric Hosmer, a Martinez, even a Jay Bruce, via free agency? Does he talk to the Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton (do you want to trade Andrew Benintendi?) Is Rick Porcello, who has two years left at $21.125 million a year, tradeable? Remember, he was 22-4 in his Cy Young year but is 20-32 the two years around the Cy.
This is all Dombrowski territory — and ownership, of course. The Yankees arrived a year early and should only get better next year. If they can keep Greg Bird on the field, they have three thumpers who could total over 125 homers in 2018. The Red Sox don’t have that. Can Dombrowski change that?
And, does he change it WITH John Farrell or without him?
I don’t feel John Farrell should be fired.
I’m just not sure it won’t happen.
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.