Wednesday, October 24, 2012

John Farrell: Much Ado About Nothing

Something is rotten in the state of Fenway. It’s the idea that John Farrell can lead the Red Sox out of the mire and back to respectability. Larry Lucchino and Ben Cherington may have gotten the man they wanted, but Farrell’s hiring was a knee-jerk reaction that won’t pay off in the long run.

After the Bobby Valentine fiasco, Lucchino and Cherington wanted someone who had good clubhouse management skills. Farrell mentioned how he deals with players several times in his press conference. “If you treat the players like men, I believe it will come back to you tenfold. It won’t always be rosy; there will be tough conversations,” he said.

Toronto was not a rosy place these past two seasons. The team went 154-170 under Farrell and struggled to develop its young talent. The Blue Jays’ recently retired shortstop Omar Vizquel, a future hall of famer, harshly critiqued the atmosphere in the clubhouse."If you make mistakes and nobody says anything about it -- they just let it go -- we're going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again,” Vizquel told Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons in a late September interview. The shortstop also admonished the Toronto coaches for not communicating the mistakes to young players:

“I think a lot of mistakes were let go because it's young guys. You expect mistakes from young guys. It needs to be talked about. It shouldn't just be let go and say, 'Ah, we have another day.' You have to get on it.”

Although he never called out Farrell specifically, it’s doubtful that Vizquel meant for him to escape blame. Farrell responded with a comment saying that the team dealt with player issues internally.  

Vizquel later apologized, but this exchange should have been a red flag for Lucchino and Cherington. This was not an immature rookie going on a Twitter rant; it was a highly-respected, veteran calling out a coaching staff  that was not developing young players. The Red Sox need to have a player development-friendly organization. Will Middlebrooks had a promising rookie year will most likely be the starting third baseman next year. Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie was in a similar situation to Middlebrooks this past season and greatly underperformed. The Red Sox can’t let that happen to their third basemen of the future.    

The notion that Farrell’s connections to the Red Sox World Series teams will somehow lead to success is as ridiculous as an eight year anniversary parade. “Connections” don’t win ball games. Just ask the former Marlins manager, Ozzie Guillen. Guillen was the third base coach for the Marlins when they won the World Series in 2003 and said he was happy to be “home” when he was hired earlier this year. The team won 69 games, the same number as the Red Sox and Guillen is out of a job. Granted, Guillen is a controversial, but his connection with past glory did not do his team any good.

In his press conference, Farrell mentioned that constant change on a team can make it difficult to find success. He dealt with 107 different players over two years in Toronto. Boston fans should cringe at hearing that. Injuries are a part of the game, but good teams find a way to win. The Oakland Athletics were plagued with injuries all season, and yet they won AL West with a rotation that featured all rookies by the end of September. Farrell needs to be able to bring together a clubhouse that will probably feature some new faces next season.

This hiring reeked of sentimentality. Cherrington and Luchinno are patting themselves on the back. Good for them. It’s time they won something. Red Sox fans should remain skeptical. Management can laud Farrell’s “family ties” all it wants, but that doesn’t make up for his managerial deficiencies. Owner John Henry and his management team are extremely happy with this hire, but Red Sox fans are still miserable and Farrell provides few reasons for them to cheer up. Be warned, management. To quote Shakespeare once more,  “how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.”

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