What Does John Farrell Mean For The Boston Red Sox?

John Farrell was named the 46th manager in the history of the Boston Red Sox during a press conference at Fenway Park on October 23. Boston sent the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Mike Aviles in exchange for pitcher David Carpenter and the big prize, Farrell himself.

Boston’s willingness to give up a tried and true big league player for a manager hints at the subtle desperation surrounding Yawkey Way after the Bobby Valentine experiment fell flat on its face.

The Red Sox interviewed Tony Pena, Brad Ausmus, Tim Wallach and DeMaralo Hale  in addition to Farrell after firing Bobby Valentine in early October. But the Red Sox wanted Farrell all along.

Farrell means a new beginning for the Boston Red Sox—what kind of a new beginning still remains to be seen. All we can do is look at Farrell’s past and give our best educated prediction on what Farrell can do for a Boston team that has struggled mightily for over a year now.

It seems like yesterday (it practically was) when Red Sox fans were watching Valentine wax poetic about being the new Red Sox manager. It’s interesting to watch the highlights of Valentine being presented to the Boston media for the first time after watching Farrell’s press conference on Tuesday:

It may sound like hyperbole to say Valentine’s initial press conference was the highlight of Valentine’s tenure as Red Sox manager—but it comes pretty close to hitting the bull’s eye. When were things ever better for Valentine than the time before actual baseball was played?

Farrell is not as grandiose as Valentine. While Valentine, at times, seemed like Jack Nicholson’s version of The Joker, Farrell carries a certain John Wayne feel to himself. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but they sure as hell are different.

Valentine’s personality was not a good fit for a clubhouse already steeped in drama from the previous season (Re: Josh Beckett and fried chicken).

Farrell did address some of the clubhouse problems the Red Sox had last season. (per Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe):

“I firmly believe that there’s an amount of professionalism that every player that comes to the big leagues and certainly that would come to the Red Sox here would have. That guides their preparation, their motivation. But most importantly, because I’ve been here before, there will be no taking for granted that relationships exist. I will work my butt off to earn their trust, earn their respect, and create an environment in that clubhouse that is just that, it’s a trusting one. It’ll be a learning one and, yes, it’ll be a competitive one and hopefully a very successful one at the same time.”

The key line is, “I will work my butt off to earn their trust, earn their respect.” Perhaps without intending it,  he referenced Valentine. Valentine came in like gangbusters and ripped Kevin Youkilis, a respected veteran, in early April. It was all down hill from there. Valentine seemed to assume respect came with the title of ‘manager’ (and an argument can be made that it should) but it’s simply not the case.

Farrell comes to Boston with a working knowledge of the perks and downsides that come with being a manager in a pressure cooker of a city. He also comes with some immediate cache in Boston’s clubhouse.

Farrell was Boston’s pitching coach from 2007-2010. He had some nice success stories and some failures. To paraphrase Steve Silva of the Boston Globe here are some key bulletpoints:

Highlights:
• In 2007, Josh Beckett had his best season in Boston.
• Jon Lester finished first in the AL with a 3.87 ERA.
• The club’s 1,230 strikeouts in 2009 ranked second in the AL.
• In 2009, Lester went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA.
• In 2009 Clay Buchholz went had 17-7 record and a 2.33 ERA.

Lowlights:
• Josh Beckett went 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA in 2010.
• Jonathan Papelbon’s ERA rose to 3.90 in 2010.

But the highlights did indeed outshine any one failure on Farrell’s part. Lester, in particular, seems excited to have Farrell back in Boston.

While he did have success as Boston’s pitching coach, that success did not translate to wins when he took over as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 2011, the Blue Jays went 84-84 and finished fourth in the AL East. In 2012, the Blue Jays went 73-89 and finished fourth in the AL East. Those records don’t exactly inspire confidence, but we should also look at Terry Francona‘s managerial record before joining the Red Sox for some perspective:

Rk Year Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1997 Philadelphia Phillies NL 162 68 94 .420 5
2 1998 Philadelphia Phillies NL 162 75 87 .463 3
3 1999 Philadelphia Phillies NL 162 77 85 .475 3
4 2000 Philadelphia Phillies NL 162 65 97 .401 5
Philadelphia Phillies 648 285 363 .440 4.0
Boston Red Sox 1296 744 552 .574 2.3 2 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/24/2012.

In 2004, Francona’s first season with the Red Sox, they went 98-64 and the Red Sox won the World Series. The point is, we should not judge Farrell simply by his record with the Blue Jays. It would be ridiculous, for lack of a better word, to think Farrell can turn a last place team around in one season. It would also be unfair to think Farrell is simply the sum of his managerial record with Toronto.

What Farrell means for the Red Sox is a steadier hand in Boston’s clubhouse. It means Valentine’s dramatic personality will no longer be a distraction. Hopefully, for Red Sox fans, it means a focus back on the field and not on clubhouse drama.

While Farrell may be a better fit for Boston, he will never win if he does not have the right players. The Red Sox still need help at first base, outfield, shortstop, starting pitching and perhaps even a new closer. Farrell could indeed usher in an era of calm and communication in the Sox clubhouse but it won’t mean a thing if Cherington doesn’t get on the phone and plug the holes of a ship that sank almost immediately in 2012.

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