After an abysmal 2012 season the Red Sox need to make a splash this winter, and they seem to be on the right track after hiring former pitching coach John Farrell to manage the team. Ever since Terry Francona left, a gaping hole was evident in the Sox’ clubhouse, and it’s hard to deny after watching the shenanigans leading to the disaster we witnessed. Bobby Valentine tried his best, but as he’s apt to do, he made a bad situation worse. As alienated and disinterested as the Sox seemed in September of 2011, they were even worse through the entire 2012 season. There is a great deal of dissent surrounding the signing, though; many claim that Farrell isn’t the ideal replacement to manage a team who suffered more losses than wins amid a rebuilding pool of talent. Looking at the situation from afar, though, you’ve got to admit that Farrell excels in at least one thing: not being Bobby Valentine, and that’s just what the Red Sox need.
On paper there is very little to suggest that Farrell was ever the right man for the job in Toronto. The Blue Jays were in a similar position as the Sox during the 2012 season; both teams had a good basis of blossoming talent, both teams were plagued by injuries, and both teams underperformed, as evidenced by the Pythagorean win-loss metric. During his tenure there as manager, Farrell has lead the Blue Jays on to a 154-170 record, good for a mark of just .475, albeit in the competitive East. With all that in mind, how could Farrell possibly help the Sox? The answer can be stated in one simple word: respect.
Over the past two years the Red Sox have become, for lack of a better word, a comedy show. John Farrell is a man who commands respect, and his presence in the Sox’ clubhouse is needed. As pitching coach he oversaw the development of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, who would both go on to throw no-hitters. He is fallible, like any other coach, but you cannot doubt the way he can lead his players and set an example. Leadership can’t be boiled down to a statistic, but you can bet the best minds in baseball are looking for ways. The Sox hired Valentine to shake things up and keep the players accountable, but all Valentine did was make the players resent him and ownership for pulling yet another publicity stunt. Valentine’s mistakes came down to breaking one cardinal sin of sports: you cannot, under any circumstances, be bigger than the team. Brining in Farrell will fix this attitude of superiority, with any luck, and turn the team around.
While the man in the dugout has little to do with the team’s performance on the field, many think it easier to win when you like the guy you’re playing for. Jon Lester displayed his excitement and approval over the signing with his tweet the other day: “Welcome back John!! Can’t wait to get back to work!!” Does it not bode well, Sox fans? Check the box scores. After Farrell left the Sox, they had a collective ERA of 4.20 in 2011, and 5.03 in 2012. In Farrell’s years as a pitching coach from 2006-2010 the Sox had a team ERA of 4.83, 3.87, 4.01, 4.35, and 4.10. Aside from his first year, which we’ll have to concede as a gap year in which the staff was getting used to his style, Farrell had a positive effect on the Sox pitching that has been sorely missed since he left. Though the Sox tried to bring him to Boston last year, they finally were able to convince the Jays to trade him, and the move could work well for both teams in the long-term.
The largest barrier preventing Farrell from joining the Sox was determining the compensation. Last year the terms from the Blue Jays were far too much for the Sox to agree with. This year however, all the Sox had to do was send Mike Aviles over to Toronto, and will they acquire RHP David Carpenter in return. Aviles played well for the Sox this year in his role, admittedly; he hit a modest .250 with 13 homeruns and played above average defense at short. His spot on the field will be missed, but it is not irreplaceable; the Sox have countless young infield prospects eager for a shot at the big leagues, including slick fielder Jose Iglesias. Carpenter, a former catcher turned pitcher, will be entering his third season in the majors at the age of 26. His K/9 ratio is great, but his BB/9 ratio leaves much to be desired. All his appearances have been as a relief pitcher, which could prove useful to the Sox’ sparse bullpen. Any production from Carpenter will prove a bonus, as it’s Farrell who could really shake things up for Boston.
At this time last year, the Sox humiliated themselves in the baseball world, Epstein left down for a dying franchise, and Francona was blacklisted by the owners. If the Sox want to turn a corner and leave the cellar of the AL East, now is the time to change. There was a lot of hype surrounding Valentine’s arrival to Boston, hopefully the hype surrounding Farrell- if there’s any- proves to be true and not more fluff. What have you got up your sleeves, John?
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