The John Farrell Kool Aid had been a hit during the party known as the Boston Red Sox 2013 season. From a spring training filled with good vibes and cheery optimism through a steady and at times dominant regular season all the way through to the World Series, Farrell has been incapable of doing wrong. Whatever he says or does, we drink it up and ask for more please. The fan base is understandably excited to have a likeable guy in the dugout after the Bobby V experience. When fans give the guy a break, I get it. But the media? It’s been a lovefest from start to finish. Farrell has the local and national media eating out of his hand. The stark contrast between his easygoing approach and Bobby V’s abrasiveness is the driving force behind the adoration, but the on-field results backed everything up. This is a guy who knows what he’s doing. John Farrell can do no wrong and is not to be questioned.
A postseason’s worth of borderline decisions all came to a head last night, when the fans, media, and rest of the world finally found out that the John Farrell Kool Aid has gone sour.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’d have known for weeks that something like what happened in Game 3 of the World Series was imminent. No, not that questionable umpiring would lead to a controversial decision in the season’s biggest moment. We’ll leave that, and the perplexing strike zone of Dana DeMuth, alone for now. The Red Sox did not lose Game 3 because of a goofy obstruction call. They lost it because of John Farrell.
Often times he lacks a feel for the game, which manifests itself when he has no idea when to leave his starting pitcher in the game or take him out. Peavy, Buchholz, Lackey…it’s like Farrell still doesn’t know what he has in them, how they should be used, and what the situation calls for. The team acquired Jake Peavy for postseason play. Yes, he looked awful in the first inning last night. But he settled down and had a shot at giving his team a quality start.
Instead, Farrell took him out and replaced him with Felix Doubront. That looked to be a great move, as Doubront was dealing, until Farrell inexplicably pinch hit for him with two outs and nobody on base in the seventh. The odds of a pinch hitter, cold off the bench, starting a two out, bases empty rally were significantly lower than Doubront going back out to the mound and giving the Sox a couple more innings of relief. Farrell refused to give away an offensive out in return for strong pitching that could have lasted for another inning or two.
Okay, so we know what Farrell values: Not giving away an out under any circumstances. He was managing for the short term, manufacturing a run at any cost and dealing with his pitching situation later. At the time it made absolutely zero sense, but if that’s Farrell’s plan, let him do his thing.
Well, as he’s already said this postseason when covering up one of his mistakes, he reserves the right to change his mind. All of a sudden, in the ninth inning, it was no longer his plan. His plan then was to send Brandon Workman to the plate for his first career at bat, a guaranteed out, with only one one out. This move would normally signal that, especially with a short bullpen, he planned on Workman pitching multiple innings, likely the ninth and into extras.
How’d it turn out? Disastrously.
Farrell ended up pulling Workman after two batters in the ninth. Just to review, Farrell thought Doubront’s pitching excellence was worth throwing away for a pinch hitter in the seventh when there was a slim to none chance of starting a rally. Yet, he thought one out from Brandon Workman was worth leaving him in the game for? Not to mention, in the ninth inning, with one out and the top of the order up next?
Farrell’s incompetence cannot be understated. Say he pinch hits with Napoli. If Napoli reaches, you pinch run with Quinton Berry and hope that Ellsbury and Victorino can come through. Not only is that much more likely than the delusional rally Farrell envisioned happening in the seventh, but it made more sense in terms of what was needed at that specific time. Farrell managed two different games last night. First he managed one with Peavy and Doubront, which seemed like Farrell thought the game ends after seven innings. Then he managed a game with Workman and Uehara that seemed like Farrell thought the game goes 18 innings. Actually, then he participated in a third game, where he finally realized the game goes nine innings, only it was too late.
Farrell’s buffoonery ran amok last night, with the Doubront and Workman catastrophes being the most glaring examples. How about picking the worst possible time to bench Drew and toss Middlebrooks into the fire? Or leaving Salty in the game when he probably couldn’t hit in Single A Greenville? Have I mentioned yet how foolish Farrell looks that it took him so long to play Nava over Gomes? That alone tells you everything you need to know about John Farrell. He thinks he’s got a great feel for the game, when in reality, he’s just got a great feel for working the media.
Farrell is stellar when it comes to training pitchers and throughout the year proved himself adept at managing a pitching staff as a whole. He’s shown that clubhouse guidance and team chemistry are among his strong suits and that in the long haul, he absolutely has the personality to succeed. Once the first pitch is thrown, however, Farrell is overmatched and looks unfit to be making decisions on a major league field.
Any other manager would be getting rightfully raked through the coals today after what happened last night. Luckily for Farrell, he’s a media darling and is praised for admitting his mistakes. How a manager, in the most critical sports city in America, was given such a free pass is truly beyond me. This isn’t to say Farrell should be fired. That’d be overly reactive. This is to say that Farrell needs to drastically improve on his in-game management and take a crash course on situational decision-making. His moves with Doubront and Workman last night really made me question if he knows what he’s doing. That’s not a comment meant to be over the top, it’s just how little confidence I had in Farrell. The peanut gallery wasn’t second guessing. We were first guessing. Hell, it got to the point where we were pre-guessing because it became clear that Farrell would always push the wrong button.
After Game 1, it was looking like the Cardinals weren’t prepared to take on the Red Sox. Three short days later, the Red Sox are on their heels and may not be able to keep pace with the Cardinals. Heading in to Game 4, with Wainwright and Wacha looming next, Boston absolutely needs to win. As a Red Sox fan, I’m just hoping that John Farrell puts them in the best position to do so.