A Choice, Not an Echo: The Case of John Farrell

The Boston Red Sox signed the top free agent on the market and acquired not one, but two back-end of the bullpen pieces to solidify the weakest part of the team. They also have the best offense in baseball, yet are currently in second place in their division. Dan Ennis lays out clear evidence that some in the media are sticking up for the team’s manager in the case of John Farrell, because it is in their best interest.

My “esteemed” colleague David R. McCullough here at sonsofsamhorn.com wrote a “nuanced” and “reasonable” piece about beleaguered Red Sox Manager John Farrell, the “third rail” for Red Sox fandom. In McCullough’s view, calls for Farrell’s firing are uninformed, since A) the manager isn’t all that important, and B) the manager’s job is much harder than it looks.

With all due respect, Mr. McCullough misses the point. The reasons to give Farrell his walking papers, to kick him to the curb, to ax him, to can him, to initiate his career transition, to cull him, to fumigate him, to downsize him, and/or to utterly sack him have less to do with the “manager’s skill set” (to use McCullough’s fancy phrase) and more to do with the fact that rank-and-file-salt-of-the-earth Red Sox fans are fed up with the Farrell Era. We are tired, Mr. McCullough, of experts.

John Farrell is the embodiment of the baseball establishment. He has spent his entire career in baseball, first as a player (eight years in the majors as a pitcher for the Indians, Angels, and Tigers), and then, after his playing days, becaming the ultimate baseball insider, working in player development in Cleveland, and then as a pitching coach in Boston, followed by a managerial stint in Toronto.

As a manager, he’s absolutely beholden to insider influences. He’s surrounded himself with other “baseball men” like Brian Butterfield (20 years as a major league coach) and Chili Davis (19 years as a major league baseball player). Farrell is one of those baseball elites we’ve had shoved down our throats for decades.

No more, I say! Farrell represents the kind of establishment thinking that led to the Red Sox finishing in last place in 2014 and 2015. Protected by his cronies (other “baseball lifers” who’ve never been in the real world), Farrell has risen easily through the various levels of baseball, and at each stop he has moved closer to the inner circle of the baseball establishment; by now he’s practically baseball royalty. How else does one survive two consecutive last place finishes? Elites don’t have to be accountable for their performance.

Farrell is an ensconced baseball lifer who always has a ready excuse for a last-place finish, and he has the baseball media backing him up. This very website used to be an insurgent, outsider voice, a place to go to learn baseball truths ignored by old-line media such as ESPN and heckledepot. Now this web-blog is part of the problem, parroting back conventional wisdom such as “Brad Ziegler is a submarine” and “Dustin Pedroia is playing stellar defense.”

The bankruptcy of such establishment ravings is obvious. Brad Ziegler is not a a submarine.  He is a human being, not a cigar-shaped naval vessel capable of underwater operation. Dustin Pedroia is not playing “stellar defense.” I play Stellar Defense on a private Chariots of the Gods DOS server and I’ve never seen Pedroia login, much less play. Curt Schilling plays Stellar Defense all the time (his handle is “wakeupsheeple”), but Pedroia hasn’t even downloaded the Stellar Defense installation files, much less created a handle or been assigned a starbase.

With sonsofsamhorn.com in his back pocket, Farrell has captured an elite opinion-leader dedicated to keeping the baseball status quo oh so quo. Notice Rick Rowand’s explanation of Farrell’s inexplicable return for the 2016 season:

With a team like the Red Sox, with this many young players, too much change could easily be detrimental to their continued development, especially if the coaching staff was completely turned over.

Hear that?  That’s one of the loudest voices in Red Sox media carrying water for The Man. When the team is too young, stick with a known mediocrity as manager. No doubt if this team was full of veterans we’d be told we need to stick with the “steady hand.” Catch-22, suckers. Either way, the establishment controls the levers of power.

Media elites like McCullough and Rowand preach patience and “stay the course” because they have everything to lose if the current MLB power structure collapses. The ecosystem of baseball men running baseball and baseball media figures reinforcing the conventional wisdom that baseball men should run baseball creates an iron ring around the national pastime. If that ring fails, what happens to the opulent lifestyle of this site’s most prominent writers? Far better that  inexplicable managerial decisions (such as those Farrell makes at least three times per inning) are papered over with dismissive non-explanations. As McCullough writes, “The job is far from easy – even if every 12-year-old in New England thinks they can evaluate the manager’s job performance.”

Even when sonsofsamhorn.com pretends to question the narrative it reinforces, it ensures that the circle remains unbroken. Over a year ago Brandon Magee presented a case for Farrell’s dismissal:

Are the Red Sox going to improve under the steady hand of John Farrell? The answer has been demonstrated on the field by a multitude of different ballplayers over the past two seasons. The answer is a resounding NO. A different voice is necessary. The failing Farrell must be let go.

Did Farrell go?  Of course not. Magee went. Since writing those words, Magee has been sentenced to the sonsofsamhorn gulag, writing piece after piece after piece on the minor leagues. Like a troubled prospect who can’t follow team rules, Magee was sent a message: deviate from the party line and you’ll be riding buses in the boondocks.

This is how the so-called experts work in lockstep with baseball insiders to promote the myth that the baseball man with impeccable baseball credentials should be left alone to do his baseball things, and anyone who questions this arrangement is either dismissed as a “12 year old” or subjected to the Hartford Yard Goats. The smart play is to buy into the same self-serving logic that defines the consensus. Those of us who are fed up are dismissed as “mad men,” “morons,” and “mischief-makers.”

So when will it end? Every day Farrell fills out the lineup card, and every night some mouthpiece explains why it isn’t his fault the Red Sox haven’t won a championship in more than two years. The experts tell us how Farrell is doing, asking us to ignore the evidence of our own eyes. When Farrell mis-manages the bullpen, we’re told how great he was in True Detective. When the team under Farrell’s “leadership” piles up losses thanks to mental mistakes, we’re told how Farrell’s work on “Happy” was top-notch. The experts will tell you you should listen to experts, then tell you that Farrell should be retained because…you guessed it, Farrell is some kind of baseball expert.

Enough is enough.

Dan Ennis has written about Alex Rodriguez and his milestones, a legendary fan, why the Red Sox win, sports media, and the original superfan.

Follow Dan on Twitter @DeanDanEnnis.

About Dan Ennis 17 Articles
Dan Ennis was born in Boston, grew up believing Jim Rice could hit a ball 600 feet, and now lives in South Carolina.

1 Comment

  1. fully agree. how can a former pitching coach have every one on staff ( except for mr. magic knuckleball, a pitch farrell has absolutely nothing to do with ) underperform ? why isn’t xander leading off, slip ortiz to the third spot and put the the guy with a lot of extra base hits ( mookie ) in the four spot, slide hanram down a spot and slide bradley up to the five hole? why is hanley batting fifth, for his ego’s sake? a good manager is able to coax strong performances from players, to provide inspiration and leadership even when the boat is sinking ( i.e. maddon, showalter ), not look like a stunned deer and repeat the exact same phrases every press conference. boring, mundane pedestrian folk rarely inspire motivation in a team chock full of individuals. i don’t even think farrell is human, i am convinced he is a robot, rigid, unflinching, barely blinks, unable to adapt to changing situations quickly enough. in baseball, to manage , you need a little intuition, you need to be socially adept to deal with the individual players, you need to understand statistics yet not be ruled by them.the red sox are doing ok, thank you chili davis for coaching some more life into some young bats. bring on luvello, ( yeah, i don’t know how to spell his name, but he looks like a guy you could just call tony ), he can’t be any less human, and he actually has produced results where mr stare-and-drool-out-predictable-quotes has consistently been lacking. the year they one with him, it was veterans who needed very little coaxing or coaching, he did not need to communicate much to lester, lackey, koji, napoli, drew,….. but the new guys……they need a manager who can adapt and communicate and inspire,…….farrell is one of the most uninspiring and unsurprising folks i have ever witnessed in a red sox managerial position. i mean girardi is no social butterfly either, but at least he’s a little more aware of how to manage a baseball team. i never liked this guy, even in his one shining moment of victory, i think casper the ghost had more influence on the team then he did. at least casper is approachable and……gasp…….seems to have a little…… humaness to him. farrell should go and retire with bill james and they can drool over their numbers of past accomplishments and let those who have enough innovation and motivation prove math secondary in the constant striving for victory in an unpredictable sport where failure is the rule that must be understood sufficiently if one is to try to whittle out success.

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