One of the most important jobs of major league baseball managers is to keep players focused and motivated. Sometimes a team needs a wake-up call and a good old fashioned manager tirade can be the catalyst behind that wake-up call. On Sunday, the Boston Red Sox needed one, but didn’t receive it. Brandon Magee takes a look at John Farrell and the inexplicable decision not to argue.
Before the game starts, managers make a host of decisions, forming a lineup and a general plan for bullpen usage. But once the game starts, the number of influential interventions are minimal: Most pitching changes are rote, barely qualifying as decisions; in the American League the number of pinch-hitting decisions are minimal, and many of them are also no-brainers. However, every once in a while, a manager can intervene and influence a game, a personal decision that may change the course of the game.
In the fourth inning of the Boston Red Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, June 14th, John Farrell had a decision to make. The Red Sox, losers of five consecutive games had just given up the first run of the game. The Blue Jays had runners on first and second with no outs. Chris Colabello grounded a ball to Dustin Pedroia that should have ended in a double play. However, Edwin Encarnacion’s slide took out Xander Bogaerts who could not make the throw to first:
Encarnacion’s slide to take out Bogaerts is impressive. However, he cannot touch the bag based on where he slid. It was a clear case of base runner interference under Sec. 6.01(a)(6) of MLB’s official rules and both Encarnacion and Colabello should have been declared out.
Farrell initially makes the correct decision, coming out onto the field to discuss the issue with umpire Jeff Kellogg. Given the obvious interference on the play, Farrell should have only come off the field after one of two things happened: 1) The umpires held a conference and changed the call or, 2) The umpires threw him out of the game. Farrell inexplicably chose a third option, arguing for a bit and then walking off the field.
The Red Sox, floundering in last place and nine games under .500, needed something to get them going in a positive direction. Their record in games where they allow the first run to score has been abysmal at 9-28 entering play on Sunday. They’ve lost five straight games in increasingly unthinkable ways, losing 1-0 on a wild pitch, losing by 3 runs after leading 8-1, and coming back from four runs down only to lose in extra innings. The team has made a plethora of defensive errors that could be caused by lack of focus. The team has had innumerable team meetings as they attempt to right their season. They have dismissed a coach. They have played with the lineups and given veterans mental health days. Nothing has worked. If there ever was a time for Farrell to lose it, it was after this play.
Managerial tirades always have a time and place on the baseball diamond. A manager sometimes needs to show emotion to take the spotlight off the team, especially a struggling team. When a tirade happens on a play that should be overturned, it not only shows passion but also awareness.
There is no way of knowing what happens in the game if the call is changed. There is no way of knowing what happens in the game if Farrell is ejected. What is known is that the Blue Jays scored five more times in the fourth inning after Farrell left the field. And, the Red Sox ended up losing their sixth in a row by a score of 13-5.
Farrell walked meekly off the field after a polite discussion just as the team walked meekly off the field after yet another loss.