On Wednesday, the Red Sox fired John Farrell, ending years of speculation as to when his era as the top man in Boston’s clubhouse would end. This is a strange move, but at the same time an obvious one. It’s one that comes as a bit of a surprise, but at the same one we all expected to happen sooner or later. It’s a move for which the reasons are unclear (particularly with Dave Dombrowski refusing to share specific reasons for the move), but also one in which we all kind of know the reasons. The Red Sox couldn’t advance far enough in the postseason two years in a row with very talented teams, and an argument could be made that Farrell is not the guy to get the Red Sox over the top. (Of course, he did just that in 2013, so, ya know.) It also probably didn’t help that Dombrowski wasn’t the one to hire Farrell.
This post is not one in which the focus will be my opinion on the firing. There likely won’t be one of those posts, because I’m really not sure what my opinion is. Farrell always seemed like a guy who was never really rated properly by either side of the opinion fence. Those who disliked him took it to absurd extremes. Those who did like him tended to defend even the indefensible. It’s hard and boring to say a guy is just “meh,” but that’s what Farrell was in this role. He had some good moments and he had some bad moments, and in the end he probably deserved to stay. That being said, he wasn’t so good that I feel there was a major mistake made. A man lost his job, which always sucks, but beyond that this move in and of itself just doesn’t move the needle much one way or the other.
One thing I am more clear on is the message that the Red Sox are sending to both their team and any future managerial candidates. This is a message that comes not only from Dombrowski, but also from ownership. Essentially, it is telling people that being good is not good enough, and eventually you need to help the team get over the hump and become great. Furthermore, you need to be adept in navigating the tire fire that is the Boston media when things are going poorly. It’s not an easy job, but Farrell wasn’t the best at this and it cost him some key points in the court of public opinion. Finally, future managers now know it is nearly impossible to stay in this job for a long time, and things can sour quickly. This has been proven not only with Farrell, but also with Terry Francona before him.
What’s less clear about this message is whether or not it’s good or bad or if it will have any effect at all on a potential future manager wanting to take a job here. It could be a good thing, because as unfair as those expectations may seem to someone from the outside, people participating in baseball at the highest level could thrive on that. They got to where they are in the game because of their extreme competitiveness, and knowing that the expectations are deep runs in October could be seen as a boon, not a bust.
On the other hand, a lot of that message — the specifics of which I obviously made up but the general idea something I am confident in — could sound a little ridiculous. Baseball is a regular season sport, and Farrell’s Red Sox were incredibly successful in two straight regular seasons. That not being good enough could be intimidating. The media presence in this city could also be rough, particularly for a manager who is essentially going up against it by themselves.
In the end, I think the bad outweighs the good with how potential future managers view this job. Fortunately, I don’t think that matters all that much. This is such a unique job that anyone who wants to be a manager is basically required to jump at any chance that may be given to them. The Red Sox, as good or bad as the job may be, are one of just thirty managerial gigs in the world at the highest level. As I said, all of these candidates will be hyper-competitive and they want a chance at the pinnacle of their profession. They’ll take that job everywhere. Plus, message or no message, they will be leading a team in one of the most prestigious baseball cities in the country with a roster that is built to win now and built to win for a long time. The Red Sox managerial gig does not come without its flaws, and the expectations are almost absurdly high, but people are still going to want the job.