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The Friday Fire Farrell Index: Ask for courage, not for victory!

Taking stock of a bad decision in a good week as we iron out the kinks in the newly named Danger Points system.

New York Mets v Boston Red Sox
You show ‘em, pal.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

First, my friends and enemies, a mea culpa. A perceptive reader suggested that the 1-11 scale of the inaugural Friday Fire Farrell Index was backward, and that a higher number should indicate a better chance Red Sox manager John Farrell is fired, not worse. My instinct to lash out aside, this is correct, and last week’s 8, indicating job strength, is now a 4, indicating job strength. I regret the error. It seems pretty obvious. This is where we’re at right now.

Welcome back to the Friday Fire Farrell Index, a weekly look at the relative chances Red Sox manager John Farrell is relieved of his job duties before the following week’s column is published. Why is that man smiling, in the photo above? He is smiling because things are still going pretty well for him, despite a somewhat conspicuous error last night.

Here are the recent numbers:

  • Red Sox record: 29-24
  • 2nd place in AL East, 3 games behind NYY
  • Last 7 days: 4-3
  • Last 10 games: 7-3
  • What we’re criticizing him for today, if anything: Kinda screwed up by leaving Eduardo Rodriguez in last night’s game after giving up three home runs, leading to a fourth
  • Validity of criticism: 9.5/11 (this scale also goes to 11).
  • Danger Points gained: 1

I like “Danger Points,” and we enter our analysis at a 5 Points (yes, they are proper nouns in full name and shorthand). That’s still pretty good, and this whole project had me thinking of how many games we can expect in any given seven-day stretch to reflect well or poorly on the manager, and how we’d mathematically account for them on the most basic making-it-up-as-we-go-along way.

Does the blame for last night’s loss ultimately fall on Rodriguez, who has historically done this from time to time, or on Farrell, who left him out there even after allowing Adam Jones’s homer in the sixth inning? It was Jonathan Schoop’s three-run blast later that same frame that put the game out of reach, and there’s a real argument, obviously, to be made that Rodriguez shouldn’t have faced him.

In this case, I think Farrell earned some of the blame. Rodriguez has stretched his leash this year, but I’m not sure it extends as far as Farrell let it out last night. I say this with the full benefit of hindsight, of course, but I think it’s a valid criticism. At least one other person in this mad world agrees:

It wasn’t a great decision, hence the loss of a point. One of the criticisms of last week’s column was “if Farrell's rating can go from 4 to 8 in a week, early in the season, with so many injuries, this isn't a useful index, it's just a weather vane,” which is both right and wrong. Yes, it’s a just weather vane. But weather vanes are, you know, useful for judging the prevailing conditions, which is the point, or one of them. It spins faster when things are generally out of control, the same way my pseudoscientific-at-best guess at Farrell’s job security could change rapidly following a seven-game winning streak or (more likely) losing streak.

I also said that the “Fire Farrell” argument is often one of convenience, and more often, one of overstatement, a proxy for “he did a bad thing.” To state the obvious, he’s in a no-win situation, at least until October. If Boston is good, it’s because of the players; if they lose, it can always be his fault. Deven Marrero can hit two homers in a game to help salvage a game in which Chris Sale gets blown up for the first time in his Red Sox career — the last thing you could blame Farrell for — but the manager doesn’t get any credit for turning Marrero into Babe Ruth overnight, nor should he.

My point then, as now, repeating myself for the fun of it, is that it’s important to be fair in maintaining the same standards for praise and criticism. If Farrell deserves some criticism for leaving Rodriguez in too long last night, he deserves praise for both helping develop E-Rod and leaving him in previous games that ended with better results. Similarly, if Farrell can’t earn chits for Marrero’s power surge, he can’t earn demerits when Marrero flails at the plate, which he will.

The whole point of this exercise is to expose the double-standard at work here and to have fun with it. It’s not about defending Farrell’s honor, because I don’t care. It’s being honestly critical of his body of work in light of the simple and ultimately unfair truth that a manager is only ever as good as a team’s record. It doesn’t get much deeper than that, and in this world, the difference between a 3-4 week and a 4-3 week is the difference between despair and complacency when it’s likely just a matter of how the balls bounced.

That said, the balls bounced his way this week, and the easiest thing is to adjust by the number of games won or lost, which loses him a Point to bring him back to safe, perfectly acceptable 4 of 11 Danger Points for another week. That’s good for Farrell, but it’s better for the Red Sox, because they’re title still title contenders. The process is working well enough, at the moment, and if it’s not fast enough for you, I implore you to ask for courage, not for victory, because having the courage to look at these things honestly might make your life as a fan a whole lot easier.