Another week of Red Sox baseball is in the books, and while it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t great for manager John Farrell. The big guy left last week’s Friday Fire Farrell Index at a safe 4 out of 11 Danger Points and didn’t do much to improve his position, and may have even damaged it since last Friday. More to the point, David Price laid down the hurt.
This may not be a popular opinion, but I don’t think Farrell’s biggest weakness this year has been his in-game managing. It’s off the field, where the players have reliably started figurative fires for which there have been no use. First it was L’Affaire Machado, which was an embarrassment to everyone, even Farrell, not despite the fact he largely sat it out, but because of it. It’s one thing to let Buck Showalter run his mouth. It’s another thing the be the only quiet one in a virtual room full of screaming children and old men, all wearing in pajamas and covered in dirt, just begging for the presence of an adult. Especially when half the kids are yours.
On top of that, one of those kids makes hundreds of millions of dollars and is acting like a huge brat. This week, Price exploded at CSN NE’s Evan Drellich on Wednesday and was plastered by the Yankees on Thursday. Before yesterday’s game, Farrell said he would talk to Price. That’s good. May I suggest talking to everyone, Rick Porcello and his catty comments included, and telling them to preemptively cut the nonsense? Whatever else you think of Farrell, his management of players on this front could be much better.
His in-game management of Craig Kimbrel has been plentiful, which is altogether smart, if alarming, but if it’s him or Matt Barnes, that’s not really a choice, is it? On the one hand, overusing Kimbrel could cause short- and long-term problems. On the other hand, the Sox regularly lose two games in a row, comfortably, which builds in some more natural rest time for him. On the other (yes, third) hand, these sorts of failures tend to fall under the manager’s purview. And so on, but it’s a bridge that may not hold. Given that Farrell is working with a perpetually short-staffed ‘pen, I’m willing to cut him some slack on that in-game trend.
I don’t forgive everything. The biggest head-scratcher comes via this week’s numbers:
Red Sox record: 32-27
2nd place in AL East, 3 games behind the Yankees
Last 7 days: 3-3
Last 10 games: 5-5
What we’re criticizing him for today, if anything: The outwardly inexplicable decision in Tuesday’s game versus the Yankees to bring lefty specialist Robby Scott in for Drew Pomeranz to face two-right batters.
Validity of criticism: 10/11
Danger Points gained: 1
The only reason this one isn’t even worse is that the Red Sox still won the game, but it was utterly baffling. I could only come up with two explanations at the time, both or neither of which could be true. The first possibility was withing a circular-but-not-wrong argument that should Scott get into trouble — which he did, allowing two singles to open the inning to righties — he’d then be facing lefty Didi Gregorius, which would effectively have him serving as his own reliever. I sort of even believe it, but you don’t have to, and rightly so.
The second reason could be that he had decided to get Scott into the game no matter what, and, while it’s uncommon to bring in a lefty specialist to face two right-handed batters, they were replacing a lefty, so what was the big deal? It was the sixth inning and it needed to be pitched. This seems far more plausible, but wasn’t on the mind of the Twits at the time:
These are the types of definitively bad moves for which I tend to give Farrell the benefit of the long-term doubt. I find it hard to believe that he could make enough of these “mistakes” to cost himself the job, or that there isn’t an internal reason for what is still, by the numbers, a bad decision. It’s possible that team believes the long-term gain of Robby Scott staying fresh outweighs the short-term harm of having him face righties, and it’s pretty much ironclad truth that the mathematical differences we’re talking about are still relatively minor. Those decisions don’t bother me. The players being buttheads, on the other hand, is a real problem, especially if the team slumps.
It’s for that reason Farrell’s seat is a little hotter this week, if still comfortable. He’s at a 5/11 heading into this weekend’s series against the Tigers at home. He’s still got the thumbs-up, but another week like this and I might need to find a new photo. If things go bad, they’ll go bad fast enough that he’ll need that thumb to plug a sinking ship.