Earlier this week, Chicago’s Todd Frazier and David Robertson were traded to an A.L. East powerhouse, just as I predicted. Yet despite what seemed to be an obvious deal for the Red Sox, neither Frazier nor Robertson has logged an inning so far for the team. The question this raises is unavoidable: What is John Farrell thinking?
Farrell will have to live with his decision-making here forever, and if the team stumbles without the Pale Hose pair, it could, theoretically, cost him his job. This column has regularly argued that he’s done a good-if-not-great job this year, and that he will — and should — ultimately be judged by the team’s win-loss record at September’s end, but leaving two such obvious additions out of the team’s lineup could obviously cause problems if the team doesn’t acquire another third baseman or reliever.
In that case, it’ll be “Why did Farrell bring in so-and-so to face Aaron Judge?” or “Why is Deven Marrero pinch-hitting against Corey Kluber?” The answer will be at least partially that Farrell cannot bring himself to use Frazier or Robertson. And the reason for this, of course, you already know, because you sussed out the bait-and-switch with this column from the headline. That reason, of course:
John Farrell hates the luxury tax. Personally. In his heart. With the fire of a thousand suns that will never extinguish, not after his last breath.
To tell the full story, we must return to the beginning.
When Farrell was a boy, he played with much older boys on youth baseball teams, but they knew his age, and one particular jerk never let him forget it. That’s right: luxury tax. On a class trip to the airport during his second week on the team (don’t ask; it was a different time), the luxury tax stuffed him in one of those oversized lockers and got his teammates to help hold it shut while he tried to get out. It was a defining moment in Farrell’s life.
Then, the next week at practice, the rest of the team handed around a note (yes, they handed around notes at practice too) asking “Who hates John Farrell!” Everyone signed it except four people. The guy who ended up being his best friend signed it. You don’t need to guess who started it: LT. That jerk.
Remember, these things happened to Farrell, the manager of the Red Sox, and not me, a writer, who has carefully structured his life in a way where he can put words on a page and walk away instead of creating confrontations.
John Farrell, the manager.
Flash-forward to today, and in order to pry Frazier and Robertson from the White Sox, Dave Dombrowski has to at least flirt with (the) Luxury Tax to get the pieces Farrell needs to succeed. Maybe he’s about to, and Farrell barges in the door and says:
“Listen here, Dave —
“I know you don’t love me. I know you don’t hate me. What I really know is that you don’t want to make a scene. Maybe I’m here long-term and maybe I’m not, but I go out there and quit right now and you’ve a real mess on your hands—
“I’m not finished. I got out there right now and quit and you’ve got a real mess on your hands. But that’s only the start of it. What (the) Luxury Tax will do to you will be much worse.
“So that’s it... Dumbo.”
This explains why Farrell is totally responsible for everything that happens with his roster and how he uses it, of course, because in normal cases a good, reasonable fan wouldn’t hold what are clearly roster limitations against the manager when they inevitably arise. Like when the great bullpen eventually springs a leak, or something.
“I’ll take the blame, Bryan.”
What? That’s weird. Well yeah, you will, buddy, because you’re the manager, and no matter what the GM does, it ultimately comes back—
“It ultimately comes back to me, big guy. So I ignore what people say about me and try to win games. Which we’ve done, quite a bit, outside of those Dog Fister starts.”
Ouch. Before this gets untenable, sir, I’m going to disengage here and let you off with a scant 2 out of 11 Danger Points heading into this weekend’s slate against the Angels. Though to be I don’t know how your’e talking through me, either.
“I’m not, that’s how.”
Interesting. That makes much more sense. As does the explanation that Frazier and Robertson haven’t played for Boston because they were traded to the Yankees, and it was all because the team administration is going aiming for relative financial austerity — a state of being that inevitably will leave the Red Sox playing the margins among the big teams, and put Farrell into situations in which his middling players can win games or he can lose them, and little in between.
In this ultimately unfair, sunk-cost scenario, he is set up to be the goat instead of the hero, though no fault of his own, and the bully, the luxury tax wins again. No matter how strong your jaw, the deepest scars never heal, or at least so I hear, because those stories are Farrell’s, and not mine. So take it easy on him if things go south. He has his reasons. But as for me? Let me have it, as usual, haters. Nothing gets to me and nothing ever has. Obviously.