I’ve mostly avoided talking about John Farrell this season, at least in terms of his merits as a manager. Generally speaking, I consider myself a defender of the Red Sox manager against the many harsh critics he’s found himself with over the years. I’m not sure I’d describe myself as a Farrell supporter so much as someone who just doesn’t have strong feelings on the matter. That’s usually where I land on managing opinions, as I think the most important work a manager does takes place in the clubhouse, and I’m not there to see how that runs. As for what we can see, there is some good and bad with Farrell. On the plus side, he and the players seem to (mostly) have each other’s trust and you rarely see major disdain for the manager’s decisions. He’s also had success with his two-to-three day benching experiment this year and deserves credit for that. On the other hand, I certainly find myself disagreeing with his lineup construction and bullpen management at times. In the end, I probably consider him something around a league-average manager, and while that’s not someone you hold onto at all costs, it’s also not someone who deserves all of the disdain that Farrell gets.
That stuff started changing very quickly for me on Tuesday. In case you somehow missed it, the Red Sox were caught stealing signs against the Yankees (and possibly other teams) using outside technology to aid them. This is illegal, in case that wasn’t clear. Now, as worried as I was when this news first came down that the league was going to treat this extremely seriously, Rob Manfred didn’t give off that vibe on Tuesday. Instead, he seemed to believe this had more to do with the rivalry than anything else and didn’t appear too worried about sign-stealing. In terms of penalties to the Red Sox, his reaction has to be a good thing. For as positive as this seems to be for Boston, the one man in the organization who should not be breathing a sigh of relief is Farrell. No matter how this turns out, the Red Sox manager comes out of this looking very bad.
Even when the story first dropped Tuesday afternoon, the thing that immediately stood out was Farrell’s potential role in this scheme. The report only mentioned a few players that were involved, and Farrell has claimed he doesn’t know what was going on. He’s trying to stay clean in all of this, and he could very well be telling the truth. I’m not going to sit here and claim to know whether or not he was actually involved. What I can say is that, either way, he looks bad. Let’s run through the two scenarios.
Let’s start with the scenario in which he’s telling the truth. Honesty is important, and it’s probably better for everyone involved if Farrell really didn’t know what was going on. That being said, he himself certainly doesn’t look good. In this scenario, he has lost control of his clubhouse to the point that his players are running Scooby Doo level schemes and getting his trainers involved. There are so many reasons a player could think they could do this, including but not limited to them thinking they won’t really get in trouble from the manager or thinking that they are that much smarter than their manager that there’s no way they can get caught. The actual plan itself was dumb, but thinking they could get around their manager is even worse. And you know what’s even worse than that? According to his side of the story, they did! It’s unfathomable to me that they could be doing this on a semi-regular basis without him knowing, and frankly it’s pretty embarrassing for him if this actually was happening without his knowledge.
Now, it’s certainly possible that he is just saying he wasn’t involved because everyone knows he’ll be punished more harshly than the players and in an investigation like this, you don’t involve anyone who isn’t directly implicated to begin with. That’s how these things go, and that’s fine. I don’t really blame him for lying if that is indeed the case. However, I do blame him for knowing about this plan and allowing it to continue. To be clear, this is not for moral obligations. There are many more important things to worry about for me to be truly outraged about a baseball team stealing signs. It’s just the stupidity of it and thinking other teams wouldn’t notice. This is like when some college kids get stoned and think up this crazy scheme to cheat on their exams. It seems so smart to them, but everyone else is kind of just laughing at them. The only way Farrell could look somewhat good in this is if he did know what was happening and immediately put a stop to it. There is absolutely no indication that is the case.
So, what does this mean for Farrell moving forward? I can’t imagine it’s anything good, that’s for sure. I think it was fair to say that the Red Sox manager was on a mildly heated seat even before this whole incident. If Boston had a no-show in the ALDS again (assuming they make it that far), I could see him being fired. We’ve seen managers be let go simply because it was time for a change before (*cough* Terry Francona *cough*), and I don’t see why this could be any different. Those requirements probably become a bit harsher after all of this. As always, I am not going to pretend to know how to evaluate a manager. The only thing I can say with confidence is that Farrell looks a lot worse today than he did just 24 hours ago regardless of whether or not he’s lying about his role in this stupid and embarrassing scheme.