Friday, December 6, 2013
BOSTON – Better late than never. That's what the Red Sox are hoping in the case of John Farrell.
Today, Farrell will be officially introduced as the 45th manager in team history. The announcement of Farrell's hiring came over the weekend, about one year later than General Manager Ben Cherington may have wanted.
By all accounts, Cherington wanted Farrell to be the 44th manager of the Red Sox. Cherington wanted him a year ago after Terry Francona exited following eight mostly glorious seasons.
Farrell was under the employ of the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Jays were disinclined to let their field general go to a division opponent after just one season.
But after a second-straight losing record under Farrell, the Jays didn't seem to mind as much. A year ago, they reportedly asked for Clay Buchholz as compensation for Farrell. This time around they settled for shortstop Mike Aviles, who put up a .282 on-base percentage as the one-year fill-in between Marco Scutaro and (we assume) Jose Iglesias.
"As John explained it to me, this was a dream job for him," said Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous in a conference call over the weekend, "an opportunity he really wanted to pursue."
At some point, Anthopolous probably figured he'd had enough of a manager who really wanted to be somewhere else. So the Jays took what they could get and moved on.
The Red Sox are still trying to move on from the disaster of September 2011. Bobby Valentine was the wrong man at the wrong time. He might be a good manager, but he was ill-prepared to handle the dysfunction of the Red Sox clubhouse.
Farrell wasn't part of the Red Sox during the past 14 disastrous months, but he knows the lay of the land in Boston after spending four seasons there as pitching coach under Francona.
He understands the needs of a demanding fan base, the insatiable baseball media in this town, and an ownership group that is very involved in the day-to-day workings of the team.
Farrell takes over early in the offseason and should have plenty of time to assemble a coaching staff that will be on the same page with him. Valentine never had that luxury, and was still talking about the lack of communication with his coaches in the final days of his tenure.
We can't help but wonder what would've happened if Farrell had gotten the job a year ago. Would the 2012 season have been completely different? Could Farrell have been the man to keep this underachieving pitching staff in line? Was he the "Beckett Whisperer," the guy who could get the stubborn Texan to harness his ability and compete?
We'll never know. What we do know is that it took another lost season, and the loss of much of this team's core roster, to get Farrell the job he's wanted for years.
Now we'll see what he can do at the helm of a team undergoing a reconstruction.
Cherington got his man, a year later than he had hoped. Now, the real work for the general manager begins, as he tries to add pieces to a roster that was gutted when it hit rock bottom under Valentine in 2012.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.