September 29, 2013

On Baseball: A capable manager by any means

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Boston Red Sox regular season ended like it did last year: with a meaningless game on the last day.

John Farrell
click image to enlarge

John Farrell

Elise Amendola

That is the only similarity.

To really appreciate the regular season the Red Sox completed on Sunday in Baltimore, you have to recall how it all ended in 2012:

Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound.

Bobby Valentine in the dugout.

And a record of 69-93, the worst mark since 1965.

Reasons abound for this unpredictable makeover in 2013, which finds the Red Sox with the American League's best record and playoff-bound for the first time in four years.

Pitching is a big reason and Matsuzaka's absence certainly helped. He's moved on to two different teams since.

Another huge explanation for this reversal of fortune can be found in the dugout. There, John Farrell stands among his coaches and players, interacting.

Valentine did not interact. He directed. And it didn't work.

True, Valentine did not have the overall talent, nor the pitching, that Farrell enjoys. But he also never fit in the Red Sox way of doing things, which begins with a capital C.

Communication.

"(Farrell) does a good job of asking our opinion on situations," outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "How guys play is in direct correlation of their manager. And 90-some wins speaks for itself."

In this space around this time last year, we wrote:

 

Valentine) is a man who speaks a lot. But somehow the communication at Fenway keeps breaking down. And several times -- whether it be his description of a player or an outburst on the radio, Valentine has had to come back and clarify what he was trying to say.

When you have to constantly explain what you meant, that is not good communication.

 

Valentine was fired on Oct. 4, 2012. One year later, Boston will play its first playoff game of the 2013 postseason.

When the Red Sox hired Farrell, they got someone in the mold of the man they fired in 2011, Terry Francona -- a communicator who takes in information from his staff, players and front office -- and then manages (usually successfully).

Look where Francona has led the Indians this year.

Farrell worked for Francona as Boston's pitching coach before moving to Toronto as manager in 2011. By the end of that year, Francona admittedly was tired.

"When you're manager of the Red Sox, it can take its toll," Francona said this year during his return to Fenway as the Cleveland manager. "Toward the end, it did take a toll."

When Farrell took over the job, he called Francona one of those he learned from.

"He had such a knack to connect with people, and to bring them all to a common point," Farrell said.

"And if there were issues, which there were, it was handled in an appropriate way."

Farrell has done much the same.

"He lets you do your thing. Lets the players play. A good facilitator," said third base coach Brian Butterfield, who was also with Farrell in Toronto. "It's fun to come to the park. Been enjoyable for three years to be with John.

"It's not all peaches and cream. During the course of the season, you might have some differences. Player-coach, player-manager, coach-manager. You're talking about highly-competitive people -- coaches, the manager, the players -- in the same clubhouse for seven months.

"It's not always real nice. But you want people free to say whatever they want. That's the way it should be."

But this is not a team run by committee.

"He is in charge," Butterfield said.

One reason why Farrell listens so well is that he can probably relate to the person he is talking with.

(Continued on page 2)

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