Should the rumors and reports of a John Farrell contract extension become reality during this thus-far lukewarm hot-stove season, it won’t be the most impactful move the Red Sox make, and it will be a mere fraction of the most lucrative.
What it might be is the most puzzling.
That’s not intended as a knock on Farrell. I’m just not sure why the Red Sox would see fit do this now, with one year plus a team option for 2016 remaining on his contract. He’s not a lame-duck, and he’s not a sure-thing to win a Manager of the Year award or two, either.
In two years with the Red Sox, he’s guided them to the World Series and a last-place finish. It pretty much allows you to make any argument you want regarding his capabilities. But the truth is there’s still so much gray area. Before we judge him as a manager, shouldn’t we let 2015 play out and see how he fares in the rubber-match?
I’m still not sure where Farrell stacks up among Major League managers. There is a lot I like. The players respect him, he communicates well, he’s intelligent and usually has an explanation for his particularly curious moves, he’s experienced at various aspects of the game, and did I mention that 2013 World Series thing?
But during his two seasons with the Red Sox, he’s averaged 84 wins and 78 losses, which is decidedly mediocre. And as a strategist, I’m not sure he has the advantage over the guy in the opposing dugout as much as you’d like. He’s not going to win many lineup-card-measuring contests with Buck Showalter, you know?
Two years ago, his puzzling moves — such as letting Brandon Workman hit in the World Series — either worked or did not backfire. Last year, the lucky horseshoe was nowhere to be found, and everything he tried failed to pull the Red Sox out of their funk.
Red Sox management knows him well — he shares long-ago Cleveland Indians ties with Ben Cherington — and believe in him, and that’s a good thing.
But I just don’t see the urgency to extend him now, especially when some of the issues that plagued him during his two seasons in Toronto (in which the underachieving, injury-plagued Jays won 81 and 73 games) reared up here during the championship hangover season.
For someone who was praised for his work as the Indians’ farm director a decade ago, isn’t it about time some touted young players began playing up their potential under his watch?
Maybe the Red Sox have confirmed what I’ve been suspecting for a while now. In the long haul of a 162 games and hopefully beyond, managerial strategy doesn’t matter as much as Farrell’s aforementioned strengths: communication, keeping the players focused, all-around evaluation, that sort of stuff.
We do live in a world in which a team managed by Ned Yost nearly defeated a team managed by Bruce Bochy in the World Series. I’d just like further confirmation that Farrell is closer to the latter than the former before the Red Sox commit to him long-term.
If they want to pick up the manager’s option for 2016 in good faith right now, sure, go ahead. Just don’t lose sight of this reality: The players aren’t the only ones in the Red Sox dugout who have something to prove in 2015.