This is the Red Sox’ only scheduled trip to Cleveland this season. Manager John Farrell can wake up knowing — barring a postseason meeting with the Indians — that he won’t be returning anytime soon.
He can only hope the same isn’t true about this weekend’s series in Toronto.
This year’s Opening Day brings a new set of circumstances to the front of Farrell’s mind, repercussions that he hasn’t had to deal with in three seasons as manager of the Boston Red Sox, during which he’s helped bring a World Series championship to the Hub in 2013, along with a pair of last-place finishes that seem more indicative of his managerial approach than the year his team paraded down Boylston Street.
Even though the Red Sox brass hasn’t publicly pronounced it so, it’s clear that Farrell is on a short leash as the Red Sox begin the 2016 Major League Baseball season, a campaign that is scheduled to begin Monday in icy Cleveland, where David Price will make his first start for the team with whom he signed a seven-year, $217 million contract over the offseason.
The new ace very well might have a new manager not even two months into the lifetime of the deal.
The official numbers tell you that Farrell now holds a 400-410 career managerial record, 246-240 with the Red Sox.
There’s nothing “official” about it.
Farrell was on the bench in name only after taking a leave from the team when it was announced he’d been diagnosed with lymphoma. Bench coach Torey Lovullo inherited the 50-64 team and led it to a 28-21 finish.
Not including Lovullo’s promise, Farrell’s actual record managing the Boston Red Sox turns out to be 218-219.
Of course, it’s not like Dave Dombrowski was going to make one of his first baseball moves in Boston firing the manager after he was given a clean bill of health last fall. Imagine the backlash.
Which is why it stands to reason that the Red Sox front office waited to fire Farrell more for its own sake than the manager’s. If Farrell gets off to another slow start in 2016, the decision to axe him will be easy, quick, and, unlike handing him his walking papers the moment his treatment ended, will come with a more universal understanding and angst from the general public.
If Farrell’s in-game managerial style hadn’t come under fire in the years since the Red Sox acquired him from the Blue Jays to replace the mistake that was Bobby Valentine, then perhaps his decision-making skills were highlighted a bit more when news broke of his relationship with Comcast reporter Jessica Moran, who resigned from her position last month. Farrell and his wife of 30 years are reportedly in the midst of a divorce.
And so, he enters 2016, with that microscope hovering over him, never mind the matter that he’ll be swiftly asked to leave with any semblance of a slow start.
“We’re ready,” Farrell said after the Red Sox completed their exhibition schedule with a pair of wins over the Blue Jays in Montreal. “We’re ready to begin the season. That means there’s a journey ahead that we’ll get thrown some things that might be unexpected, some bumps and twists along the way. How we respond to those as a team is what matters most.”
Farrell has already opened eyes with some of his decisions leading up to Opening Day. He’s sticking with Travis Shaw, who swung a hot bat for most of spring training, at third base in place of Pablo Sandoval, whom former general manager Ben Cherington inked to a $95 million deal last offseason. Likewise, Rusney Castillo, whom the Red Sox tossed $72.5 million at in 2014, will also begin the season on the bench with scouting reports continuing to filter in that the Cuban can’t hit a 92 mile-per-hour pitch, which is about as commonplace in a big league ballpark as oxygen.
Dombrowski has made it clear that contracts will not equal playing time. He’s also made it quite evident that by no means equals the excuse to begin the season the way the Red Sox have managed the last two years.
“I think that from an urgency perspective, with a club like ours — we didn’t add the players we did this winter to not try to win,” Dombrowski said. “So anytime you try to win, there’s a sense of urgency. That’s good. You don’t want to come out of the gate, you might not win your first few games of the year, but you don’t want to come out without the urgency that you want to win those games. It’s important to have that.
“John’s been in the game a long time. He knows that. I know that. There’s a sense of urgency for me, too.”
But are the Red Sox good enough to satisfy the bosses who write Farrell’s checks? The addition of Price, not to mention closer Craig Kimbrel, has given the Sox some hubbub, but plenty of question marks remain, particularly in the starting rotation, where the Red Sox surrendered Wade Miley and have already lost Eduardo Rodriguez to the disabled list. If Shaw can’t maintain his spring training heat, will Sandoval be ready/willing to go? Can Hanley Ramirez adequately handle first base? Will Christian Vazquez be healthy enough to become the catcher of the future? Is Mookie Betts really an MVP possibility? How much power does Xander Bogaerts really have?
Price and Kimbrel have made the Red Sox better. But they still may not be good enough.
Of course, everybody thought the same prior to Farrell’s first season of managing in Boston.
“I really think this is a special group of players we have here,” he said. “This team is a little reminiscent of the 2013 team, and I say it from the standpoint of their thirst for information, their thirst to find an edge inside the lines. That’s exciting to come into work to, in addition to some of the other things. Personally, yeah, this is an exciting time and really looking forward to what lies ahead.”
The Red Sox are back in Toronto at the end of May, right around the juncture when many have opined Lovullo would take over the duties full time.
If Farrell makes it back, things have gone pretty well. Better than they have in years.
Then again, Boston also visits in September.
Farrell may just want to pencil that trip in for now.
Red Sox 2016 40-man roster