By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
You didn’t need to have the insight of Captain Obvious to see the firing of John Farrell coming. Often rumored over the past several years as being on the chopping block, the axe at last fell Wednesday morning when president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, told Manager John his services were no longer needed on Yawkey Way.
Farrell defenders – most of which cover the team, and beat his broken drum until his final hours on the job – will point to consecutive American League East titles as proof positive of why he should still be the Sox skipper. However, one can only assume that after two full seasons of watching him up close and personal, performing his role as manager, Dombrowski finally concluded that his team would be better off with someone else.
Perhaps the turmoil that followed his club from April straight through September (The Pedroia/Machado incident, David Price blowing up on a reporter and then dressing down Dennis Eckersley on a team charter shortly thereafter; and finally, being called out by the Yankees for communicating stolen signs via an Apple watch.), Dombrowski decided to stop the insanity.
Throughout the season, there were numerous accounts stating the Red Sox clubhouse resembled the Delta Tau Chi Fraternity of Animal House fame, with Manager John garnering the respect of Dean Wormer from his players.
It was clear the way he let Dustin Pedroia throw him and his staff under the bus for the near bean ball thrown by reliever Matt Barnes at Manny Machado in Baltimore in April. It became even more obvious when he didn’t address Price going up one side of NBCSports.com Evan Drellich in Yankee Stadium and down the other, within earshot of anyone who was in the visiting clubhouse at the time in early June. And he became the emperor without any clothes when he let Price skate on the Eckersley affair, deeming that his derelict pitcher was in the right, and the World Series winning; Hall of Famer deserved what he got, later that month.
Of course, it is easy to try to hang all the chaos of the past couple of seasons on Farrell’s neck as he heads out the door, but the fact remains, there is more than one bad apple in the bunch that fell to the Houston Astros in the ALDS, three games to one.
The loss of bench coach Torey Lovullo – and once heir apparent to the manager’s office at Fenway Park – to the Arizona Diamondbacks is not getting enough attention for what went wrong in the Sox clubhouse this season. Lovullo – who took a 69-win team the year before and turned it into a 93-win wild-card winner in the desert – was the guy who quelled many of the clubhouse uprisings, and was someone the players liked and trusted.
Unlike Manager John.
David Ortiz’s retirement not only created a massive hole in the middle of the Sox lineup, it left a leadership vacuum that allowed Price to poison the atmosphere, and Pedroia – the assumed “captain” with Ortiz’s departure – did nothing to prevent it.
Hanley Ramirez straight out quit on his team in spring training, when he refused to play first base against left-handed pitchers, even though he agreed to doing so in the winter when lefty Mitch Moreland was signed.
The Sox clearly lacked a veteran voice to shout down Price’s petty antics, and put Hanley the Hound in his place. And ultimately, the guy who was supposed to be running the ship, but often times wouldn’t put his hand on the helm because he didn’t want to cause friction with his petulant players, lost his job.
“It’s not a snap judgment — OK, we lost in the postseason. That is not at all the case,” Dombrowski said in a press conference where he barely said anything on Wednesday morning. “You’re always thinking how you can get better. It’s a thought process that takes place in everything you do.”
While his thought process when it came to firing Farrell may have been a lengthy one, so has the amount of time the future foundation of his team has witnessed a clubhouse in disarray, and little being done about the mayhem.
Mookie Betts is 25-years old, and first broke into the big leagues during the 2014 season when the Sox were a complete dumpster fire. Xander Bogaerts arrived late for the ’13 championship season, and although he has shown flashes of brilliance, you have to wonder if his regression this year had as much to do with injuries, as it did falling victim to his surroundings.
However, both at least experienced an extended period of time watching Ortiz act like a professional, even if they saw guys like Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval totally disrespect themselves and their teammates.
Andrew Benintendi’s first full season certainly showed superstar potential, but he seems to have the baseball mind of a first-year little leaguer at times – especially on the base paths – and strikes you as someone who could be easily led astray by the likes of Hanley the Hound. Benintendi spent only eight weeks watching the future Hall of Famer go about his business last year, far too short to make up for the impact of the circus he saw this season.
The dismissal of Manager John is simply the first step in one of many Dombrowski, and the Red Sox brass needs to take if the Red Sox hope to be more than a one and done team in the playoffs for the third-straight season next year.
To take back a team that has the talent to contend for a World Series Championship for the next handful of seasons, Dombrowski has to blow the clubhouse doors wide open and let the toxic fumes that have gathered over the last six months get swallowed up by the autumn breeze.
There is little doubt that a managerial change had to take place for the Red Sox. However, if there isn’t a cultural change in the clubhouse, it will likely make little difference this time next year.