By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
If I were John Farrell, I would make sure I went out and purchased a couple of quick picks for tonight’s massive lottery drawing, because I think, he might just be the luckiest man to ever manager a Major League Baseball game.
Only one night after he cost his team a game with major playoff seeding ramifications, due to him once again mishandling the back of his bullpen, he gets a one-hitter from a guy who has looked like he would get hit around at the Little League World Series at times in his short season with the Red Sox.
I guess the old axiom is true; it’s better to be lucky than good.
In his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dale & Holley show with Rich Keefe, the Sox skipper attempted to explain away his odd decisions that ultimately resulted in a horrible 5-4 defeat to their likely first-round opponent in the playoffs, the Cleveland Indians.
When asked by host Dale Arnold why he inexplicably waited until Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 3-0 count with the slower than slow Christian Vazquez on first – who should have been on second, if he didn’t Cadillac what he thought was a home run – and the score tied 4-4 in the ninth, Farrell was at his mind-numbing best.
“Well, my first thought was that if Vazqy gets to second base, we’re going to pinch run for him there,” said Manager John. “And then as Jackie was getting into an advantage count – he went 2-0 – and I thought ‘we’re going to turn him loose on a 3-0 count here if there’s a fastball.’ And if there was, if the ability to drive the baseball into the gap was there; we wanted a little bit more speed on the base paths.”
Wait a minute, what? First of all, no one except Farrell calls getting ahead on a pitcher an “advantage count.” And secondly, what if Bradley hit a ball into the gap on one of the first three pitches he saw? Wouldn’t you want the ability for the baserunner to go first to third in the top of the ninth in a tie game with nobody out?
What a joke.
When it came to his decision to pitch Matt Barnes – he of the 5.53 ERA on the road and currently struggling to be effective anywhere – instead of going to the guy who team president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski went and got at the trade deadline to perform in that role, Addison Reed, Manager John threw his new pitcher under the bus.
Reed, who had thrown 30 pitches on Friday night and 12 more on Sunday night against the Yankees, according to Farrell, told him he was unavailable to take the mound on Monday night. “When I spoke to him before the game, he said ‘John, listen, I do need a day.’ So, rather than be a third day of four, one of them being an extended outing in a high leverage situation, I felt like physically, he needed the initial day.”
So, in other words, the player didn’t tell you he couldn’t go, it was you that made that decision. Right, Manager John?
Hey look, it is easy to argue that everything worked out, given the fact that Doug Fister went out and threw a gem that no one saw coming, taking his manager off the hook his harebrained decisions. However, with only a two game in the loss column lead over the Indians, and a chance to stretch that out, that first game loss of the series could easily come back to haunt the Red Sox.
To compare Terry Francona to Manager John when it comes to their ability make correct in-game calls, is like comparing a brand-new Ferrari to a broken-down mule – they are as opposite as could be. You need to look no further than last year’s Division Series sweep by Tito’s troops over a talented Red Sox team to see the gaping distance between the two.
Down two of his top starting pitchers (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar), his starting catcher (Yan Gomes), and arguably his best position player (Michael Brantley), Francona took his depleted team to the 10th inning of game seven of the World Series.
Manager John oversaw a team that clearly looked like the stage was too big for them, even though they had the eventual AL Cy Young award winning (Rick Porcello) and the greatest designated hitter the game has ever seen (David Ortiz), who was having a monster final season in the middle of his lineup, and they were swept in the first round.
Largely due to his ability to adapt, Francona took one of the most dominant closers in the game, and used him when he thought he would be most effective, no matter what the inning. That’s something that Farrell’s feeble baseball mind couldn’t conceive in Spring Training in February, never mind at the start of the playoffs in October.
On Tuesday night, Manager John’s team bailed him out once again. Nevertheless, the most talented players often times have to be put in a position to win. Throughout his mediocre managerial career, Farrell has failed to show he can do that.
That’s not good news for Red Sox fans who have visions of a fourth World Series win this millennium, dancing in their heads.