John Farrell

The John Farrell Conundrum

So, the start of the second half hasn’t really gone according to plan. After putting together a solid run that had people cautiously optimistic that they could at least make the stretch run interesting, the Red Sox went out and fell flat on their faces on the West Coast. With each sunset it’s becoming more and more clear that winning just isn’t in the cards in 2015.

With this being the case, it’s time for the organization to set its sights on 2016. Luckily for the fans, this isn’t a Phillies situation we’re dealing with, where Boston will have to tear everything down and go through a multi-year rebuild. With core pieces in place, there are plenty of realistic tweaks that can be made to create a competitive squad next season. The first step in that process is finding out which of the current members of the organization will be contributors, and which ones will be afterthoughts. That means rolling with some unproven players in favor of higher-floor, lower-ceiling veterans, especially in the cases in which the veterans are not under contract next season. It also means moving players around the diamond to figure out if a change in position is realistic or not.

This idea leads us and the Red Sox to a major problem, though. The man in charge of making those kind of changes is John Farrell. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, his job status isn’t exactly at its most stable. As such, he has no motivation to look ahead to 2016. Farrell realizes that his best chance at keeping his job for the 2016 season is to lead a miraculous, if nearly impossible, run back into contention over the next couple of months. Clearly, that’s not the best philosophy for the team to take at this point, but Farrell should be more loyal to his own job security than the future of an organization he may not be a part of just ten weeks from now.

He has no motivation, for example, to see what Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo can contribute after more fine-tuning in Pawtucket. From what we’ve seen out of them, they cannot handle major-league pitching. Alejandro De Aza, Shane Victorino and Brock Holt, on the other hand, have proven they can contribute in 2015, even if the first two won’t be around to help whenever the team becomes relevant again. The same can be said in regards to playing Mike Napoli over someone like Allen Craig. Similarly, Farrell has no incentive to see if Hanley Ramirez can handle first base. It’s possible it could actually help the team this year, but positional changes in the middle of the season are risky. For one thing, Ramirez could be even worse at first than he is in left. On top of that, the focus he would have to put into his defensive change could hurt his offensive production. Why should Farrell risk losing one of his only plus bats with his job on the line?

Because of all this, the Red Sox need to make a decision about their managerial focus right now. I’m not going to argue for one way or the other — it’s too hard to judge a manger’s performance from the outside when a significant amount of his value comes from managing a clubhouse of people over 162 games. I can live with whatever decision they make. My only concern is that they will wait to make that decision. The organization’s near-term future will be better off if they make the call right now, even if it means firing someone they genuinely like in the middle of the season.

The organization’s near-term future will be better off if they make the call right now, even if it means firing someone they genuinely like in the middle of the season.

If they want to keep Farrell for next year as well, he suddenly has the incentive to do all of those things discussed above. He’s surely smart enough to know that, even if he’s given the keys to the car next year, it’s his last chance. Farrell would want as much information as possible to lead to a successful 2016 campaign. There’s suddenly a lot less reason for him to trot out the veterans who won’t be around next year, and instead give the Bradleys and Castillos of the world a chance. Even if the young players won’t contribute next year, he’d at least be giving them a chance to boost their trade value so they can bring in players who can help next season.

If they decide his performance over the last couple years outweigh what he contributed to the 2013 championship, they need to cut ties now. As hard as it may be to fire someone they’ve clearly grown close with, it’s clearly the best move for the future. They can bring in an interim choice, one who has incentive to help the youth in the organization grow. That can mean someone like bench coach Torey Lovullo, who could try to earn his way into the full-time position next year, or a minor-league manager who has a personal stake in the growth of the young players.

We’ve put it off as long as we could, but it’s now clearly time for the Red Sox to start playing for next year. That means sitting or parting ways with the veterans in favor of young players like Bradley and Castillo, who could play an important role next year. Unfortunately, Farrell has no incentive to play that game right now. At the moment, his best chance at keeping his job is winning as many games as possible in 2015, future be damned. The Red Sox need to decide how they feel about him, and quickly. The longer they wait to make a decision, the harder they’ll make it on themselves in evaluating what they have when trying to put together a competitive roster for 2016.

Photo Tory Taormina/USA Today Sports Images

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