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A fired manager and Red Sox news


10/26/17



  There’ll be no World Series for your Boston Red Sox this year after they were eliminated by Houston’s Astros in a pretty entertaining but ultimately disappointing Game 4 of the ALDS, an ending that had the Red Sox Nation chapter of the Fellowship of the Miserable blaming John Farrell for everything but Steve Bannon’s insurrection on the GOP establishment, even though he won 93 games and the AL East for a second straight year with a team that had no real replacement for David Ortiz, finished last in the American League in homers for the first time since 1930, had a gigantic hole at third base until late July, lost 40 percent of its rotation for most of the year and it was Craig Kimbrel, not him, who spit the bit in Game 4.  

I’ve got no great feeling either way for Farrell, but, even with all the quirks, that’s overcoming a lot of adversity in doing what no other Red Sox manager has ever done with those back-to-back AL East titles. But none of that mattered. He was thrown to the wolves by a PR-conscious ownership and GM who now is searching for the next human dartboard to sit in the corner office at Fenway. 
A few thoughts about what lies ahead: 
After Blaming the Manager Should the Pressure be on Dombo? Not really if you’re sane enough to know (a) Dave Dombrowski’s team has won 93 games both years under him, which was done this year with payroll restrictions brought on by the insane Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez contracts given by someone else, (b) they lost to better teams both times in the playoffs, (c) only the Giants have won as many World Series this century as they have after going 86 years without one, and (d) outside of the major Travis Shaw boo-boo, his trades for Kimbrel, Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Nunez all yielded excellent results. Even Carson Smith looked sharp when he finally returned from Tommy John surgery in September. 
Unloading the Farm System: I keep hearing Dumbo has “gutted” the farm system, but there is a difference between giving up minor-leaguers thought to be rising players and guys who actually turn into terrific players. Of the guys he traded only Michael Kopech (155 Ks and 77 hits allowed in 116 innings) and closer Logan Allen in A ball had impressive numbers this year. The great Yoan Moncada hit .233. Manual Margot had 39 RBI in 120 games as San Diego’s centerfielder. Plus, those two and the rest of the other guys traded were blocked for years at the major league level. Oh, and top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, who went for Drew Pomeranz, had Tommy John in July. That doesn’t look like they actually gave up that much for what they got back.   
The Next Manager: The push will be on to get someone with a successful track record, which may not be as important as you might think. Terry Francona got run out of the most mis-named city in the country with a 285-363 record after being called “Francoma” by the faithful in the, ahh, City of Brotherly Love. Joe Torre was a “why him?” choice when hired to manage the Yankees in 1996 after being fired by the Mets, Cardinals and Braves. Casey Stengel incredibly only had one winning year in eight seasons as a manager before taking over the Yanks in 1949 and he then won seven World Series and 10 pennants in 12 years. So the right fit is more essential than previous wins and losses because, like Casey with the Mets, managers are prisoners to the talent they have to send out there. Houston bench coach Alex Cora, who has never managed before but did play here for three-plus years, and Dartmouth grad Brad Ausmus are the two names most bandied about in the media.
Biggest Needs: (1) A power bat. (2) Return to 2016 form of Rick Porcello, as they’re stuck with him for two more years at $20 million per. (3) Xander Bogaerts to live up to the lofty expectations that most had for him as late as mid-season 2016. (4) Dumping Hanley Ramirez’s contract for a guy with a more consistent power bat and who actually wants to play.   
Who’s Tradable: Everyone but Kimbrel, Sale, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.  
Beware of What You Ask for: The search will be on for a power bat and big-time local pressure will be on to get the gargantuan Giancarlo Stanton. But as I said in August, there are red flags everywhere on him. Yes, he hit 59 homers in Miami, which might be 70 in Boston, but (1) Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers will likely have to go in any deal for him, (2) he’s never played in a place with the lunacy, ah, make that passion, level of Boston’s fans and its media, (3) he’s reportedly a Carl Crawford-type attitude risk, (4) in eight seasons he’s played as many as 145 games just three times, (5) his massive contract could impact how much can be spent on the roster for 11 years, which would mean, if through fitness, injuries or losing it early, a la Crawford or the Panda, it doesn’t work, they’ll never get rid of him, (6) it’ll give them two $30 million players already when Sale and Betts become free agents in 2020, and (7) they’ll be paying him the big money until he’s 38 — likely long past his prime. 
Tip to the Fellowship: Sometimes teams lose to ones that are better than them. As the Yankees are now finding out, with that top-to-bottom line-up and outstanding starters at the top of the rotation, the Astros are better than the Red Sox. 
Bottom Line: This team needs tweaking and a return to form shown by the young core in 2016, not a massive overhaul. Though if Danny Ainge were GM all bets would be off on that. 
Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com. 





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