John Farrell’s managerial skills have attracted criticism and anger from fans and writers alike. Despite leading the Red Sox to a World Series in 2013, the team finished at the bottom in 2014 and 2015. There are many possible reasons that explain the first-to-worst finish. Some experts point to a pattern of defending World Series Champions taking a nose dive following a successful season. Others point to a weak lineup and pitching rotation. Can the Red Sox credit John Farrell for the team’s turnaround? After an eleven game winning streak and a playoff berth, many say yes. Or does it really matter who is at the helm of a team?
Going back to the introduction, it’s rare, but not uncommon, to see World Series Championship teams take a turn for the worst. The 2013 San Francisco Giants finished in last place following a championship season. So did the 1998 Florida (now Miami) Marlins. Before then, however, records show that many defending champs finished first again, if not second or third. So while it’s not unheard of, it’s not common either. So does that mean Farrell can take the credit for leading the team to a playoff berth?
Let’s also go back to the issue of hitting and pitching. Casey Stengel’s New York Yankees won five consecutive World Series between 1949 and 1953. Does that make him a good manager? Well, considering that the Yankees had players like Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizutto, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford in those years, one might argue that they should take all the credit. In other words, Stengel was successful because of the failsafe lineup of hitters and pitchers on the team. The 1962 New York Mets, however (who Stengel also managed), went 40-120. These numbers show that in some cases it’s more about hitting and pitching than managing. With such a strong lineup, why didn’t the Red Sox do better in 2015?
Sometimes It’s All About Who’s Driving, and Who’s Steering
I take that back. The Red Sox 2015 lineup wasn’t that strong. Sure, the Red Sox had David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, and Dustin Pedroia in their lineup, but most of them have a less than stellar year. Ortiz hit 37 homers but batted only .273. Ramirez hit only .249 and played shoddily in left field. Pedroia was out for much of the season. With this lineup of injuries and flaws, it’s no wonder they finished last. These same players are now having a career year. Ortiz is playing like he’s in his prime again. Ramirez could very well snag an MVP award. Pedrioa is looking as good as ever. The Red Sox have improved as a team this year, especially since the All-Star break. So can the Red Sox credit John Farrell for that kind of turnaround? Hardly.
The Red Sox Credit John Farrell, But Will the Fans?
Farrell might be managing a playoff team this year, but given how consistent the team does when they’re injury-plagued, I’m inclined to believe the Red Sox success has more to do with the success of their hitting and pitching. That isn’t to say Farrell can’t take any credit. After all, he’s still in charge, and one could easily argue that he’s now working with a team healthy enough to follow through with his strategies.
Managers who won World Series Championships with weak hitting are few and far in between. The team is playing well now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Red Sox credit John Farrell for their successes.