If you read the Boston newspapers, you’d have to assume that Red Sox Manager John Farrell has been fired, rehired, and then fired again. And yet, he and his team remain on the cusp of capturing the American League East Division title. Such is the life of a big league manager.
The stress of managing a major league team today can often be overwhelming. Managing a team in the thick of a pennant race is even more difficult. And managing a team that plays in a city that has passionate fans and media is even more difficult than that. Welcome to the world of John Farrell, manager of the Boston Red Sox.
Among the list of baseball managers, the name John Farrell wouldn’t even be a comma in a sentence about Joe Maddon, the ubiquitous and very successful manager of the Chicago Cubs. John Farrell’s live in bubble is much smaller than Maddon’s. But, it is also much louder.
Nevertheless, Farrell has the Red Sox poised to capture a division title in the American League East. This accomplishment should (and probably will) entitle him to a serious look to receive the Manager of the Year award in the American League.
As this is written, the Red Sox have a commanding lead over the Blue Jays and they’ve won nine in a row. That string includes a four game sweep of their arch rivals in New York that stunned and virtually eliminated the Yankees in the Wild Card race.
Through it all, John Farrell has (mostly) kept on a even keel by simply showing up every day, believing in his team, and plodding forward despite some very trying times not too long ago. As recently as a few weeks ago, Boston.com was publishing a feature story titled, “Just How Many Missteps Will John Farrell Be Allowed”.
But this story, together with all of Boston’s talk radio heads are missing the big picture about what really matters in managing a big league team today. Strategy, the main focus of the criticism directed at Farrell, counts very little these day. And it’s simply because the job description of a manager has expanded tenfold since the days when a manager could hide in his office and no one would even dare knock on the door.
A good read on these other responsibilities and how they are important in evaluating a manager nowadays appeared in the Boston Globe interestingly at the same time that Farrell was under fire. Suffice it to say though, a manager today must be a people person, and more specifically here a player’s person.
And John Farrell is all of that. And never once as the criticism rained down on him did it ever come from inside the clubhouse. Although it might be a stretch, it just might be true too that the players rallied around him during that time in August to help save his job. Because they understood his true value to the team. And they also underscored that faith in him by simply doing what quiets any kind of negative talk in baseball- winning!
Like the players, managers are judged by the “what have you done for me lately” rule. But that should not be the main consideration in the event that the Red Sox flop in the playoffs. Instead, the season should be taken as a whole, and if that happens, John Farrell should get a bunch of votes when the Manager of the Year in the American League is announced.