Red Sox fans can take a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief. The short, yet disastrous era of Bobby Valentine is done. It’s over. Thank goodness the nightmare that was the 2012 season has come to an end. The Sox have moved on and already taken the first important step in trying to forget their worst record since 1965. John Farrell is the new face of hope in Boston and the right man for one of the most difficult jobs in baseball.
Before going into why Farrell is the right choice for the Sox, one thing has to be made clear. It will take a heck of a lot more than a new manager to fix Boston’s copious amount of problems. This job is not meant for one man alone. That being said, Farrell is unquestionably the right start to help Red Sox Nation, at the very least, wake up from this nightmare.
What’s most important is simple and obvious. John Farrell is not Bobby Valentine, and that is a great thing. However, Farrell is the man whom General Manager Ben Cherington may have wanted all along for the job dating back to last season. Farrell, unlike Bobby V, is already saying all the right things. He said yesterday at his introductory press conference that he believed in “an up-tempo, aggressive style of play.”
“I think to play that style of game, it does create an attitude, which I think is critical to win at the Major League level, and that’s to be relentless,” said Farrell. “With our effort, with our preparation, with the work and the competitiveness that we take the field every night, that is of the utmost importance in how we play.
This is exactly the type of rhetoric Red Sox fans want to here from the new manager. Words such as aggressive, effort, preparation, work, competitiveness and relentless are not words used to describe last year’s team. Unlike Bobby V, Farrell is a man who understands his role. Of course it’s one thing for Farrell to say he wants an attitude of relentless. It’s another thing to put these words into action. The point, however, is that he already understands what needs to be different about next year’s Red Sox team.
Farrell understands what Boston needs to be a successful ballclub. He should know because he’s been here before. Farrell was the pitching coach under Terry Francona from 2007 through 2010. There is a sense of familiarity with the players, coaches and management that should already be present. He has relationships with previous players such as Jon Lester, who according to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, is excited to have Farrell back with the Sox.
“I think it’s a good thing,’’ Lester told Edes. “He helped mold me into the pitcher I am, the player I am. My work ethic, the work I do between starts, he really helped mold all of that.”
It is clear that players already have respect for their new manager, starting with the ace of the pitching staff in Lester. Almost equally as important as respect, Lester credits Farrell in helping him become the pitcher that he is today. In his rookie season in 2006, Lester walked nearly five batters per nine innings and had a 1.64 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched). By 2010, Lester was an all star and finished the season fourth in the AL Cy Young race. All of his improvements came under Farrell until his decline in the 2012 season. Lester finished the year with a 9-14 record and a career-worst 4.82 ERA.
Not only is it important that Lester had success under Farrell but so too did the entire pitching staff. In Farrell’s first year as pitching coach, the Red Sox ranked first in the league in ERA and WHIP. Boston went on to win the World Series that season. Last year, the Sox pitching staff was abysmal, finishing 12th in the league with a team ERA of 4.70. Farrell could be the answer the Red Sox need to solve their most urgent problem in pitching.
Bobby V couldn’t fix the issues that faced the Red Sox in his first year as manager, but he was the wrong man from the start. In Farrell, the Sox bring in a familiar face and a respected coach. He is the fresh start the Sox have been searching for since the demise of Francona and the collapse of the 2011 Red Sox. Cherington cannot miraculously heal the team of all its wounds with the signing of John Farrell, but it is undoubtedly the right start.