John Farrell had to go.
And even though Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski didn’t want to get into specifics during his press conference, we all know the dirty details.
It was announced on Wednesday morning that Farrell would not be returning as manager in 2018, the final year of his contract.
So, in other words, Farrell was fired.
It came just two days after losing to the Houston Astros in four games of the ALDS. He’ll most likely never forget his final game in Boston, as it was spent relaying in-game decisions from the clubhouse to the dugout.
Farrell was ejected during the second inning of Game 4 on Monday. He had no choice. After Dustin Pedroia got caught looking at strike three with bases loaded, the disgruntled and struggling second baseman was letting the home-plate umpire hear about it.
At that point, it was either Pedroia or Farrell. One of them was getting tossed. So Farrell did what any manager would do. He jumped in and took the bullet.
He took another one on Wednesday morning. Only, this was a gunfight that probably could have been prevented.
Farrell won a World Series in his first season as Red Sox manager in 2013, and he became the first in team history to win back-to-back AL East titles, in 2016 and 2017.
Like most managers in Major League Baseball, Farrell received too much credit when they won it all in ’13, and took too much of the blame when the last two postseason appearances ended in the ALDS.
That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve some credit. And that’s not to say he doesn’t deserve some of the blame. He does. But had either Chris Sale or Drew Pomeranz shown up for Games 1 or 2, respectively, in Houston last week, perhaps the Red Sox would still be playing baseball.
Sale and Pomeranz, and to an extent, Craig Kimbrel, deserve most of the blame for losing to the Astros the way they did. Those three were the Red Sox’ best pitchers all year long, but they no-showed when it mattered the most.
There are contributing factors, of course. The offense struggled. The clubhouse leadership was questionable. And the managerial decisions made along the way were mind-boggling, none more difficult to stomach than in this year’s ALDS.
Looking back on the four-game series with Houston, it was clear that Hanley Ramirez and Rafael Devers were the Red Sox’ most productive hitters.
Ramirez went 8-for-14 (.571) with two doubles, three RBI, and two runs scored. Devers went 4-for-11 (.364) with two home runs, five RBI, and three runs scored.
Yet, Farrell put together two different lineups in the series that had either Ramirez or Devers starting on the bench. He had an injured Eduardo Nunez starting over Ramirez at DH in Game 1, and he had Deven Marrero starting over Devers at third base against lefty Dallas Keuchel in Game 2.
Ramirez missed just one at-bat in Game 1 after Nunez had to be carried off the field with a knee injury. But it could have been a big at-bat, because Ramirez finished the game 2-for-3 with a double. Either way, the idea of wanting to begin a playoff series with Ramirez on the bench is nothing short of bizarre.
In Game 2, Devers did come in to pinch-hit for Marrero in the seventh inning, but the Red Sox were already trailing 8-1 at that point, and Marrero had already went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. No strikeout bigger than in the second inning with runners on first and third and nobody out, already trailing the game 2-0.
Imagine if Farrell had let two of his best hitters get at-bats early in Games 1 and 2 of the postseason? What a concept that would be.
Even if the results ended up being the same, those type of idiotic decisions, in October, are enough to justify a manager change. And while there’s obviously a lot more that goes into that change, Farrell’s decision-making when the stakes were at their highest is undoubtedly one of the aforementioned contributing factors.
It’s a near certainty that we’ll hear stories come out about how Farrell was portrayed in his own clubhouse. And it probably won’t be a good look for anyone.
But it would have been a worse look had the Red Sox brought Farrell back to manage the team in 2018.
It was time for him to go.
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