SAN FRANCISCO — Now comes the hard part — making the team better.
According to a team source, John Farrell has been hired to manage the Red Sox. It could easily have been Brad Ausmus, Tony Pena, Tim Wallach, or DeMarlo Hale. And they would all have the same problem — this is not a very good team right now.
But general manager Ben Cherington now has his man in place.
Farrell speaks the same language as Cherington. He has the same philosophies about instruction and development. There should be no issues about being on the same page. Farrell will say the right things at news conferences and be careful about being critical of a player. He will be everything Bobby Valentine wasn’t.
But as Farrell found out in Toronto, if your roster stinks, some of the backlash will be directed at you, whether it’s your fault or not.
Cherington has said all along he feels the Sox not only need to improve the roster but need to get the players already on the roster to perform better. Cherington has always believed Farrell can get the best out of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, and this will be the major aspect of roster improvement.
Of course, it’s always difficult for a manager to take on coaching assignments, as well. Farrell will have enough on his plate just running the daily operations, let alone trying to turn Lester into a No. 1 and making sure Buchholz stays consistent and becomes everything the Red Sox think he can be.
It’ll be up to Farrell and Cherington to put together a coaching staff that can teach and improve the performance of players. Of course, they also need good players to coach.
They already have lost hitting coach Dave Magadan to the Rangers, so now the question is which pitching coach will be selected to turn the staff in the right direction?
This may be the most critical hire the Red Sox have made in recent memory. They have had four pitching coaches in the last three years, going from Farrell to Curt Young to Bob McClure to Randy Niemann. There has been no continuity, and altogether too many voices.
Any one of the candidates the Red Sox interviewed would have done a credible job managing the team. But the bigger job appears to be, who can fix the pitching? Certainly Farrell will have a hand in it, but again, a manager can’t wear both hats.
The pitching coach on the 2013 Red Sox may be the most important uniformed member of the organization. Choosing the right person is going to fall on Farrell and Cherington.
Farrell could go with Bruce Walton, his pitching coach in Toronto, which whom the Blue Jays pitchers enjoyed working. But the results weren’t impressive, and ace lefthander Ricky Romero had an awful season, while other starters got hurt.
One coach who would be a factor is Rick Peterson, the Orioles’ director of pitching. But would the Sox want a coach this strong in his views? Would Farrell want to relinquish the majority of his say in the pitching and allow Peterson to do his thing? Or does Farrell have someone else in mind?
Farrell and his pitching coach coach also need to get Felix Doubront to the next level. The Sox haven’t developed many pitchers as of late, but Doubront is one of their success stories. Doubront could be an effective lefthander, but he needs to economize so he can pitch deeper into games.
Farrell was not a miracle worker in Toronto, nor was he considered a great in-game strategist. But the slate is now clean. It doesn’t matter how he performed in Toronto because Cherington didn’t care about those criticisms. All Cherington knows is he feels Farrell can work in Boston.
All managers need a chance to prove themselves, and Farrell is going to get his chance. But in all fairness, unless the roster improves he can’t compete. And the roster he’s inheriting is worse than the one he had in Toronto.
Jose Bautista isn’t walking through that door.
We don’t know whether David Ortiz or Cody Ross are either.
Farrell may be able to bring some of his coaches with him. Brian Butterfield, the Jays’ third base coach and infield instructor, is one of the hardest-working coaches in baseball. Former Sox shortstop Luis Rivera is invaluable in his ability to teach and be a liaison with Latin players.
Having coaches he can trust is half the battle for a manager, something Valentine never had.
Farrell will have to come in and gain the players’ respect. There aren’t many remaining from when he was here. Pedroia can play for anyone, and Ortiz would certainly fall in line if he re-signs, but neither had a lot of interaction with Farrell when he was the pitching coach.
There will likely be key new players brought in (or at least Farrell hopes there are) and he’ll have to find a way to get them to buy into his methods. He has to lay down the law. The Sox want a tougher manager with a presence, and they feel they have that in Farrell. Now he has to be given a fair chance to succeed.
And the only way he will succeed is if he has good players.