Christmas and New Years Day have come and gone and in just 57 days the Red Sox open their Spring Training game schedule with split squad games against Northeastern University and Boston College. Only 92 days from tomorrow, the Sox open the regular season against the Cleveland Indians.
Many Red Sox fans feel that this year’s version of the team has the ability to be competitive and perhaps win the Eastern Division. The young team that won 28 of its last 48 games last year and added one of the premier starters in baseball in David Price and one of the best closers in Craig Kimbrel could very well be that good.
As I have pointed out in this spot on more than one occasion, the position players on this team, with the exception of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, are very young, extremely talented and locked into Boston for several years. The outfield of Rusney Castillo in left, Jackie Bradley in center and Mookie Betts in right is, potentially, one of the best in the American League.
The infield, with Travis Shaw available at first or third should Ramirez or Sandoval fail again, Dustin Pedroia at second, Xander Bogaerts, who had one of the best years any Red Sox shortstop has had in recent years, last year, and Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt or Shaw at third, could be one of the better hitting infields in baseball. The return of Christian Vasquez with Blake Swihart and Ryan Hanagan already proven there makes them strong behind the plate.
The starting pitching, with Price added to Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens should be effective, particularly if Buchholz can have an injury free year. The bullpen bolstered by the addition of Kimbrel, with Koji Uehara moved to set up man, Junichi Tazawa back in a regular relief roll and the addition of Carson Smith, has plenty of depth.
After last year’s dismal performances by Sandoval and Ramirez, no one is optimistic that they will produce this year, particularly Ramirez, whose inept outfield play and disappointing season at the plate does not give anyone confidence in his ability to make the shift to first. However, if one, or both, of them should return to their previous form, this team will be really hard to beat.
After leading them to an impressive 28-20 record after taking over for Manager John Farrell when Farrell became ill last year, Torey Lovullo is going back to Bench Coach and Farrell will resume his position as Manager.
Prior to their impressive finish under Lovullo, the Sox had won just 121 and lost 155 under Farrell since winning the World Series in his first year as Manager.
Before he took over as Manager in Boston in 2013, Farrell managed two years at Toronto, 2011 and 2012. In Toronto, his team won 154 games and lost 170, finishing fourth in the Eastern Division both years. In the year before he came to Toronto, 2010, the Jays had won 85 and lost 77, eight games over .500. In his first year, 2011, Farrell’s team slipped to 81 wins and 81 losses and, in 2012 won just 73 games while losing 89, 16 games under
To put it bluntly, John Farrell’s record as a Manager is not impressive. In five years, his teams have won 400 games and lost 410. He has won one World Championship and finished fourth twice and last twice. As former Red Sox infielder Lou Merloni has said, Farrell caught ‘lightning in a bottle’ that first year as Boston Manager. Before and since that beginning, his teams have done nothing.
The question that has to be asked is ‘ If John Farrell had not become ill, after finishing in last place two years in a row with a combined record of 121 wins and 155 losses, would he be coming back as the Red Sox Manager in 2016 ‘?
If Torey Lovullo was willing to stay on as Bench Coach, I am sure he would have been willing to continue to serve as Interim Manager for another year until Farrell’s long range situation sorts itself out. What would be wrong with giving Farrell a position, similar to that of Jason Varitec, where he would work out of the front office as a Special Assistant to the General Manager and work with pitchers throughout the Sox organization? After all, he was the Red Sox Pitching Coach before he became a Manager.
If, after the 2016 season, Farrell’s health remained stable and his cancer was still in remission, and the Red Sox ownership team still wanted him back, he could be reinstated as Manager and Lovullo would still have his position as Bench Coach available with the option of taking a managerial job elsewhere.
The job of managing any baseball team is 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, of going straight out. With Spring Training less than two months away, managing a team with high expectations, the Manager is under tremendous pressure. Would it be the end of the world if Farrell were to step aside for a year?