Firing the manager: An idea that never made much sense

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Grounds crew before the Red Sox’ 8-7 soggy win over the Yankees. Photo (cc) by Dan Kennedy.

At the end of the Red Sox’ disastrous 2011 season, Terry Francona—the greatest manager in team history—was fired (and kicked hard on his way out). The excuse: Well, you can’t fire the players. In fact, that’s exactly what they needed to do, and they did it the following year.

So now we come to John Farrell. As Nick Cafardo points out in the Boston Globe, calls that Farrell has to go are being stilled for the moment, but you can be sure they’ll be back as soon as the Sox start losing games again.

I don’t get it. I’ve never gotten it. If you have a manager who has the trust of the front office, why wouldn’t you keep him for as long as he wants to manage—five or 10 years, maybe more? Yes, there are some genuinely bad managers who have to go (Grady Little, Bobby Valentine). Same with general managers (Ben Cherington). For the most part, though, if you’ve got a good manager or GM, keep him.

Some of Farrell’s in-game moves are mystifying, but the team plays hard for him and he handles the pitching staff well—as you would expect, given that he was a very good pitching coach. The Red Sox were wrong to get rid of Francona, who may have needed a season off the field but should have stayed with the team; they’d be wrong to get rid of Farrell.

Firing the manager is usually a bad idea

Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles June 15, 2013
John Farrell in happier times — with David Ortiz in 2013.

The Fire John Farrell campaign is far enough along that Boston Globe columnist Christopher Gasper feels compelled to write about why the Red Sox shouldn’t fire him.

Personally, I’ve never understood the urge to fire managers. Sometimes you hire a really bad one and you have no choice. But when you’ve got a good one, you should keep him.

Lest we forget, after the 2011 collapse the Sox fired Terry Francona, the best manager they’d ever had, citing the truism that you can’t fire all the players. Less than a year later, they did fire all the players, more or less, leading to a World Series victory in 2013 under Farrell — a fine manager, but no Francona.

What bothers me about the 2015 Red Sox is that some of the problems were predictable — the lousy starting rotation in particular. But that’s on Ben Cherington and the front office, not Farrell. (No, I wouldn’t fire Cherington, either, but I assume he and the owners are engaged in some serious soul-searching.)

The Sox have plenty of problems, but Farrell isn’t one of them.

Photo (cc) by Keith Allison and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.