Although most of Boston hoped for John Farrell’s departure, his feats must still be remembered
When news broke that the Boston Red Sox had parted ways with manager John Farrell, the general consensus among fans was relief. Despite winning back-to-back American League East titles in 2016 and 2017, the Sox failed to make it past the divisional round, losing all but one game in the two postseason appearances. Farrell’s every move seemed to be under scrutiny, as his team with such high expectations continually underperformed. But it wasn’t always this way — John Farrell once was a symbol of hope.
Rewind to the fall of 2012: the Red Sox had just finished one of the worst seasons in team history, going 69-93 and failing to make the playoffs for the second straight year. It was manager Bobby Valentine’s first and only season with the team and, as David Ortiz wrote in his book, “Papi: My Story”, “The drama began almost immediately in spring training. I remember fighting the thought, very early, we’re going to have an absolutely terrible year.” The previous season wasn’t much better: leading the Tampa Bay Rays by nine games in the wild card race, the Red Sox finished the season by losing 18 out of 24, and blew a calculated 99.6 percent chance of reaching the postseason. It was a collapse of epic proportions and was followed by a season that only dragged the team further toward rock bottom.
Enter John Farrell. The manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and a former Red Sox pitching coach, Farrell quickly emerged as a leading candidate to fill the vacant managerial spot in Boston. With General Manager Ben Cherington quickly disposing of the widely-loathed Bobby Valentine, Farrell was hired not even a month after the season ended. Things quickly began changing. After a tremendously productive off-season orchestrated by Cherington that brought on a handful of new additions, the Sox were put in a position to stage a massive turnaround and return to the top of not only the AL East, but the entire league. The former pitching coach was already popular in Boston despite having yet to manage a game and seemed to represent a sign of change and hope as the new and improved Red Sox looked to return with a vengeance.
At 97-65, the Sox finished the 2013 season under Farrell tied for the best record in all of baseball. They had finally returned to the postseason, and went on to defeat Tampa Bay in four games and the Detroit Tigers in six to secure a spot in the World Series for the first time since 2007. They then defeated the St. Louis Cardinals and in doing so became only the second team in baseball history to win the World Series after finishing last in its division the previous year.
But then there were the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Marred by bad trades (Andrew Miller for Eduardo Rodriguez), bad signings (Rusney Castillo for seven years and $73 million) and a bad offense, the Red Sox found themselves at the bottom of the division for two years straight. Farrell missed most of 2015 after being diagnosed with lymphoma and watched as the skeleton of a team that had won a World Series only two years before fell apart at its core. Farrell returned the next year and, like clockwork, the Sox bounced back in 2016 to win the AL East, then did it again in 2017 — back-to-back division titles for the first time ever in Boston. The rest is history: the Sox were swept in 2016 and steamrolled in 2017 and Farrell’s quietly impressive time as manager came to an end. Three AL East titles (the most by any Red Sox manager ever) and one World Series later, General Manager Dave Dombrowski parted ways with John Farrell. As many would agree, it was time. But as many will forget, he wasn’t all that bad.