On Wednesday morning, the Boston Red Sox made it official, firing manager John Farrell after five seasons in charge of the team.
The #RedSox announced today that John Farrell will not return as manager in 2018. A search for a new manager will begin immediately.
— Red Sox (@RedSox) October 11, 2017
Farrell won the World Series with Boston in 2013, his first year at the helm of the team, but results were disappointing since then. Farrell’s Sox finished below .500 in both 2014 and 2015 (with the latter season cut short for the manager following a diagnosis and eventual complete recovery from lymphoma), but won the AL East in 2016 and 2017.
However, in those two division-winning seasons, the Red Sox underachieved in October. Last year, the team was swept by the eventual AL champion Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. This year, Boston lost the first two games of the ALDS in Houston, won Game 3, and blew Game 4 to confirm another elimination. Farrell watched that game from the clubhouse, as he was ejected in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes.
On paper, the dismissal may seem harsh – a championship and three division titles in five seasons is nothing to sneeze at. But the overall performance of the team, specifically over the last two seasons, is a disappointment because of the sheer amount of money the Red Sox have spent. The team’s payroll was a franchise record $197.9 million last year, and came in just shy of that number at $197 million this season. The Red Sox have had a top five payroll in baseball every year since 2001, coming in at the second-highest amount a whopping eight times. Spending that kind of money is fine when you’re winning, but when the organization wins one playoff game over four years and nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars on payroll, something has to change.
And something did change! Dave Dombrowski came into the organization in August of 2015, leading to the resignation of former GM Ben Cherington. Farrell was Cherington’s guy, not Dombrowski’s – he was hired by the former GM after the 2012 season and was given a contract extension just six months before Cherington resigned. Farrell wasn’t going to get fired after the 2015 season because of his recovery from lymphoma (and how awful the optics on that would have looked), and he wasn’t going to get fired after the 2016 division title given Boston’s struggles over the last two seasons.
But following the disappointment of the 2017 season, which was fortified by the offseason acquisition of ace Chris Sale, Dombrowski had his out. However, in comments Wednesday about the firing, he didn’t exactly elaborate on the reasons behind the firing. Per the Boston Globe…
“I thought it was an appropriate time to make a change for the betterment of the organization moving forward,” said Dombrowski. “For me, sometimes change can be better. That’s why we decided to move forward with the change.”
Here’s the situation the Red Sox are in. Dombrowski’s contract is up after the 2019 season, and if he doesn’t lead the team to a championship, he’s probably not going to be retained. Sale and Rick Porcello are both free agents after 2019. Craig Kimbrel and Drew Pomeranz are free agents after next season. Xander Bogaerts only has two years of team control left, while Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr each have three.
Farrell was only signed through the 2018 season. If he’s not the guy that’s going to bring another championship to the Red Sox, why go into 2018 with him as a lame duck manager? Why wouldn’t Dombrowski bring in his own guy for the next two seasons and attempt to win a championship?
There’s no guarantee that Dombrowski’s hire will be an upgrade on Farrell. After all, following Terry Francona’s firing in 2011, the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine, who lasted as manager for one disastrous season before being dismissed and replaced with Farrell. I don’t begrudge Dombrowski for wanting to move on from Farrell, because he’s doing all he can to help the Red Sox win a championship. If that includes firing a manager who won a World Series four years ago, so be it – that Red Sox team was different from this Red Sox team, and maybe another manager can break through the playoff barriers that Farrell failed at crossing over the last four seasons.