5 Things Red Sox Manager Farrell Must Do Differently Than Valentine
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New Red Sox manager John Farrell has his work cut out for him as he tries to pick up the pieces from last year's horrendous showing under Bobby Valentine. He's been tasked with patching up the leaking holes that led to the Red Sox' worst season in nearly 50 years—and then some.
If he can take anything away from his predecessor, it's a long list of don'ts.
When thinking about all of the things Farrell should approach differently this year than Valentine, the short answer is everything. But here are five crucial lessons to be learned for a guaranteed turnaround in 2013.
Keep the Peace in the Clubhouse
It was no secret that Valentine had his differences with the Red Sox ownership, front office, coaches and players. There was a clear disconnect in communication across the board and it showed on game day.
Change is hard and Valentine had some big, well-liked shoes to fill when he arrived in Boston. Unfortunately, his management style clashed with everything and everyone around him.
The result? Utter disaster.
It eventually led to a player mutiny, and a meeting was called by ownership to discuss the team's dissatisfaction with Valentine. It all started when Adrian Gonzalez sent a text on behalf of him and other players.
By the season's end he was fired.
But Farrell is unlikely to have the same problems. He was the guy the Red Sox wanted all along, back in 2010 when Terry Francona parted ways with the team. Everyone already knows him from his previous years as the Red Sox pitching coach, and most importantly, everyone seems to like him.
Hopefully everyone can just get along and the broken clubhouse dynamic will finally be restored.
Handle the Media
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The notoriously cutthroat Boston media loved Valentine. The Red Sox manager just couldn't keep his foot out of his mouth.
He never learned in school how to think before he speaks or how to control his emotions. His comments were riddled with sarcasm and attitude, and he had a bad habit of criticizing his players on the record.
An interview with Valentine was guaranteed to strike page view gold.
Hence, the Red Sox organization was more like a circus than a baseball club in 2012, with the media playing the role of ringmaster and Valentine the elephant.
For example in September, WEEI's Glenn Ordway asked Valentine if he'd checked out for the season. Following the August mega-deal, it was obvious by then that the Red Sox weren't making the playoffs and that Valentine wasn't making it past October. His response was less than gracious.
What an embarrassing thing to say. If I were there right now, I'd punch you right in the mouth. Ha, ha. How's that sound? Is that like I checked out? What an embarrassing thing.
Whether he was joking or not (Valentine brought boxing gloves to his next interview), he should have known better. After countless slips with the media throughout the season, he should have anticipated that they would take his remark and run fast to the presses.
What Valentine should have done—and what Farrell should do—is head down the street to Gillette Stadium and take a page out of the book of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The master of "no comment," Belichick never answers a question he doesn't want to.
Hopefully Farrell has a better handle on himself in front of the microphone allowing reporters to focus on more important things, like the performance of the team itself.
Have His Players' Backs
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Valentine developed a reputation for throwing his players under the bus, something that continued to stretch his relationship with the players thin until it seemed to snap once and for all.
The most notorious incident was when just a few weeks into the season, Valentine blasted veteran Kevin Youkilis during a TV interview in a statement that seemed to question the third baseman's commitment. He said:
I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.
It prompted Dustin Pedroia to fire back in defense of Youkilis and of course, led to another poorly-put retraction from Valentine. Youkilis was later traded, and this particular occurrence took a lot of the blame.
Then there was the time that youngster Will Middlebrooks entered the dugout after a couple of errors and Valentine reportedly remarked, "nice inning, kid."
Valentine claimed not to have meant any malice with it, but it certainly didn't please the players within earshot.
And then the incident that started it all and set the tone for the season: Players were allegedly very upset after witnessing Valentine publicly lay into former player Mike Aviles during a drill in Spring Training.
Even after being fired from the organization Valentine kept on talking, this time directing his negative comments at slugger David Ortiz, who spent the end of the season out with an Achilles injury.
But Valentine suggested instead that Ortiz quit on his team after the blockbuster deal in August:
He realized that this trade meant that we're not going to run this race and we're not even going to finish the race properly and he decided not to play anymore.
If Farrell wants to maintain a solid relationship with his players throughout the season, he'll keep his criticisms constructive and behind closed doors. On air, he'll show nothing but support.
Players are more likely to play for a manager they respect, so getting the approval of veteran players like Ortiz and Pedroia is key. Luckily, since Farrell already has experience working with both, he's off to a good start.
Shape Up the Starting Rotation
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One of his first orders of business as manager was to ban beer in the clubhouse. The decision came following the 2011 September collapse, which was coupled with the beer and fried chicken scandal involving Red Sox pitchers.
Unfortunately, this rule didn't make the Sox's rotation play any better. The pitchers combined for an abysmal 4.70 ERA, the fourth-worst in baseball. Formerly dependable ace Jon Lester shockingly went from 15-9 in 2011 to 9-14 in 2012.
But Farrell is a pitcher first and manager second. He should be able to bring his expertise to the table to turn things around on the mound.
The biggest advantage is his familiarity with several of the current pitchers—like Lester and Clay Buchholz—due to his stint as the Red Sox pitching coach from 2006-2010, which included the 2007 World Series.
Image from MLive.com
Sure, this is obvious. But no matter how many things Farrell does right or differently, if the Red Sox don't win and compete in their division much of the blame will inevitably all on his shoulders.
After losing more than 90 games under Valentine and finishing in last place in the AL East, things can really only go up for the Red Sox.
A strong start is crucial.
Not only is it an opportunity for Farrell—who'll be working under the microscope of Boston fans—to make a good first impression, but it's also something the Red Sox have been unable to pull off in recent years.
With Valentine, the Red Sox started 4-10 and didn't break .500 until after Memorial Day. There's no question that things might have been different come September if Boston had come out swinging from Spring Training.
In 2011, the Sox started 0-6 and didn't break .500 until May 16.
It's a trend that needs to be broken and Farrell holds the trigger.