By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox improved from finishing in last place in 2014 and 2015 to winning the AL East in 2016. But after Monday night’s loss in Game 3 of the ALDS to the Cleveland Indians, the Red Sox finished the 2016 campaign with the same number of postseason wins as they’ve had in the past two years: zero.
And considering manager John Farrell entered spring training in 2016 on the proverbial hot seat, it’s only a matter of time before the speculation on his job security begins to swirl in Boston.
For Farrell’s part, he said after the loss that such thought have not crossed his mind. But he also seemed to make his case for being brought back for 2017.
“I’ve not thought anything beyond today’s game, and that’s the approach I take every day, through 162 games and the postseason,” Farrell said. “But given where this team finished last year, there’s a lot for them to be proud of. We had a chance to talk right at the end of the ballgame. We’re AL East champions, and I know that doesn’t mean much sitting here right now. But there’s sizeable and substantial progress that has been made on so many individual players, for us as a team. This is a big stepping stone for a lot of players in our clubhouse. So this team is in very good shape as we move forward.”
Farrell opened himself up for some criticism when he opted to take Andrew Benintendi out of the game for Chris Young in the bottom of the seventh. Though Young did work a walk against the left-handed Andrew Miller, Benintendi had been Boston’s best hitter for the series. He doubled and drove in a run in his previous at-bat, and he squared up a ball in his first at-bat, though it was hit directly at the shortstop behind second base for a double play. On the series, Benintendi went 3-for-9 with a double, a home run, two RBIs and a run scored.
Removing Benintendi for a pinch hitter instead of choosing Sandy Leon or Jackie Bradley certainly raised some eyebrows, especially when those two players followed up Young’s walk with a lineout and a strikeout.
Farrell was asked for his reasoning on the decision.
“The number of pitches [Miller is] throwing, if we wait to get to Jackie in that inning [before going to a pinch hitter], we may never get there, and then they’re going to go to [reliever Bryan] Shaw with the right-handers coming up the next inning. So that was the chance or the shot we took with [Young]. He draws the walk, starts the potential of getting something going. Either Benintendi or Jackie is going to have to get an at-bat if that inning gets extended. But if it’s not, I’m not going to get left with the pinch hit starting the next inning, and then they go to Shaw to lead things off.”
Bradley did end up lining a single to right field with two outs in the ninth, thus taking some heat off the manager. Still, the decision on Monday was far from a unique situation, as Farrell’s in-game management abilities have been under the microscope since he took the job in Boston in 2013. Never more was it more on display than when relief pitcher Brandon Workman got his first career at-bat in the ninth inning of a tied game in the World Series game, only to be taken out of the game after facing two batters in the bottom of the inning.
The fact that Dave Dombrowski is in charge of baseball operations might not bode well for Farrell, considering Farrell was brought on as manager during the Ben Cherington era. Dombrowski has spoken highly of the job Farrell has done, but the president of baseball operations has been hesitant to fully commit to the manager.
Overall, Farrell owns a 493-479 regular-season record as an MLB manager, and a 339-309 record as manager of the Red Sox. His teams have finished atop the division twice, in fourth place in the division twice, and in last place in the division twice. His playoff record dropped to 11-8 with the series sweep at the hands of Cleveland. He’s under contract through next season, with the team holding an option for 2018.
Speculation about Farrell’s job security is nothing new, but it appeared to be put on ice for the next several months based on the way the Red Sox won 11 straight games in working their way to an AL East title. Yet now that the Red Sox not only lost seven of eight to end the regular season but also got swept out of the ALDS, the topic of the job status of the Red Sox’ manager is certain to be a big one in Boston in the coming days and weeks.
UPDATE: On Tuesday, Dave Dombrowski announced that Farrell will be returning as manager in 2017. A decision has not yet been made on the option for 2018.