I wonder. Will the Red Sox ultimately be remembered for hiring the wrong manager from Connecticut?
After outsmarting themselves last November by hiring the smartest man in the room, if not the planet, I wonder. Are the Red Sox overcompensating this October, trying too hard to make up for their colossal blunder and in doing so overlooking Brad Ausmus?
Introduced Tuesday as the third Red Sox manager in 13 months, John Farrell is the safe choice. He might be the right choice. I'd go so far as to say he deserves the shot.
Unlike last year when Ben Cherington was strong-armed by Larry Lucchino into hiring Bobby Valentine after the Blue Jays blocked Farrell's candidacy, the Red Sox power trust is on the same page this time. That's a nice place to start.
It's also nice that Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Big Papi have fallen all over themselves rushing to embrace Farrell's hiring. They respect and like Farrell from their previous time together. It does raise the yellow flag of caution any time players — who clearly didn't have much use for Valentine — bitch and moan until they get what they want.
Then again, the players would have cried behind closed doors for anybody other than Valentine. They never wanted to give the Oracle of Stamford a chance. And with Valentine, who alternately came off as loopy, condescending and disconnected, it wasn't entirely clear if he wanted to be given a chance. Red Sox fans can thank the baseball gods that the short — OK, it felt long — strange trip is over.
"John's integrity, leadership skills, intelligence are second to none," Cherington said at the press conference to introduce Farrell. "His broad set of experiences makes him the right person for this job."
And with that, Cherington turned to Farrell, handed him a Sox cap and told him, "Put this on your big melon." Cherington was talking literally, of course, because few figuratively have bigger heads than Valentine and Lucchino.
"I will work my butt off to earn the players' trust and respect," said Farrell, the team's successful pitching coach from 2007 to 2010. "If that is being described as a players' manager, then maybe that's what I am."
"We have to communicate, outline expectations and hold players accountable. That's leading people. At the same time they have to have a voice in this."
Farrell is a grown-up. He's a strong and solid presence. He looks people in the eye. He gives them the straight shot. And because Bobby V. smiled, did weird twitches and spoke in Nostradamus-like quatrains as Fenway burned, the Red Sox are eager to embrace a man with a concrete foundation. They're looking for John Wayne to replace The Joker.
And when Farrell says things like, "When you treat players like men, it will come back to you tenfold," well, those are the kind of things that can pay him back 37,000 fold with fans at Fenway Park.
Look, by Red Sox standards, after the 69-93 disaster, the bar of expectations for 2013 is set pretty low. If Farrell can manage not to estrange a veteran, jab a rookie, threaten to punch a radio host in the nose, call his roster horse poop and win as many games as he loses … he'll be a hero by Labor Day.
And therein lies the potential rub. Is mediocrity the new Sweet Caroline? And if not, how long will the fans of the Red Sox, with so much work to be done to their roster, be patient in their demand for a return to glory?
Farrell went 154-170 as Blue Jays manager. His 73-89 record in 2012 was Toronto's worst since 2004. We all had been making fun of the Red Sox pitching, but Toronto's collective ERA of 4.64 was 26th in the majors, one spot ahead of Boston. And although slugger Jose Bautista has disagreed, Omar Vizquel said that the Jays lacked leadership and accountability. And you do have to admit one thing. If Yunel Escobar was on the 2012 Red Sox and not the Blue Jays when he wore that homophobic slur on his eyeblack, Bobby V. would have been slaughtered.
Farrell is taking a beating in Toronto for being less than honest in skipping town and never planning to fulfill his three-year contract as manager. He insists he was "candid" with management about the Red Sox being his dream job. This is what sticks with me: If the Jays wanted to keep him so badly, wouldn't they have said no to Boston again and insisted on giving Farrell a nice extension?
There's a real feeling in Boston that Ausmus, Tim Wallach, DeMarlo Hale and Tony Pena were brought in for show to cover the Red Sox in case the Blue Jays played hardball in negotiations for compensation for Farrell. Mike Aviles in 2012 compared to Clay Buchholz in 2011 isn't exactly playing hardball, eh?
Yet, in the course of those interviews, Ausmus, from Cheshire, wowed the Sox. Aced the interview, reportedly, in his oral presentation and fastidiously detailed written plan. The Dartmouth grad, former All-Star catcher, and now special Padres assistant did terrific. The Red Sox might be Farrell's dream job, but they were Ausmus' dream job, too, a team he followed since he was a kid.
I don't know Ausmus personally, but people who do paint him as especially intelligent, a natural-born leader, the next Mike Matheny. So maybe this is a repeat of 2003. Maybe Farrell is Terry Francona. Maybe Ausmus becomes the next Joe Maddon, a finalist for the Red Sox job before excelling in Tampa Bay. Maybe Farrell, with Torey Lovullo as his bench coach, is able to reignite Lester's career, sustain Buchholz and put Daniel Bard's shattered psyche back together again. Maybe it works out great for everyone.
Or maybe it takes Cherington, armed with the quarter billion dollars from the Dodgers deal, longer than fans want to rebuild a winner. Maybe the steadiness that Farrell brings to the Red Sox starts to look like ordinary. Maybe safe now becomes dangerously lacking in creativity later. Maybe Ausmus is the special engine the Red Sox should have been looking for this time instead of using the trusty Farrell to clear the tracks of another Connecticut train wreck. I wonder.
Farrell came armed with answers Tuesday. He and Lester already have had one discussion on his delivery, although Farrell took pains to point out that no pitcher will bypass the new pitching coach to get to him. He pledged an aggressive, relentless style of play. He was honest enough to say that he could have been more passionate in Toronto about making suggestions to management about the roster. Cherington, for his part, insisted that his decadelong relationship with Farrell will allow them to have the tough talks without jeopardizing their feelings.
Farrell also talked about being at Lucchino's house the other night, eating Chinese takeout with ownership, when John Henry asked him, "With all our issues, why would you want to come here?"
"This is the place where I'd love to take on the challenge," Farrell told Henry. "It's an incredible city … the epicenter of baseball."
And with that, the job is his.an incredible city … the epicenter of baseball."
And with that, the job is his.