McAdam: Red Sox can expect Farrell to understand players, city

McAdam: Red Sox can expect Farrell to understand players, city
October 22, 2012, 4:06 pm
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To say that the path the Red Sox took in pursuit of John Farrell was a circuitous one would be more than a bit of understatement.

Their interest in him began a year ago. Initially rebuffed by the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox took a disastrous detour to Bobby Valentine and resulted in the team's worst record in almost half a century.

Finally, after weeks of intrigue regarding Farrell, the Red Sox signed him to a three-year deal late Saturday night and will formally introduce him at a press conference Tuesday.

Now what? Just who are the Red Sox getting and what can they expect?

Someone who understands pitching and, more specifically, the Red Sox starting pitchers.

One of the reasons for the Red Sox' last-place finish in 2012 was the poor performance of both Jon Lester (9-14, 4.82) and Clay Buchholz (11-8, 4.56). Each had their worst seasons last year.

Conversely, each enjoyed their best seasons under the direction of Farrell, who served as the Red Sox pitching coach.

In 2010, Farrell's final year with the Sox, Lester established career bests in wins (19), strikeouts (225), ERA (3.25) and WHIP (1.202).

Buchholz, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakouts season in 2010, with a career high in wins (17) while recording a 2.33 ERA. His ERA, which attempts to put ERA into context by including such factors as home ballpark, was the best in the league.

Obviously, Farrell won't be as hands-on with Lester and Farrell this time around, since he's returning as manager and someone else will fill the role of pitching coach.

But Farrell's working knowledge of the two -- and what makes them click, both on the mound and off -- can be invaluable.

"I think both are going to turn around anyway,'' said one baseball executive. "But (Farrell) will have a huge impact. I guarantee the second he was hired, they were both looking in the mirror, saying that they had to own what happened (in 2012). That's what (Farrell) brings -- confidence and accountability.''

Since the point can be made that no two individual players are more important to the turnaround of the Red Sox than Lester and Buchholz, it's hard to overstate the contributions that Farrell can make to the pair.

And don't be surprised if Farrell helps resurrect Daniel Bard's career. Bard bottomed out last June, resulting in his demotion to Pawtucket, where he spent 2 12 months attempting to build back his confidence and fine-tune his delivery.

"Hiring Farrell is like signing a dominant reliever,'' offered a talent evaluator. "Bard needs a reason to believe. I think Farrell provides that. And that's huge.''

Someone who understands the demands of Boston and what it takes to win there.

In Farrell's four seasons with the Red Sox, the Red Sox won a World Series the first year, got to Game 7 of the ALCS in his second and won 95 games and reached the post-season in his third.

When Farrell was on the staff, the team never won fewer than 89 games in a season.

Farrell saw firsthand how Terry Francona handled the media, limited distractions and kept the players focused -- at least until the final months of his tenure.

"He's not going in blind,'' said someone who knows Farrell. "He won't be overwhelmed by the scrutiny because he's already lived it. There won't be a lot of surprises for him.''

Someone who's a good blend of ''player manager'' and, when need be, a disciplinarian.

"He's a likeable person,'' said an industry source. "And he's fun to be around. Players naturally like him. But he also is a natural authoritarian. It's not done in an in-your-face way. But people don't want to disappoint him.

Said one executive: "I think the biggest thing is he brings some credibility though a comination of authority, competence and dedication. He has tremendous people skills. He sees every realtionship as a challenge and an opportunity -- a challlege to really get to know someone and make them better.

"He's like a walking, breathing self-help book, and I mean that in a good way. He's one of those people who truly makes those around him better. Through his (intellectual) presence and mental presence. He makes everyone around him sort of live to his standards. And if something's not right, he's not afraid of having a difficult conversation. He doesn't worry about people liking him.''