The Sox have their man finally in John Farrell. The club and its new manager have decided to ditch the flirtations and commit to each other, ready to take the next step in their relationship. As they decide to become an exclusive thing, there is now plenty of pressure on plenty of people to perform in the wake of two utterly embarrassing situations.
Farrell returns to Boston as something of a savior. He's apparently coming back with antidotes to all that ails the Red Sox now. The pitching is a problem? That's fine, Farrell was the pitching coach from 2007-2010, an era better known now as "the time the pitching wasn't awful." Think you have a discipline problem in the clubhouse? No worries there, either, with the no-nonsense Farrell in the manager's office down at Fenway Park. The players didn't like the last manager? Well, here's your replacement, fellas, a guy that you know and like.
On the surface, all the problems are solved by bringing in Farrell. But in doing so, that puts an immense amount of pressure on a team that was going to feel plenty of heat anyway. But with Farrell back in the home dugout, fans and media are going to demand that things get better. Sixty-nine wins is pathetic enough, but if the Red Sox continue to falter under Farrell's guidance, things will somehow become even uglier.
Farrell will likely be feeling that pressure. His time in Toronto (though hampered by injuries, especially in 2012) was not very successful at all. Not only that, things seemed to unravel toward the end, with the Yunel Escobar incident serving as the low point, painting Farrell as a manager who at best wasn't paying enough attention and at worst had lost control.
Yet, Farrell was still able to nab his dream job, thanks in large part to the season of ineptitude in Boston that occurred under Bobby Valentine. The pressure is on Farrell to prove that he can be a successful major league manager. Unlike Toronto, Boston provides him a familiar situation. He has two years of managerial experience under his belt. There are no excuses.
There are no excuses for a pitching staff that has underachieved while trying to navigate the dark abyss that was the Farrell-less era. Farrell's absence would not be understated by anyone. If you went by what you heard, you would assume that Farrell was the personal pitching instructor of the entire Red Sox staff since childhood.
Well, he's back now. Though he won't be working in the same role, he'll no doubt have some sort of impact on the pitching staff, and that's expected to be a big one. It has to be at this point, too. Everyone pretty much agrees that pitching has been the biggest problem for the Red Sox dating back to September of 2011. While the Red Sox may not win right away, we'll know they're going in the right direction if the pitching improves early in the Farrell (managerial) era.
"He has a great relationship with our pitchers and I think they need that," David Ortiz told The Boston Globe over the weekend. "If you can line up your pitching staff, it makes everything easier. I think Farrell will give us a chance to win games because the pitchers will produce for him."
If they don't produce for Farrell, they aren't going to produce for anyone.
Jon Lester, who is undoubtedly the ace of the staff with Josh Beckett out of the picture, is now under pressure, too. He was 54-23 with a 3.40 ERA during Farrell's time in Boston, with a WHIP of 1.26 and a 2.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In the two years since, he's 24-23 with a 4.17 ERA, 1.322 WHIP and 2.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Clay Buchholz had the best year of his career in Farrell's last season in Boston, going 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA. He was an All-Star that season and finished sixth in Cy Young voting. Even John Lackey was OK (in relative terms at least), coming on strong in the second half on his way to throwing 215 innings.
"It's a good fit, a natural fit for us," Lester said Sunday night on NESN Daily. "I think everybody is pretty excited about, I hope everybody is excited about it and we're looking forward to a new chapter."
But there is no looking back. There are no more excuses. Farrell is where he wants to be, and the Red Sox pitching staff has its binky back.
Farrell knows the Red Sox and they know him. He needs to prove he can bounce back, and so does the team. In that sense, this truly is a perfect marriage.
But make no mistake that both sides are under immense pressure to make sure that this love story ends happily ever after.