Reimer: John Farrell's surreal interview with Mookie Betts highlights his awkward existence

Alex Reimer
April 11, 2018 - 12:44 pm

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

John Farrell provided the Red Sox with a pretty good life. They won a World Series under his stewardship and captured the AL East twice. Sure, there were flashier managers with more affability and a greater understanding of analytics. But Farrell was solid. It’s hard to complain about 93-win seasons. 

That is, unless you watched the Red Sox while Farrell was managing. He was bombarded with criticisms about his sometimes puzzling bullpen deployment and curt demeanor. In postgame press conferences, Farrell would seemingly never admit the team made a mistake. He defended his players to the point of ridiculousness. David Price verbally berates Dennis Eckersley on the team airplane for saying “yuck?” We’re moving on. Recklessly making outs on the base paths? That’s just aggressive baseball.

So imagine Farrell’s likely surprise when reports started trickling out about the players disliking him. Or when John Henry threw his entire coaching staff under the bus in Spring Training, saying it was the only change needed for the upcoming season (hours later, the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez). 

Or, imagine how dumbfounded Farrell might have been when Dustin Pedroia appeared to blame him on OMF for creating a tense atmosphere in the clubhouse. 

“The overall approach, every day, would wear on guys. It wasn’t people not liking each other. We all love each other. Trust me,” Pedroia said last month. “There’s the mindset of, ‘You show up to the yard, you put your work in, you have your approach that day, and you try to execute it. If you don’t, guess what? You’re going to show up tomorrow and still be in the lineup. We’re all going to have confidence in you. We’re all going to show up and try to win and accomplish the same thing.’ That’s what wore on guys and made the season that much more grueling –– when everything that day was more magnified. It put a lot of pressure on our young guys, it put a lot of pressure on our veteran guys. That’s the part, when you wear Mookie (Betts) or (Xander Bogaerts) say they weren’t having much fun, you don’t ever have a chance to enjoy yourself if you don't go 4-for-4, throw a complete game shutout, or we don’t win by 10.”

Amidst all of the subtle backstabbing, the Red Sox are off to their best start ever under new manager Alex Cora –– who actually does admit mistakes, acts like a human being around the media and appears to be chummy with the players. Could it get any worse for Farrell?

Yes, it can. Farrell interviewed Mookie Betts after the Red Sox thrashed the Yankees Tuesday, which must be like seeing your ex canoodling with their new partner at a window-side table in a fancy restaurant –– while you walk home from work in the pouring rain. 

Farrell, to his credit, handled the exchange with aplomb. He smiled and joked with Betts before asking about the outfielder about his new focus on swinging earlier in the court. Betts went 4-for-4 with a grand slam Tuesday and is slashing .432/.533/.730 on the season. 

“As you know, I take a lot of pitches,” Betts explained. “I kind of made it a point this year to try to be aggressive and swing early, because that’s how they are attacking me. It’s definitely worked this year.”

Would anybody blame Farrell, if in the back of his mind, the voice inside of his head was screaming at Betts for not making this adjustment last season?

Coaches can get stale. Terry Francona and Claude Julien went through it. Bill Belichick might be in the process of experiencing it. The Red Sox’ early-season dominance validates the decision to can Farrell and go with a fresh face. 

But that doesn’t make the image of Farrell interviewing Betts any less awkward. Passed up for all managerial jobs, Farrell is spending this season in an air-conditioned television studio in Bristol, Conn. The topic de jour, so far, has been why the Red Sox are so much better and enjoyable this season.

It must be tough to just grin and bear it.