Tomase: Red Sox manager John Farrell sacrificed because David Price was a terrible clubhouse influence

John Tomase
October 11, 2017 - 10:21 am

Kim Klement/USA Today Sports


The Red Sox chose David Price over John Farrell. We'll see how it works out for them.

The Red Sox fired Farrell on Wednesday, two days after seeing their season end in the American League Division Series for the second straight year.

While it's hard to argue the need for change -- the Red Sox appear to be losing ground to the Indians, Astros and Yankees, to name three -- there's something unsettling about seeing a miserable clubhouse rewarded for its misery with the ouster of Manager John.

Farrell was clearly estranged from the veteran core of this group, and for that he's not blameless. But if the Red Sox think punting Farrell will change Price and Co., they're setting up his replacement for similar levels of failure.

The Red Sox did plenty of good on the final year of Farrell's watch. They won 93 games and their second straight division title despite losing a pair of All-Star starters (Price and Steven Wright) for most of the season. They patched together an above-average offense despite finishing last in the American League in homers. They owned one of the best bullpens in baseball despite featuring a bunch of no-names in front of closer Craig Kimbrel. They never quit.

None of this could save Farrell's job, though, because of a toxic clubhouse culture that developed on his watch and that he was powerless to stop.

That starts with Price, the unhappiest $217 million man on the planet. The left-hander arrived with a reputation for being a great teammate, and this current group swears by him, but he has almost single-handedly made the clubhouse a misguided and dismal place.

Price seems to have prioritized media feuding and defiance above all else, and if there was any doubt before, let it be permanently dispelled -- signing him to wear a Red Sox uniform was one of the worst mistakes in team history. We can only hope he stays healthy enough to trigger his opt-out at this time next year.

The irony is the treatment Price found so offensive was downright tame compared to the volley of arrows launched at predecessors like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett. Price had it easy, but he's too thin-skinned and narcissistic to know it.

Price never had respect for Farrell, apparently because he believed the manager didn't sufficiently stroke his players in public, and his attitude filtered through a young clubhouse experiencing a leadership vacuum in the face of David Ortiz's retirement.

Price wasn't alone, however. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia was asked directly after Monday's season-ending loss if he believed Farrell should return and he tellingly couldn't muster a yes, instead talking generically about being "proud of everyone in here." A fixture at the cribbage board in Terry Francona's office, Pedroia never came off as a Farrell supporter and that undoubtedly hurt the manager's clubhouse standing as well.

That said, we shouldn't let Farrell of the hook. His failure to apologize to Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley after Price's airplane ambush was a terrible look. Farrell knows as well as anyone how egregiously out of line Price was, but he also recognized that any apology would cost him his tenuous grip on the clubhouse if it filtered back to the players. That happened on his watch, and he was held accountable for it.

So now the Red Sox begin their first real managerial search since hiring Bobby Valentine in 2012. Maybe it will be former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora. Maybe they'll somehow convince 73-year-old Jim Leyland to come out of retirement. Maybe Dombrowski will seek a reunion with Brad Ausmus, who impressed the Red Sox front office the last time he interviewed here, in 2013.

But whichever way they go, they should understand this -- unless and until they wrest control of the clubhouse from Price, the new guy's not going to make out any better than the old guy.

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