Put down those french fries and poutine, John Farrell, and come back home to the Fenway Franks.
The one-time Boston pitching coach has returned to mange the Red Sox after two seasons as the skipper up in Toronto. Farrell was officially introduced as the team’s 46th manager in team history yesterday. After the Bobby Valentine debacle of this past season, it’s hard not to be optimistic if you’re a Red Sox fan.
After asking a few area baseball aficionados on the North Shore, the coaches we talked to were all in favor of the new hire.
Fans, however, might want to curb their enthusiasm — at least in the immediate future.
Ipswich head baseball coach Gardy O’Flynn, who spent time in the minor leagues before returning to coaching, thinks Farrell’s previous relationships with members of the Red Sox will help the transition.
“He has a positive relationship with the players and that’s key,” said O’Flynn. “I think that’s what they were looking for after this past season.”
New Salem State head coach Mike Ward likes the hire, but thinks a quick fix is out of the question.
“From what I saw last year, (Farrell) has his work cut out for him,” Ward said. “Give him time and I think he’ll turn things around.
“But Red Sox Nation isn’t exactly known for being patient. And I think patience may bring a steady hand to things — which they need.”
Peabody High baseball coach Mark Bettencourt echoed similar sentiments.
“I like the hiring, but it’s a tough job. I’m not sure if anybody is going to be able to get the Red Sox to make a miraculous turnaround,”
Bettencourt said. “I think (the Red Sox) have more problems than one man can fix. Farrell is the most qualified available, but I’m worried Boston fans think this is going to be our savior and get us back to where we were under (Terry) Francona. I don’t think that’s fair on him.”
The problems Bettencourt refers to range from intangibles like attitude and culture to more obvious things like pitching and team defense.
Among the coaches on the North Shore, the consensus seemed to be fixing the starting pitching. However, Dave Wilbur, Bettencourt and
Gardy O’Flynn also put the onus on the catching position.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be on the hot seat.
“I think at any level of baseball, it starts with pitching and their starting pitching was really bad. And then I’m not so sure they have the right catcher, either,” said Wilbur. “The Red Sox really turned me off the last couple years with their attitude. I hope they do well and I wish them the best, but I’m not a huge fan of professional athletes.”
Bettencourt in particular stressed the importance of the catching position, especially when it comes to the elite Red Sox teams in history. He points to Carlton Fisk, Jason Varitek and even Rich Gedman as major pieces on strong Red Sox teams.
“Our catching situation has a lot left to be desired. That needs to be addressed,” said Bettencourt. “Salty isn’t getting the job done. Look at some of the best teams the Sox have had they’ve had a staple behind the plate ... and the two teams that are there (in the World Series) now.
“In my opinion, the catcher is the QB. You need a solid presence with consistent numbers who are leaders, or else they’re going to struggle with the pitching staff.”
Beyond the pitching and catching, Ward believes a big part of Boston rebuilding the right way has to do with focusing on the minor leagues.
“Their minor leagues had been developing some pretty good players, pitchers especially. But it doesn’t look like there is a lot in the upper (AAA) levels for pitching,” said Ward. “But they have to keep developing pitchers in their system. Acquire talent and invest in their minor league system, especially pitchers.”
O’Flynn expects Farrell to get the most out of guys like Clay Buchholz and John Lester, guys who Farrell helped develop as star hurlers.
“Hopefully he can rekindle that magic,” O’Flynn suggested.
“It’s tough. He’s in a different role as a manger rather than the pitching coach. You’re going to have a lot of things under your umbrella. From what I’ve heard, the guys that came up through the system (Buchholz, Lester, Dustin Pedroia), that they respect and they will listen to Farrell. You have to have players who’ll buy in.”