Farrell's focus pays off big time for Boston
October, 31, 2013
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesSox owner John Henry and GM Ben Cherington joined the Fenway applause for manager John Farrell.BOSTON -- As fireworks exploded over the Green Monster and players gathered at the foot of the stage to celebrate the Red Sox's World Series victory Wednesday night at Fenway Park, manager John Farrell stood at the helm and smiled.
In his first season as skipper, Farrell led the Red Sox to the club's third World Series title in 10 seasons, following in the footsteps of good friend and former manager Terry Francona, who helped Boston to titles in 2004 and 2007.
"I got a chance to feel what [Francona] felt in '04 and '07," Farrell told ESPNBoston.com's Jackie MacMullan. "He sent me a text earlier [Wednesday], and that's between he and I, but it was special. Just knowing that he was out there pulling for us, I know in some way he shared in this one tonight, too."
After a disastrous 2012 season under then-manager Bobby Valentine, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington finally landed his man in Farrell last October. In less than a year, Cherington and Farrell transformed the Red Sox into a winning team once again.
The day Farrell took over as manager, the former Red Sox pitching coach gained instant credibility in the clubhouse, and the players responded to his message.
"Like I've said since day one, a body can't function without having a good head," said Red Sox veteran and World Series MVP David Ortiz. "And our manager is outstanding. He showed to all of us since day one that he was the masterpiece that we need to get to this level. John, he did such a nice job with all of us. And our focus was coming in and do nothing but play baseball, which is different than last year."
As the players celebrated their championship on the field Wednesday night, Cherington stood to the side of the stage and spoke glowingly about Farrell's impact this season.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesCherington looks on as Farrell hoists the world championship trophy after the Game 6 win.
"This winter, when he got the job and again in spring training, he just talked about keeping the focus on the field," explained Cherington. "The most important thing was going to be the game that night and we're going to be as well or better prepared than anyone, and he's going to make it about the players and hold them to a high standard, but empowering them at the same time.
"Those are easy things to say in the winter, but it's hard to pull off when you're going through a six- or eight-month season and the grind. Sure enough he did, and it's a great credit to him and the people around him. They made it about exactly what he said it was going to be."
During his postgame speech on stage in the middle of the infield at Fenway, Farrell acknowledged the St. Louis Cardinals and manager Mike Matheny for a great season and World Series, before thanking his own players and Red Sox fans.
Meanwhile, watching from his apartment in Cleveland, Francona was smiling.
"That was the biggest thing, looking last night at the end and how John handled himself, then they flashed the camera to Pedroia, David and Ben, it was hard not to feel real proud for them," Francona said. "Not only what they did, but how they did it and how respectful they were to the game, and to the Cardinals, and the city of Boston. I was real proud of them."
Francona has been in contact with Farrell and Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia via text, but the former manager wants this to be all about them and not what he accomplished in the past.
"They don't need me to play Game 6, they got there on their own," Francona said.
Like Farrell, Francona won it all during his first season as manager in Boston. But Tito wasn't thinking about that comparison Wednesday night.
"I looked at it more as friends," Francona said. "I know it would make a good story, but that's not what I was thinking."
As Francona watched the Red Sox celebrate, the current Cleveland Indians manager felt proud of what his former team accomplished under Farrell.
"You have to respect it," Francona said. "The day they hired John, the glass got half full. Those guys didn't get worse. They had a miserable year [in 2012] for whatever reason, and there are probably numerous reasons, but when it came together they got it all going in one direction and that's directly related to John and Ben. When they got it going right it got special. You saw the finality of it last night, the culmination of it last night and it was pretty special."
Farrell spent four seasons as Francona's pitching coach in Boston before being named manager of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011. Cherington and the Red Sox also felt Farrell would someday succeed Francona as manager in Boston. Francona thought it would happen, too.
"Yes. Definitely," Francona said. "The players respect him and he understands the layout, the background and all the obstacles and things on the periphery and he's a great guy to do it, because not only does he understand it, he can handle it."