Red Sox banking on John Farrell becoming a better manager in Boston

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There’s simply no way the Red Sox could have looked at John Farrell’s work in Toronto and came away with the idea that he was a great manager. The Blue Jays were a horrible baserunning team, they had Omar Vizquel questioning their clubhouse leadership and their win total decreased in both of his years at the helm.

It was Farrell’s success with pitchers in Boston that played a huge role in getting him the Blue Jays gig. Yet Farrell could do nothing to aid Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil as they regressed. The only Toronto starter to break through under his tutelage was Brandon Morrow and then only for 21 starts.

And yet the Red Sox wanted Farrell back. Badly enough to surrender compensation to Toronto to get him, though the price (infielder Mike Aviles and perhaps taking on first baseman Adam Lind’s salary) wasn’t as high as many speculated.

Three guesses as to why they chose him:

1. There’s simply no one better equipped to help Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard overcome their struggles. All three had their best seasons in 2010 immediately before Farrell departed. And while the collapses for all three came this year, it’s worth noting that all took steps backwards in 2011 first.

2. Farrell already has the respect of the clubhouse. And unlike the team’s 2012 bench coach Tim Bogar and former bench coach DeMarlo Hale, he doesn’t carry the stink of the 2011 collapse around with him, since he left after the 2010 season.

3. The Red Sox are probably assuming that improvement will come with experience. Terry Francona was a dreadful manager, far worse than Farrell, when he was in Philadelphia. I thought Bob Melvin was brutal in Seattle. Look at him now in Oakland.

As I made clear a couple of weeks ago, I’m not particularly impressed with the choice. Brad Ausmus, Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr. are candidates to become the next great manager, and the Red Sox bypassed them all in favor of a guy whose first gig ended in failure. That said, if Farrell can get better results from Lester and Buchholz and maybe even get Bard turned around, it’ll more than make up for whatever in-game strategy mistakes he makes.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.