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.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.