Red Sox introduce John Farrell as new manager after Boston's worst season in 47 years
BOSTON – Larry Lucchino cracked open a fortune cookie from the Chinese dinner that Red Sox officials and John Farrell shared during their final discussion about Boston's managerial job.
The message inside drew a chuckle from the team's president.
"One that I opened after everyone left was quite interesting," Lucchino said Tuesday. "It said, 'you will solve a major problem that's very important to you.'"
From that meeting at Lucchino's home Saturday night, also attended by owner John Henry and general manager Ben Cherington, the Red Sox are moving forward from their worst season since 1965 with a contributor to their World Series championship of 2007.
Two days after announcing the hiring of Farrell, their pitching coach from 2007-10, the Red Sox introduced him at a news conference. He succeeds Bobby Valentine, who was fired after one year and a 69-93 record.
Farrell, who managed the Toronto Blue Jays the past two seasons, called Boston "the epicenter" of baseball.
He's familiar with some players and members of the front office from his experience with the team. He expects that to smooth his transition. But, he said, he won't take for granted his relationships with players.
"I will work my butt off to earn their trust, to earn their respect and create an environment in that clubhouse that is just that," Farrell said. "It's a trusting one. It'll be a learning one and, yes, it'll be a competitive one and, hopefully, a very successful one."
That wasn't the case last season when Valentine had a cool relationship with some coaches, publicly criticized Kevin Youkilis before he was traded to the Chicago White Sox and was the target of players' complaints at a meeting they had with team officials.
The Red Sox also were hurt by numerous injuries and management finally gave up its postseason hopes when it traded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 25. That left Valentine with starting lineups in September that looked better suited to their Triple-A team at Pawtucket.
"I can't speak to what the Red Sox clubhouse was last year," Farrell said. "I think it's important that we communicate consistently to the players, we outline expectations and we have to hold players accountable to what we're trying to get done.
"It's got to be a positive place that they want to come to every single day."
Farrell, 50, received a three-year contract to become the 46th manager in Red Sox history.
"I truly believe in an aggressive style of play," he said. "That creates a strategy that is relentless, and I think that is critical."
The Red Sox wanted Farrell last year when they let Terry Francona go. But the Blue Jays wouldn't release him after they went 81-81 in the first year of his three-year contract. But after going 73-89 this season, finishing one spot above the last-place Red Sox in the AL East, they allowed Farrell to leave in exchange for Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles. Boston also received reliever David Carpenter.
Cherington reportedly had wanted Dale Sveum to succeed Francona. But Lucchino preferred Valentine and Sveum became manager of the Chicago Cubs.
"It's important that I have a relationship with the manager that's strong to the point that you can disagree and be candid with one another and walk away knowing that that relationship is still intact," Cherington said. "I feel confident about that with John, based on my existing relationship with him."
Farrell had a key role in the development of starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Both are coming off subpar seasons, but Farrell said those two, plus Felix Doubront and John Lackey, who was sidelined all this year following Tommy John elbow surgery, can form a solid core of the rotation.
"We all recognize how important pitching is and, particularly, starting pitching," Farrell said. "You look at every team that's advanced to the postseason ... and it typically starts and ends with the strength of your starting rotation. So that is a priority."
The Red Sox need another reliable starter and an everyday outfielder. They can use an upgrade at first base and must settle on a replacement for Aviles.
David Ortiz and Cody Ross, two of Boston's top hitters, are eligible for free agency but have said they'd like to return.
Ortiz was working out at Fenway Park on Tuesday and Cherington said he's talked several times with the designated hitter's agent.
"We've had good dialogue since the season ended," he said. "The goal remains the same. We want him back in a Red Sox uniform, and we'll continue to work toward that end."
Ortiz was on the disabled list from July 18 to Aug. 24 with a strained right Achilles. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in one game. The Red Sox made the blockbuster trade with Los Angeles the next day and Ortiz returned to the disabled list on Aug. 27 and never came off it.
"He realized that this trade meant that we're not going to run this race and we're not even going to finish the race properly and he decided not to play anymore," Valentine said in an interview airing Tuesday night on Costas Tonight on NBC Sports Network. "I think at that time it was all downhill from there."
Ortiz's return would bolster a team that shed several veterans.
"When you look at the roster, there are still some very good major league players here," Farrell said. "We do need to get healthy."
Farrell drew criticism from Toronto fans for leaving, especially after he talked about his loyalty to the Blue Jays last month.
"That means there's passion, there's caring from the fan base," he said, "but I would take exception with the thought that there was no intent to fulfill a contract."
Toronto general manager Alex Anthopolous has said Farrell told him that "there's no other city that was more of a perfect fit or a perfect opportunity."
He takes over a Red Sox team that ended its last two seasons in disarray.
The Red Sox lost their last eight games under Valentine. In 2011, they went 7-20 in September, leading to Francona's exit. Afterward, there were reports that players ate chicken and drank beer in the clubhouse during games.
On Saturday night, it was Hunan shrimp and wonton soup at Lucchino's house.
"We were sitting around eating some Chinese takeout," Farrell said. "I said this is a place that I would love to take on the challenge. It's an incredible city.
"It's an incredible baseball environment."