Skip to content

John Farrell, Shane Victorino and the Boston Red Sox: What a difference a year makes

Oct 31, 2013, 12:41 AM EDT

World Series - St Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox - Game Six Getty Images

BOSTON — In October 2012 John Farrell had just finished a 79-83 season managing the Toronto Blue Jays. Which was worse than his first year as Blue Jays manager. There were rumblings that the Red Sox might want to hire him to replace Bobby Valentine and most Blue Jays fans were OK with that. He hadn’t shown them anything, they felt, and they could probably do better.

In October 2012 Shane Victorino had just posted his worst offensive season in six years. And he finished it up in Los Angeles of all places, having been traded to the Dodgers in midseason. It was the Phillies’ way of telling him “no, we don’t need you anymore and we’d rather not even have to pretend to be interested in your services when you hit free agency this offseason.” With several outfielders on the free agent market it seemed that Victorino would have to scrounge for a job, let alone a decent free agent deal.  Some folks even suggested that he may be done as an effective major leaguer.

In October 2012 the Boston Red Sox had just finished one of the most nightmarish years in their history. Indeed, it had extended back 13 months to their 2011 collapse, in which the Sox had snatched ignominy from the jaws of victory, and lasted all 2012 long. Bobby Valentine was hired, lost control of his team from almost the get-go, and then “led” the Red Sox to a 69-93 record and a last place finish.

What a difference a year makes.

Wednesday night, as he accepted his World Series MVP trophy, David Ortiz said that, as the year began, he didn’t necessarily think that the Red Sox could win a World Series championship. But that started to change once Farrell returned to the Red Sox (he was the pitching coach from 2007 to 2010), Ortiz said. Always a prickly personality, if David Ortiz says you got his attention, you’ve truly made an impression. And Farrell certainly had an impact. A team that couldn’t stay out of the headlines for all of the wrong reasons in 2011 and 2012 went about their business quietly and confidently in 2013. You have to give credit for that to John Farrell.

MORE: Ortiz slugs way to World Series MVP

You have to give Boston general manager Ben Cherington credit for Victorino. Not many people thought a three-year, $39 million gamble on Victorino was a good one. Indeed, it was widely mocked. Part of the mocking was because, in most people’s minds, Victorino was a center fielder who had lost his center fielder’s skills. Signing him to play right field — which he played spectacularly — ended up being a master stroke. Victorino hit .294/.351/.451 and stole 21 bases as well. And while injuries and fatigue sapped him somewhat down the stretch, he drove in seven runs with two swings of the bat — a Grand Slam in the ALCS and a bases-clearing double in Game 6 of the World Series — that iced the Sox’ pennant and World Series title.

And this Sox team? Yes, they technically went from last place to first in the space of a year, but it’s not the sort of team we normally praise as a worst-to-first team. That’s usually reserved for teams which have had long histories of futility and then wildly surpassed expectations.  No one expected the Sox to win the World Series as the season began, but most thought they’d be respectable. And most knew that with the brains in their front office and the resources at their disposal, the Sox wouldn’t be down for long.

MORE: Who came up big in possible Fenway finales?

But in some ways their accomplishment was even more improbable than that of your typical worst-to-first team. There was rot and negativity and shame in Boston a year ago. There were players who could be excused for looking a year ahead to free agency. People who, if they were betting the smart money, would never have bet on this team to flush out all of the toxins of 13 bad months, regroup and put forth an effort as dominant as the one they showed throughout this past year.

A year passed, but time doesn’t always heal all wounds, and even when it does, it doesn’t usually do it so quickly.  But John Farrell, Ben Cherington, Shane Victorino and several others put in the energy that fought back the entropy. And because of it they will spend the next year as World Series Champions.

Latest Posts
  1. Domonic Brown unlikely to be ready for Opening Day

    Mar 27, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Domonic Brown AP

    Domonic Brown is battling an Achilles injury, leaving him unlikely to play on Opening Day.

  2. Dodgers to shut Brandon League down for three weeks

    Mar 27, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT

    Brandon League Brandon League

    Brandon League isn’t likely to pitch for a couple of months according to manager Don Mattingly.

  3. Jordan Zimmermann on extension with Nationals: “It’s not looking good.”

    Mar 27, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Jordan Zimmermann Jordan Zimmermann

    It doesn’t seem like the Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann will reach an agreement on a contract extension before the regular season begins.

  4. White Sox claim Kyle Drabek off waivers from Blue Jays

    Mar 27, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT

    Kyle Drabek Getty Images

    Drabek was once a top prospect and the Blue Jays acquired him from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade.

  5. Mariners pitcher David Rollins suspended 80 games for PEDs

    Mar 27, 2015, 4:13 PM EDT

    David Rollins Getty Images

    The Rule 5 pick had a decent shot of making the Mariners’ pen out of camp.

  6. 2015 Preview: Chicago White Sox

    Mar 27, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Jose Abreu AP

    Should we be taking the rebuilt White Sox seriously as contenders?

  7. Justin Verlander leaves start with arm cramping

    Mar 27, 2015, 2:34 PM EDT

    Justin Verlander AP

    Verlander has continued to struggle this spring.

  8. Did David Ortiz admit to more than he realized with his Players’ Tribune editorial?

    Mar 27, 2015, 2:01 PM EDT

    David Ortiz David Ortiz

    There is only one reason a player should be tested for drugs as often as David Ortiz claims he has been: a previous positive test.

  9. Indians demote Danny Salazar to Triple-A

    Mar 27, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT

    danny salazar getty Getty Images

    Thanks to his mid-90s fastball and fantastic strikeout totals Salazar was a popular breakout pick for 2015.

  10. 2015 Preview: Atlanta Braves

    Mar 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Wandy Rodriguez Wandy Rodriguez

    The Braves had one of the stranger off-seasons, both adding and subtracting players while also attempting to rebuild. How bad will they be in 2015?

  11. Rangers tell Ryan Ludwick he will not make the team

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    ludwick getty Getty Images

    Ludwick signed a minor-league deal with the Rangers in early February and it would have paid $1.75 million if he made the team at age 36.

  12. Rob Manfred says it would be hard to reinstate Pete Rose in a limited way

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:39 AM EDT

    pete rose getty Getty Images

    But it probably doesn’t matter because a reinstated Rose would be pretty limited to begin with.

  13. Major League Baseball would be worth $36 billion if it was traded on a stock exchange

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:14 AM EDT

    Money Bag

    And 15 MLB teams are now worth at least $1 billion, according to Forbes.

  14. The Giants haven’t had many Tommy John cases. Why?

    Mar 27, 2015, 8:42 AM EDT

    tommy john surgery

    Dave Righetti thinks it may have to do with weight training.

  15. Theo Epstein and Curt Schilling had a pretty interesting exchange about Kris Bryant

    Mar 27, 2015, 7:47 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 7.43.35 AM

    Kudos to Epstein for a good answer. Kudos to Schilling for a couple of more probing questions.

  16. David Ortiz: “Nobody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me”

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:02 PM EDT

    Miami Marlins v Boston Red Sox Getty Images

    In a first-person essay for The Player’s Tribune, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz came out swinging against his critics.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. H. Olivera (4084)
  2. J. Fernandez (3767)
  3. K. Bryant (3698)
  4. S. Souza (3550)
  5. S. Doolittle (3495)
  1. H. Ryu (3483)
  2. J. Kipnis (3297)
  3. A. Cobb (3284)
  4. G. Richards (3279)
  5. Y. Tomas (3212)