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Firing manager John Farrell won't solve real problems of the Red Sox

BOSTON -- John Farrell watched Saturday night's game from his usual spot in a corner of the Boston Red Sox dugout. He stood through all nine innings, occasionally shuffling his feet or leaning on a step, never sitting down.

Had Farrell tried, his butt might not have endured the burns.

If the embattled Red Sox manager's seat was already toasty, it must be getting even hotter after a 21-2 humiliation by the Los Angeles Angels, Boston's largest margin of defeat in 16 years, since a 22-1 loss to the New York Yankees on June 19, 2000. Five pitchers, including outfielder Ryan LaMarre, combined to allow 22 hits, the Red Sox committed a season-high four errors and much of a soldout crowd stuck around Fenway Park to rain boos down upon its fast-fading team.

"Honestly, we're embarrassed by tonight's ballgame," Farrell said after the Red Sox's eighth loss in 12 games and 17th in 28. "There's really no other way to put it. We got kicked around the ballpark tonight."

And based on an informal survey of social media and sports-talk radio, the masses want Farrell to get the boot, too, as if that's going to accomplish anything.

It's true that Farrell has made his share of head-scratching, in-game moves, most recently allowing Steven Wright to face Angels first baseman C.J. Cron with the bases loaded Friday night in wet, rainy conditions that tend to make Wright's knuckleball less effective. Farrell has been blasted for his pinch-hitting strategy, for allowing players to bunt on their own in run-producing situations, and for any number of other questionable decisions. And after steering the Red Sox to back-to-back last-place seasons, he doesn't get the benefit of any doubt.

Farrell also called a team meeting after last Monday night's loss at Tampa Bay, only to have struggling ace David Price lay an egg two days later, followed by the Saturday night debacle against the Angels.

But on the Red Sox's list of problems, Farrell ranks no higher than sixth, behind Price (4.74 ERA), a staggering lack of starting pitching depth, the inconsistency of 41-year-old setup man Koji Uehara's splitter, a revolving door of left fielders and a perilously thin bench.

None of those issues will disappear if Farrell is replaced by bench coach Torey Lovullo.

The reality, of course, is the Red Sox must do something to stop their once-promising season from slipping away. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will have enough difficulty trading for one starter, let alone three, especially without sacrificing top prospects Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi or Anderson Espinoza.

So, if canning the manager is a way to snap the team out of its slumber, well, Farrell might not be around after the All-Star break. (His ownership group has never fired a manager during a season.) The Red Sox's last in-season managerial change came in 2001, when Jimy Williams was ousted midway through August in favor of Joe Kerrigan after the team had dropped six of seven games.

It's worth noting, though, that Farrell can only work with what he's given. And when Dombrowski built the roster last winter, his idea of strengthening the starting rotation was to throw $217 million of owner John Henry's money at Price and keep everything else status quo. Never mind that each of the other projected starters -- Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly -- came with question marks that ranged from health (Buchholz and Kelly) to a possible regression in performance after a strong rookie season (Rodriguez).

Behind that group, the Red Sox were counting on Wright and lefties Henry Owens, Roenis Elias and Brian Johnson to provide depth. Wright has been a revelation ever since Rodriguez's spring training knee injury opened a spot for him. But the others have stalled in Triple-A thanks to ineffectiveness or injuries.

"Going into spring training, we looked at the potential starters, six through nine, as being more ready to contribute," Farrell said. "We've had issues. That's an understatement. The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation have turned over. We've taken a look at six guys in those two spots, and we're still searching for some kind of consistency, some kind of continuity, and that still is a pursuit."

On Saturday night, it was Buchholz's turn to get shelled again. Removed from the rotation in late May, only to be reinserted three months later because Kelly and Elias failed, Buchholz has gotten hit hard in the first inning of games. As a result, pitching coach Carl Willis had him warm up in the bullpen as though he was facing the first few hitters in the Angels lineup.

It didn't matter. After getting two quick outs, Buchholz gave up a Mike Trout double and an Albert Pujols homer to drop the Red Sox into a 2-0 hole. The deficit grew to 3-0 in the second inning, 4-0 in the fourth and 6-0 by the time Buchholz was lifted in the fifth inning after only 66 pitches.

"I mean, I only gave up three earned runs," Buchholz said, inconceivably, after briskly handing the ball to Farrell and storming off the mound, a bad look that Farrell said he addressed with Buchholz after the game. "It wasn't the worst performance I've had all year."

Easy to say when you have a 6.31 ERA as a starter. Farrell could say only that he's "not ready to commit" to Buchholz making his next start, which is an indictment to the manager's lack of options at his disposal.

As it is, Farrell must pin his hopes for winning the series on right-hander Sean O'Sullivan, who will be recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to start Sunday. O'Sullivan's ERA in two previous starts for the Red Sox: 7.84.

The walls might, in fact, be closing in on Farrell, even more after Saturday night, and if Dombrowski chooses to fire the manager, it will satisfy the masses.

It just won't solve the Red Sox's real problems.