BOSTON -- Fire John Farrell? Doubt it. Not now, at least.
Look, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski will do whatever he sees fit to spark the two-steps-forward, one-step-back Boston Red Sox. And he has fired managers midway through a season before. Just ask Buck Rodgers (1991 Montreal Expos), Rene Lachemann (1996 Florida Marlins) and John Boles (2001 Marlins).
But Dombrowski doesn't seem inclined to can this particular manager. In fact, when the Red Sox returned Monday from a road trip that included back-to-back wins over the St. Louis Cardinals followed by three consecutive losses to the Oakland A's and left their record barely above .500, Dombrowski called together his inner circle -- assistant general managers Brian O'Halloran and Eddie Romero, vice president of research and development Zack Scott and, yes, Farrell -- for a strategy session.
If Farrell wasn't part of Dombrowski's solution, he wouldn't have been part of the conversation, either.
Dombrowski has his reasons, and before Tuesday night's homestand-opening 11-6 victory over the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park, he went directly to NESN, the team’s television network, and told pregame host Tom Caron in a scheduled weekly interview that "to pin those [struggles] on John Farrell are just not fair."
It also wouldn't be in Dombrowski's best interest.
After the Red Sox won their division last season, Dombrowski recommended to ownership that Farrell's 2018 option be exercised to avoid having him be a lame-duck manager this year. It was a show of faith in a manager who has won a World Series, twice finished in last place and inspired a #firefarrell hashtag from those who make daily calls for his head on Twitter. And going into this season, the Sox were presumed to be the class of the American League, with their stable of young stars and new ace Chris Sale.
But while injuries to lefty David Price, knuckleballer Steven Wright, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, reliever Tyler Thornburg and others have prevented Farrell from fielding the team that Dombrowski intended and contributed to an underwhelming 23-21 record, the first quarter of the season has also revealed flaws in the construction of the roster.
The Red Sox haven't made up for enough of the production lost when David Ortiz retired, and their offense has fallen from No. 1 in the league to middle of the pack. They put too much stock in Sandoval's ability to bounce back from a dreadful 2015 and an injury-filled 2016, causing major problems at third base. And their lack of starting pitching depth has made the absence of Price and Wright more difficult to bear.
All of that falls on Dombrowski. And if he fires Farrell, the spotlight really will shine entirely on Dombrowski if things don't get better.
So, rather than getting rid of the manager in an attempt to wake up a team that hasn't won more than two games in a row since April 15-18, Dombrowski prefers to wait until the cavalry returns. Price could join the rotation next week. Sandoval could be back by then, too. Reliever Carson Smith is on track to return from Tommy John elbow surgery before the All-Star break. The Red Sox still believe designated hitter Hanley Ramirez will eventually be fit physically, if not mentally, to play first base.
"Normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse," Dombrowski told NESN. "But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven't flowed as a club. We haven't played as well as I think we're capable of, and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."
By all accounts, Dombrowski sounded a similar tone during Monday's meeting, where it was decided that the Red Sox would call up first base prospect Sam Travis to generate more offense against left-handed pitchers. But according to Farrell, Dombrowski also wanted to "reemphasize the things that are going well here and not just pick out all that is wrong because there's a number of things that are going right."
On Tuesday, a story published by FoxSports.com raised questions about Farrell's command of the clubhouse and relationship with some players. The story cited two examples: Dustin Pedroia's "it wasn't me" reaction after reliever Matt Barnes' retaliatory pitch behind Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado's head on April 23, and the animated dugout exchange between Farrell and starter Drew Pomeranz last Saturday in Oakland after Pomeranz was lifted from the game.
After last season, Dombrowski made clear that he values a manager's ability to get through to players.
"I've often told managers, to me, the most important thing for a manager is that their club plays up to their capabilities day-in, day-out, which means they're communicating with their players and getting everything they can," Dombrowski said in October. "That means their club is playing hard."
The Red Sox are two games above .500 and 3 1/2 games out of first place, with reason to believe the next 44 games will be better than the first 44.
That's enough for Dombrowski to stay the course with his manager.
"I think we're in a position where he's managed well," Dombrowski told NESN. "He's managed divisional champions. I think we're in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."