Farrell has Jays' backs
By Steve Simmons, QMI AGENCY
|Blue Jays' second-year manager John Farrell. (REUTERS)
DUNEDIN - The man in the manager’s chair doesn’t look much like baseball, sound much like baseball, but John Farrell doesn’t care much to fulfill any particular stereotype.
He is his own man, comfortable in his skin, with no interest in trying to be what he is not. This is Year 2 on the job as Blue Jays manager after a rookie season in which he wasn’t easily defined. And yet there is something about him now. Maybe it’s comfort, maybe it’s control, something that just feels right in a spring training where almost everything has gone the Blue Jays way.
“You can see a difference, can’t you?” said the always enthusiastic Paul Beeston. “I think John is real comfortable in his role as manager. No matter what you want to say, that was his first year last year. He would have had a learning process no matter what. I think he’s moved on from there.”
It doesn’t take much to excite Beeston, the club president, but his management team of third year general manager Alex Anthopoulos and second year manager Farrell has him all but frothing. “I think the players feel it,” said Beeston. “There’s a feeling around here I haven’t felt in a long time. Can’t you feel it?”
Farrell can, in his balanced and controlled and seemingly unemotional way. He listens more than he speaks. He is ultimately about patience and development and goals and pie charts and ... winning. And he looks like he should be trading in his baseball uniform for a suit and tie and a briefcase. He seems more chairman of the board than manager, too button-down for the snail’s pace that is a big league season and yet more relaxed than he was a year ago, more comfortable in the position he had never done before last season.
“Year 1 is learning it,” said Farrell. “Year 2 is making changes as you deem necessary.” Just in case you were wondering, Sparky Anderson and Earl Weaver and Billy Martin didn’t deem a lot necessary in their managerial days. But that’s the new breed. Farrell’s closer to CEO than he is Cito Gaston.
This may be his team but the team isn’t and won’t be about him. That’s not his way. He’s all about what the Blue Jays are about — and that’s structure. There’s Beeston in the president’s chair, Anthopoulos in the general manager’s chair, and Farrell as manager. A trio built for today and for the future. And oddly, Farrell, so young in terms of experience in his position of manager, remains the senior bench boss of Toronto’s Big Four — in his second season where Randy Carlyle, Dwane Casey and Scott Milanovich have not yet finished their first year on the job.
“The biggest difference from one year to the next is just a little more familiarity and the ability to anticipate things a little more readily,” said Farrell. “Any time you get into a new position, there’s going to be a fairly steep learning curve.”
When asked to define what ‘John Farrell Baseball’ was, he went into a long and convoluted message mixed with catchphrases and clichés. He did say he wants a relentless attitude in his players. And if you watch Brett Lawrie and Jose Bautista, he already has that in his team leadership. He also loves what he sees of his club’s attitude in the clubhouse.
“There’s no finger-pointing,” he said. “And if something in between the lines challenges one of their teammates, they’ve got to respond to that. They got to have one another’s back ... We’re all going to face frustration. How we face that together matters an awful lot.”
Those who know him best say the collapse with the Boston Red Sox last season would not have happened had the 6-foot-4 Farrell still been the pitching coach. “The Red Sox would have been a playoff team had John still been there,” said Jerry Howarth, the Jays’ announcer who has been around forever. “I know Jon Lester said he was naturally intimidated by John’s voice and size. I think that’s how a lot of them felt. John has that kind of presence. ”
And with presence come expectations. The Blue Jays have the best record in the spring. They’re playing .807 baseball. Farrell knows that isn’t real.
He knows it but he’ll take it.
“I don’t care what time of year it is,” said Farrell, “winning is always a good thing.”