Farrell lands his 'dream job' in Boston
By Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency
|John Farrell argues a call with home plate umpire Marvin Hudson during the Blue Jays' final homestand early this month against the Minnesota Twins. (REUTERS)
TORONTO - Along about midnight Saturday, the John Farrell era in Toronto came to an end, though it has seemed an inevitability ever since the middle of August.
Under contract or not, Farrell has been very much in charge of his own destiny. His refusal to dismiss the notion of going back to Boston, amid all the speculation, made his intentions perfectly clear. There really wasn’t anything the Jays could do about it except to try to exact something in return.
In a post-season conversation with GM Alex Anthopoulos, Farrell described the Red Sox post as his “dream job.” At that point, about two weeks ago, the Red Sox had not yet asked for permission to speak with Farrell. That occurred several days later and, after a week of negotiating, a deal was worked out in which the Jays would send pitcher David Carpenter, who would have been taken off the 40-man roster anyway, to Boston in exchange for middle infielder Mike Aviles.
The fact that Blue Jays management’s ardour for Farrell had cooled was also evident in their unwillingness to move on an extension. While there is much grinding of teeth in the Jays’ executive suite because of the Red Sox’s case of undisguised tampering, as well as the constant flow of misinformation coming out of Boston, it’s quite possible this is all for the best.
The bloom was off the rose for Farrell in Toronto. Not that it was solely his fault that the Blue Jays regressed this season. You can almost make a case that his part in Toronto’s 73-win season was incidental to the long list of injuries and the lack of adequate depth to cover them off. Sparky Anderson, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox, together, couldn’t have made much more of this mess.
“It’s not fair to pin this on one person,” said Anthopoulos Sunday. “John dealt with a lot of challenges.”
What is not incidental is the doubt that was fostered this year that, given better health and less poor individual player performance, Farrell still might not have been the right man to take this team to the next level.
As this past season went from frustratingly neutral, to mediocre and, finally, to hopeless, there were a lot of troubling signs that pointed to a lack of control and discipline. Those concerns came to a head when Omar Vizquel voiced his frustrations to Sun columnist Steve Simmons in the final days of the season and of Vizquel’s career.
Vizquel, now retired after 24 seasons, was perplexed that the same mistakes kept cropping up, especially among the young players on the team, suggesting that the manager and coaches were too slack. Farrell responded, saying that Vizquel was not around for the early-afternoon remedial sessions and one-on-one meetings that he and the coaches had with players who had made thiose mistakes.
What is not deniable, though, is the fact that many of those same mistakes were made time and again.
During his time in Toronto, Farrell was consistent in his wish for the team to be more aggressive in the so-called ‘small-ball’ aspects: Base running, putting runners in motion, sacrificing. Even when players like Rajai Davis and Brett Lawrie, among others, would run into outs with poor decision-making, Farrell often would exonerate them in the name of maintaining an aggressive approach.
As far as in-game strategy goes, Farrell made more than his share of curious calls but every manager is subject to that kind of scrutiny. Perhaps because of his lack of experience, Farrell did not always seem to have what veteran, successful managers have and that is the ability to be thick-skinned where criticism is involved.
His intelligence, his commanding presence and his background, from player to front-office man, to pitching coach under Terry Francona to manager with the Jays would tend to make him a candidate to be a good manager. Maybe, in Boston, he will be everything they expect him to be.
Those expectations are sky-high. Even some normally-cynical media types are convinced the Red Sox have just hired their version of Walter Alston or Gene Mauch, based upon relationships Farrell made during his years as the amiable, eloquent pitching coach.
Now that he’s the man on the hot seat, the face and voice of the team that dominates the narrative, not just in Boston but all of New England, they may find that he’s someone who can command a room, but also a guy with a few warts as well.
LOWS AND HIGHS FOR FARRELL
Examples of the good, the bad and the ugly on the John Farrell ledger this past season:
1. Knowing when
April 14: The Jays lead the Orioles 2-1 in the second inning. The bases are loaded and Jose Bautista has two strikes on him. Brett Lawrie (top) tries to steal home but is thrown out. Okay, it was not Farrell’s call, but it was typical of the poor discipline his Jays showed all season.
2. Feeling the squeeze
May 8: One out, top of the ninth in Oakland, tied 2-2. Eric Thames is at third, Colby Rasmus at first. Omar Vizquel pinch-hits for J.P. Arencibia, but his squeeze bunt is popped up, and caught for the second out. Kelly Johnson’s RBI single gives the Jays the lead, but their shot at a big inning is wiped out.
3. Closing time
May 9: After Francisco Cordero gives up five runs in the ninth on May 8, Farrell installs Casey Janssen as the closer. Janssen goes on to convert 22 of 24 save chances.
4. Wasted opportunity
Sept. 15: Jays down 2-1 to Boston in the fifth. Lawrie sac bunts runners to second and third. Encarnacion walked intentionally. Lind’s sac fly scores a run, but it’s all Jays get.
5. Telling it like it is
Sept. 29: Vizquel tells Sun that accountability for mistakes made both on the field and off it is lacking, an indictment of the club’s culture under Farrell.
THIS TIME, FAST
Countries have been invaded with less planning than Alex Anthopoulos put into his last managerial search two years ago. Expect a shorter, more efficient, more focused investigation this time around.
“I’ve only had a short time to think about it,” said Anthopoulos on Sunday, “but I’m expecting to have a much smaller group of candidates and I expect it to be resolved much more quickly. I feel like I can cut out a lot of steps. I’d like to move forward as fast as I can.”
Sandy Alomar Jr., DeMarlo Hale and Brian Butterfield were finalists along with Farrell the previous time and the GM said Sunday he is planning to inquire after some candidates who were denied to him last time because they were under contract. Tim Wallach was one candidate who the Jays were denied permission to pursue at this time in 2010.
“There are zero front-runners,” said Anthopoulos.