Griffin: Farrell holds all the cards in Red Sox quest for manager
The Red Sox haven't yet made the call to Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos to ask permission to talk to John Farrell, according to the first-year manager himself, reached by The Star this morning in Boston.
Don't panic, fans. Farrell is not there to be interviewed by the Red Sox. In fact, since the end of the season, John and his wife Sue have remained at the side of their son Luke, 21, as he undergoes treatment for removal of a recurring tumour on the back of his skull.
It makes sense that Farrell hasn't yet heard from the Red Sox. They have had other pressing matters, like the hiring of a replacement for the departed GM Theo Epstein and the compensation they will receive from the Cubs. The hiring of a manager will quickly become a priority for new GM Ben Cherington whenever it is his appointment is confirmed. That official announcement confirming Epstein's assistant as GM will likely come Tuesday, the off day between World Series games 5-6.
But even the mere rumour of the Red Sox interest in Farrell is a slap in the face for Jays fans. And why does Anthopoulos not already have his back up and squash the rumours early, denying the Sox permission before they even ask? It's not an upward baseball move, manager to manager, which Anthopoulos encourages for any of his employees pursuing the chance of bettering themselves. This is a parallel move, unless you believe the Sox and Yankees operate in a higher league. They believe.
The Jays talk boldly about competing for the playoffs in the near-future, yet allow themselves to be treated as the farm team, the development centre of the AL East's big boys. I thought they were serious in fighting that belief, but this Farrell loss would be a step backwards.
Even the Sox media take the Sox/Yankee superiority for granted. If Boston wants someone, even if that person is an important piece in a clearly developing situation like the current Jays, that if the Sox crook their index finger in his direction, that Farrell will come back to New England. He's not even from New England. He's from the Jersey Shore living in a suburb of Cleveland.
If the Sox call for Farrell does come later this week, Anthopoulos would likely allow the new GM to contact his manager and the former Red Sox pitching coach would listen to what they have to say. There is no immediate commitment, but why should he refuse the call if it's allowed.
At worst, even the interest from the Sox will benefit him financially, even if he remains with the Jays, which, by all rights and integrity he should. Somehow leaving does not seem right?
When Farrell was being interviewed by the Jays, he was perceived in Boston as a likely successor to Terry Francona if he had stayed in his position as pitching coach. But the perception was that Francona was locked in with a team that was primed to be a perennial playoff team.
Farrell was so highly regarded in baseball circles that he was able to choose the Jays as much as the Jays chose him. He and Anthopoulos worked well together in his first year. There was a mutual respect between the manager and his boss, who is 15 years his junior. Farrell brought in a surprising aggressiveness on the bases, combined with a healthy reliance on his coaching staff, including pitching coach Bruce Walton. He communicated with his GM every day.
That's exactly the sense of cooperation and front office teamwork that Anthopoulos was looking for in a manager. Farrell managed to win but understood the need for player development at the major league level. It's an asset that had long ago left Cito Gaston, who wanted to use his veterans to win.
Sure Farrell made some mistakes, especially, as he himself admits, in the way he handled his bullpen of interchangeable parts, not assigning specific roles early enough, leading to negative results in the long run. His players took a while to warm up to him, even making fun of the awkwardness of his first managerial ejection in Tampa. But they warmed to his style as a players' manager, treating them as men, with the mature attitude of “just show up on time and be ready to play every day.”
So don't blame Farrell for just listening to the Red Sox if they call. He has earned that right. It even may work for him the way it did for former GM J.P. Ricciardi who parlayed Boston's interest in hiring him away from the Jays into a lucrative multi-year extension. That would be fine if Farrell used the expression of interest the same way. It's not our money. Who could blame him for that?
But it would be unseemly for him to take the Boston job after one year in Toronto. It would be a setback for the new, chest puffing image that Anthopoulos had created as the upcoming David to the AL East's Goliaths. Once again, the Jays would be the small-market feeder system.
What if Farrell had stayed on as the Red Sox pitching coach? There are two ways of looking at it.
1. When Francona was allowed to leave, Farrell would have been in line to take over as manager, so he's just picking up where he probably would have been.
2. If Farrell was the pitching coach in 2011, the Sox would not have had those discipline problems. Pitchers say that Farrell instilled a healthy fear in them. If he had noticed that some of his starting pitchers were missing from the dugout during games and were in the clubhouse drinking beer, he would have nipped the problem in the Bud. If that was the case, the Sox would likely have held on for a playoff spot and Francona would still be manager.
How wrong would his leaving be? Let me put it this way.
If Farrell took the Red Sox job of his fired buddy Terry Francona, it would compare to Waylon Jennings playing the remaining tour dates of the late Buddy Holly after Jennings had narrowly missed the doomed 1959 flight that Jennings was supposed to be on and took the lives of Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.
Is Farrell going?
“That'll be the Day.”
If the Sox want permission to talk, they will get it from Anthopoulos. That's where it stands as of Monday. There is smoke. We're not sure about the fire.