Red Sox set to announce John Farrell as manager: Griffin
Reports out of Boston on ESPN.com are that the Red Sox and Blue Jays have worked out a trade for Toronto's manager John Farrell and that a press conference will be held early next week. The player compensation will be announced later, but they are saying that Farrell has agreed to a multi-year contract extension to return to Fenway Park where he had been the pitching coach under Terry Francona from 2007-10.
Farrell had one year remaining on a three-year Jays contract that he had signed in November 2010. In two seasons as the Blue Jays maager, Farrell had a combined record of 154-170. The Jays' win total has gone down every seson since Cito Gaston managed the team to 85 victories in 2010, which was GM Alex Anthopoulos's first year at the helm. Gaston was allowed to finish out his contract signed under J.P. Ricciardi, before Anthopoulos conducted an extensive search for a manager to lead the Jays into the future.
Other candidates under consideration two years ago were Sandy Alomar, Jr., DeMarlo Hale and third-base coach Brian Buttertfield. Also on the Jays' current coaching staff with managerial potential are Don Wakamatsu, Torey Lovullo and Luis Rivera. The Jays have high regard for AA-New Hampshire skipper Sal Fasano and A-Dunedin manager Mike Redmond. The Jays had asked to interview Tim Wallach but were denied.
Recall that last October, when manager Terry Francona was fired by the Red Sox for apparently losing control of his clubhouse -- beer and chicken -- and allowing his team to collapse down the stretch and miss the playoffs, the Sox asked permission to talk to Farrell, who had just completed the first of three seasons with a record of 81-81.
It was at that time, president Paul Beeston and Anthopoulos amended the club rules that personnel could not leave the organization to accept a lateral move, which it would have been for Farrell. He had no comment at that time regarding the opportunity that had been lost to go back to Boston, only to say that he was "committed to the Blue Jays." It's a mantra he repeated this September, although never denying interest.
The Jays believed at the time, last Octiober, that Farrell had the clubhouse credibility, the charisma, the presence and the managerial ability to quickly lead the Jays into contention. Plus, the Red Sox were a division rival and the optics were not good.
When it became apparent in August and September 2012 that Sox' manager Bobby Valentine would not be invited back for the second year of his contract, sources within Red Sox management started quietly letting it be known that they would make another run at Farrell. This time, the Jays were more willing to listen and apparently the deal is done.
Farrell has a history with GM Ben Cherington and with others in the Red Sox front office, plus a friendship with Dustin Pedroia and other players that remains from when he was pitching coach. And it should be noted, on a personal basis, that even though he was with the Jays already in 2011, it was the Red Sox organization that helped set up the difficult radiation treatment for Farrell's son Luke last Fall in Boston that was thankfully successful and sees Luke back in school and pitching again at Northwestern University.
Why were the Jays willing to listen this time and willing to let Farrell go, when a year ago it would have been regarded as bowing and scraping in the direction of Red Sox Nation?
First, if the Jays insisted on keeping Farrell and refused to let him go this time, they would have likely had to offer him a multi-year extension. He has not earned a multi-year extension and the feeling would have been that the new contract had been forced on them.
Second, the Jays' on-field discipline from Day 1 of the 2012 season was questionable at best. You had the incident with Brett Lawrie charging the home plate umpire and bouncing his helmet off a shin, with no apology -- even if it was just for the mere act of htting him with the helmet, even if it was unintentional. Throughout the first two months, as the Jays' star player Jose Bautista struggled, his flashes of anger towards umpires did not reflect well on the organization and the team. The Jays were getting a bad reputation. Farrell was in charge.
Just as the Farrell chatter to Boston was starting to heat up late in the season, more discipline issues unfolded. Shortstop Yunel Escobar played a full game with a homophobic slur handwritten in Spanish on his paste-on eyeblack. The manager and all the players denied they saw anything, but a sharp-eyed fan that traditionally takes photos from a couple of rows behind the dugout, went home and blew up a couple of shots, Tweeted about it and the rest is history. Farrell was unconvincing that nobody could have seen it.
The Latin players argued that the Escobar slur is common in their culture and was just supposed to be lighthearted and in jest. The shortstop was suspended for three games by the Jays, with the input of the players' union and MLB. Nevertheless, the Jays were embarrassed. The Jays don't like to be embarrassed.
Farrell later on in the final week was forced to call a team meeting after the retiring veteran Omar Vizquel called him out on his preparation, teaching and discipline with young players. Anthopoulos love affair with Farrell was undermined on many levels.
Then there were the mistakes in fundamentals, the baserunning gaffes, guys thrown out because of over-aggressiveness on the basepaths, at the wrong time and in the wrong game situations. There was Lawrie stealing home with Bautista batting and two strikes, because "I thought I could make it." That was not only dumb, but potentially dangerous. Bautista never knew he was coming and if it was a strike would have had to swing.
There were guys doubled off third base on line drives, thrown out at third to end an inning, a lack of execution of the bunting game that did not stop bunts from being called. The same mistakes were being made more than once and corrections seemed to be made only after the fact, which in major-league baseball, with the pace of the game, is too late.
Then there was the demise of Ricky Romero. It's difficult to blame the manager for the collapse of an ace who seemed perfectly healthy, but from the moment Farrell called Romero out with the challenge, "We're just looking for that same tough kid from East L.A." the relationship started to sour. The more Romero struggled, the more suggestions and public theories Farrell had. In his final start, a disgusted Romero watched Farrell emerge from the dugout to hook him, did not look at his manager as he arrived and walked off missing the handoff of the ball having to go back and give it to Farrell, again without looking. Farrell stared Romero off the field. The optics were not good, once again.
The Farrell mystique that was present in October 2011 when the Sox made their first arrogant attempt to steal the manager away from a division rival had largely disappeared by October 2012. The fact that Farrell did not tell Beeston and Anthopoulos he indeed wanted to stay in Toronto with the organization that gave him his first chance to manage in the big leagues, combined with the fact they were not ready to give him the extension that would have been required to keep him made the response to Boston different this year.
Face it. Without the Red Sox presence in this equation, Farrell would likely have been asked to work on the final year of his three-year deal to show that corrections had been made in the clubhouse and on the field. Speaking of which, Anthopoulos had never announced Farrell's contract was a three-year deal, but late in the season when the Sox rumours began, it was the manager that answered a direct question with a direct answer. Yes, he had one more year on his contract. Again, Anthopoulos was not pleased.
In any case, the compensation for Farrell is rumoured by ESPN.com to be infielder Mike Aviles who would move to the head of the class in terms of second-base replacements for free-agent Kelly Johnson. That's not quite Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard or Rubby de la Rosa, but it's enough to keep to the letter of the Jays' law that there are no lateral moves -- without compensation.
As soon as the announcement is official, the Jays will have to interview candidates, at least one of which must be a minority, according to MLB rules. This time it should not take the Jays as long to find their man.
As for the Jays' fans, one would have to believe that the feeling is not that all is lost. In some circles it might be that depending on the choice of a replacement, the Jays may well be better off. Can Farrell handle the insatiably invasive Boston media? Time will tell.