As I mentioned in today’s Early-Afternoon Snack, John Farrell showed up on Mike Wilner’s pre-game show last night on the Fan 590, answering questions and taking calls from listeners. As I also mentioned, at the time I posted the link, I hadn’t quite had the chance to listen to it.
Well, now I have. And there was actually some rather interesting stuff that came up. Check out the audio at Wilner’s blog, or check out some highlights below. And tune in tonight when Wilner does the same thing, only with Jose Bautista in the big chair.
On Colby Rasmus
Speaking of Wilner’s pre-game shows, Colby Rasmus is the one member of the Jays who won’t be appearing on it, though not for any malicious reason. Rasmus gave Wilner his phone number, but assured him that it wouldn’t work out in the woods, which is where he’ll be for the entire month of October.
That’s probably for the best, frankly. Maybe he doesn’t even realize that the Cardinals are in the World Series!
Either way, I’m sure his mind could use a break, which is something that Farrell stressed as well. “There’s a human element,” he said, talking about how unsettling it can be for a player to be traded for the first time, and reminding us that “he went through a lot” in St. Louis, referring to the acrimonious exit and the intense-for-St.-fucking-Louis media spotlight.
Sure, claiming that he just needs some time to get his head straight is the perfect, ready-made excuse, but there’s something to it.
At the end of the season, Farrell says, “we went back through the scouting process [we used] to identify Colby, to acquire him. That hasn’t changed. We believe in that process. This player, Colby, did not change on the flight to Toronto. He is going to be the player that we saw, scouted, and acquired before coming to Toronto, when we get spring training and beyond. Yes, are there adjustments that are needed? Sure, every player’s got adjustments as they go through facing pitchers for the first time. That’s no different here.”
“I think he’ll come into spring training knowing he’s a Blue Jay,” he added, “rather than a Cardinal thinking, ‘am I going elsewhere?’ “
“He’s a hell of a talent,” Farrell says, pointing out that things like bat speed and range in the field don’t just disappear overnight, and acknowledging that it’s up to the Jays to help him make the adjustments needed. “The physical skills are there, no question.”
On Offensive Approach
“This has been, typically, year-in and year-out, been a very aggressive fastball hitting team,” Farrell says of the Jays. “Aggressive swinging, early count contact– we’re trying to change some of the culture of that. That doesn’t mean we’re going to make them passive and look for the walk. That means there’s a benefit to having a relentless at-bat up and down the lineup, because the weakest link for any team is between the fifth and the seventh innings– it’s the middle relief. And I’m not being critical of middle relievers, they have a valuable role, but if you can chase that starter in the fifth inning or the sixth inning of the first game of a three game series, there’s rammifications and effects throughout the course of the rest of the series, in addition to tonight’s game.”
On What He Looks For in a Closer
“The eighth inning pitcher, the setup guy,” Farrell says, “he is the one who’s got to have multiple pitches he can command for strikes and keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. Scott Downs– perfect example of that. The guy in the ninth inning– because, when the hitter gets in the box in the ninth inning there’s no tomorrow, there’s no patience to build for the next inning, to kind of wear a guy down or build an inning. They’re trying to get it done. So they’re going to be more aggressive, they’re going to expand the strike zone a little bit more. Now, keep in mind, this guy can’t be throwing buckshot at home plate with no clue of the strike zone, but there’s more tendency for the hitter in the ninth, I think, to chase out of the strike zone than in the eighth or before.”
So, command isn’t as much of an issue for Farrell as having a swing-and-miss pitch. More importantly than that, he says, is having a short-term memory– and as a manager, he really needs to get to know a player in order to determine that.
On His Relationship With Alex Anthopoulos
Farrell says that he and Anthopoulos converse and have communication daily, and he values it in particular because it’s honest, and nothing is held back. Not being inhibited to give your true opinion, he says, puts you in position to get the best answer possible. And while he an Anthpoulos have disagreed at times, Alex gives the coaches their space, and they acknowledge that disagreement is part of the process.
Anthopoulos will review with Farrell specific, game-by-game minutia, such as managerial moves. They will walk through scenarios and talk about different options and rammifications. “His opinions, his questions– they’re not threatening,” says Farrell, who then explains that Alex has a right to know why a specific decision was made, because he’s responsible for the entire organization. Those review have generated a lot of good debate and good conversation, he says.
Alex listens, he respects everybody’s opinion, he gets as much information as he can, and he knows there’s more than one way to look at something– there’s no absolute– so he takes in as much information as he can in order to formulate the best way to tackle to something, Farrell says.
On The Challenges of Being a First-Time Manager
The biggest challenge, he says, was to have gone from a career of trying to prevent offence– to now have to look at the game in a mirror. After that, it was getting a read on each individual position player.
On the Club’s Needs
“If we were only able to get one thing, I’d say a dominant starting pitcher,” he says. And while they have lots of guys with potential and stuff, “stuff gets you to the mound,” he says. “What keeps you in to the seventh inning is the ability to execute it– that’s where we’ve got to make another step forward.”
On Competing Either Sooner or Later
There’s a window of opportunity in the near term, he says, with Jose Bautista being in the middle of that window. “I can tell you from our conversations, that Alex is well aware of it.” And as tempting as it may be to make a big push, “the one thing he’s not done, he’s not mortgaged the future on today. And I think that’s the one way to get to point of contending, and then have the ability to sustain it going forward.”