… and I’ll be headed straight fer that door so fucking fast it’ll make yer gad-damn head spin!
Jeff Blair was at his absolute Blairsy-est in the pages of Wednesday’s Globe and Mail– assuming anybody actually goes to the trouble of printing those out anymore– ruminating on the still-unrelenting John Farrell saga, and the identity at the very core of the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, in ways that make you really want to believe he’s got it spot on, but that often crumble given enough scrutiny.
Funnily, in one of his more prescient bits, that’s exactly the sort of trick Blair suggests Farrell has pulled. “He looks like he should be a good manager – he’s got good face – and you kind of, sort of, maybe want to see him be a success,” he writes, groping, perhaps, towards exploring what I figure is as good a guess as any as to how the Farrell experiment has possibly gone wrong so quickly. But insights like this– and his gorgeous excoriation of Omar Vizquel, “who in truth took a victory lap around the league on the Blue Jays’ dime without making much of an impact in the clubhouse, other than offering a ham-handed defence of Yunel Escobar’s homophobic eye-black slur”– are a little too few and far between in a piece that, for my taste, is built largely on some questionably assumptions, assuming it even wants to go anywhere new.
He digs himself a hole in paragraph two:
“Nothing leaks like a lousy Boston Red Sox team, starting from ownership on down. If folks like Peter Gammons are writing or saying there were issues between Farrell and Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, and that the same issues are enough to have Farrell looking to manage the Red Sox,” he writes, “they’re getting it from some place. They aren’t supposing it or making it up, and since the nudges and winks wouldn’t be coming from Anthopoulos, three guesses as to where they might be coming from. Three guesses as to the agenda.”
It’s a cute shortcut to what might be a core, underlying point– that Farrell himself is behind the chatter, and is desperate to get out (though in my bleariness when writing last night, I think I missed somehow that he’s suggesting it’s Boston’s ownership who’s doing the leaking)– and one that could certainly may be true, and that I’d be inclined take a little more seriously than I might from another source, given that Blair generally seems rather plugged-in. But it is, nonetheless, merely a shortcut. It’s not a smoking gun– and neither is Blair’s supposed truism that “the whole bring-him-back-on-the-last-year-of-his-contract thing might work in baseball fantasy land but it doesn’t fly in the real world.”
Were they inarguable– if Farrell or Larry Lucchino and company were truly the only plausible sources of the rumours, and Anthopoulos in a position where he had to offer an extension or cut the manager loose– that sure as shit would be a story. But how are they possibly? How have we eliminated a deepening, self-fulfilling game of broken telephone within the self-interested Boston media that’s driving the story? For what reason does the old “lame duck” trope have any power over a club’s decision-making except that it’s supposed to, and gives the media an easy story to keep in their back pockets?
Why does it not hold– why the hell shouldn’t it hold– that, exactly as Anthopoulos has suggested, once you strip away all the old dogma, a manager’s contract is really no more than an agreement on remuneration? Because of some notion, specific only to sports, that the club would be operating in bad faith by not extending a year from the end of his contract? That his status increases the likelihood that he’ll lose the room, as though that’s not possible in any other circumstance?
I don’t think there are good answers for any of these questions, and perhaps that’s why Blair inevitably tacks back toward the same murk that characterizes every damn story about the Farrell saga, including its few concrete central points: that the Sox want him; that it’s hard to make a fair, rational assessment of what he’s done here; and that the Jays say they’re committed to him and to their policy of not letting employees interview with other clubs unless a promotion is involved, but because they were theoretically open to asking an exorbitant price for him when we went through this whole fucking dog and pony show the first time, last year, and because a few people– in Boston, magically– have word of a supposed rift between he and Anthopoulos, apparently anything is possible.
These stories always come back to that, because that’s all we really know. But hey, it’s fun trying to find fifty different ways to write it, huh? Not that I’m not entirely guilty of it myself, as well.