The long saga has finally ended, and John Farrell is back where he always wanted to be– something I didn’t always believe to be the case– and back with the organization that, stunningly, “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,” according to an excellent grope around the cold grey murk of this failed relationship– this challenge one part slithered away from, one part reset by Jays’ management– from Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star.
There’s a lot to digest here, as Farrell returns to Boston, potentially taking a big chunk of the coaching staff with him– Brian Butterfield, although having preceded Farrell in Toronto, is a New Englander who may jump at the opportunity, if extended, and Torey Lovullo, ex-manager of the PawSox who was hand-picked by Farrell to join him here, could also leave, provided the Jays don’t offer him their now vacant managerial position.
Like most aspect of the story, there’s good and bad that may come with additional departures.
On one hand, it would especially hurt to lose the well-liked, respected, hard-working Butterfield, who has a reputation as an excellent infield instructor and was viewed as the brains behind the club’s defensive shifts this season, which for a long while seemed to work to great effect. Lovullo or Wakamatsu may both be excellent managerial candidates in their own right.
Personally, though, I’m kinda partial to the sabermetrically-inclined, Expos-connected Manny Acta, as I was mentioning last night on Twitter, passing along these two posts about him, and noting that his Cleveland team in 2012 had just 17 sacrifice bunts, nine fewer than the next lowest in the Majors. And that gets to the other side of the equation, which is, if you’re losing Farrell and maybe more, why be half-assed about cleaning house?
The Jays know more about it than we do, but as we’ve been hearing for months now, there are a number of reasons to think that something hasn’t been right in their clubhouse. Griffin points out several issues in his piece, including– along with the ones we all already know– the fact that Ricky Romero appeared to not take kindly to Farrell’s handling of him and his seemingly unfixable struggles, especially the public side of all that.
Interestingly, at one point in their breakdown of the transaction, the Kirk Minihane, Rob Sheppard, and Rob Bradford of Boston’s WEEI suggested that Ricky Romero’s problems may have been related to the fact that he didn’t come to camp in shape– something I’ve heard suggested by others this year, though also refuted. Personally, after having looked at pictures of a similarly-posed Romero in 2012, 2011 and also 2010, I don’t really see it. Yet one of the guys on the WEEI round-table believed Romero’s alleged weight gain was real, and wondered if Farrell “left his cowboy hat in Boston,” surprised that the Jays’ Opening Day starter wasn’t afraid of Farrell, the way that Clay Buchholz and other Boston pitchers had been afraid of him as pitching coach.
It’s an excellent question, and this lack of fear quite obviously might extend to a lot of Jays players. Yet, easy as it would be to view such indiscipline– if it’s even a real thing– or Brett Lawrie’s pig-headed bullshit, or whatever else we may have been seeing, as an indictment of the coaching regime, it would seem entirely plausible to me, as much as I’d hate to live in such a world, that Gregg Zaun could possibly be right when he shits on Rogers and the Jays for having separate rules for the darlings of the marketing campaigns, and the still believed-in first-round picks, and all the other scums on the roster.
These are the kinds of central questions, I think, that need to be asked in the wake of this mess, and as we move on and clean up from whatever took place at the end of Farrell’s tenure– not the bullshit about tampering, or being a small-time feeder organization, or even whether the Jays received adequate compensation, but how best to move forward and make it better, and how the Red Sox, for all their warts, bullshit and many challenges, may actually be viewed as straight-up better people to work for.
That ought to concern us, in much the same way that we’re concerned that the club’s rash of pitching injuries may have had their root in something systemic, and much more so than the loss of a manager– an employee whose value was deemed to be somewhere in the sub-Mike Aviles range. After all, Farrell was working a position so inconsequential in the grand scheme of a baseball team that even, with the writing surely on the wall, the Jays allowed this process to play out as long as it did, extracting whatever they could from Boston for him, rather than acting quickly to ditch Farrell and jump at the chance to hire someone like Terry Francona, who agreed to be Cleveland’s new manager early in the off-season– a theoretical possibility, and perhaps tempting, if they really believed in the fierce, mystical power of a supposedly-great Big League manager. Yet, if the consensus best manager available isn’t worth passing up a Mike Aviles-sized return to try and snag, I think it tells us a lot about how overvalued the position is in most of the chatter about it.
Anthopoulos claims that until about two weeks ago he felt Farrell would be his manager for 2013, and that he was disappointed with some of the “gamesmanship” coming from the other side in this process, shrugging off reports of clashes with his manager, or a relationship that had badly soured. Farrell, the GM told reporters, informed the club that managing in Boston was his “dream job” and the Jays claim they decided to not stand in his way. Yet it’s difficult to take that comment seriously, given how conveniently it casts both the Jays and Farrell in about as good a light as possible here, and given what we’ve seen and heard regarding the apparent disconnect between the two men.
Never was this disconnect more publicly evident than at the press conference following Yunel Escobar’s suspension, where the manager’s messaging failed to harmonize with the entirely-sensible bit of “teachable moment” PR cover the GM put forward. And while the rumours about a rift over Omar Vizquel’s role with the club may or may not be true, the way that the GM’s hand-picked veteran leader self-servingly threw the coaching staff under the bus at season’s end couldn’t possibly have sat well in either the front office or the dugout.
It was also telling that late in the season, pressed on the “lame duck” question, Anthopoulos gave an unorthodox explanation of how employee contracts work, suggesting that they don’t offer job security– they only set the employee’s rate of pay, and as such, the fact that Farrell’s deal was expiring was irrelevant.
Sure, the Red Sox, via their local media, seemed to be trying make it as difficult as possible for the Jays to bring Farrell back, but as Anthopoulos demonstrated with his remarks, he likely would have been able to talk his way out of whatever hole he’d been dragged into, assuming he actually wanted to. And if he really wanted to, he could have stopped this whole thing in its tracks, as he demonstrated was possible last year.
In the Globe and Mail, Jeff Blair scoffs at that notion– and at the compensation received– asking rhetorically, “would you want a guy managing your team after hearing his dream job was with one of your arch-rivals?”
Well, I’m pretty sure the Jays have employed Brian Butterfield for quite a long time, knowing full-well about his open love for, and long connection to the New York Yankees. I think it’s a safe assumption that’d be his dream job, and… well… wouldn’t the whole world grind to a fucking halt if everybody not working at his or her dream job suddenly became unemployable? I mean, what kind of a lazy canard is this?
“Really,” he then asks, “a week of negotiating to get Mike Aviles?”
Aviles fills a basic need for the Jays and is cheap. No, he’s not some kind of otherworldly piece, but the market for middle infielders this winter is threadbare, and Aviles is a player who could theoretically play second base for the club next season, better still in a platoon (are you listening, Adam Kennedy?), or better still as a straight-up utility guy. He gives the club an extra bit of flexibility to move Yunel Escobar or Adeiny Hechavarria, which could help them address an even bigger need, or he may even have value on his own– look at the recent deal involving Cliff Pennington before you scoff.
That’s not a nothing piece, and while a good manager isn’t nothing either, the difference between whatever Farrell was and whatever his replacement will be simply cannot be more than marginal, at best– and I’m sorry, Baltimore fans, but if your magic run this year was more about a club being brilliantly “managed up” than simply falling ass-backwards into good luck, don’t you think the Yankees or the Rangers or the Diamondbacks might have kept Buck Showalter around longer during his stints there?
In other words: this transaction is a win for the Jays, and a somewhat self-fulfilling one. Again, the club didn’t in any way have to give Farrell up if they really wanted to retain him, meaning their willingness to do so alone indicates a dissatisfaction with him. Getting an actual roster player who may help facilitate a deal that impacts the club even more positively? That’s some sweet, delicious gravy.
Oh, sure, a number of the local hacks are already full-throated in their bleating about the nasty optics of the whole affair– Parkes takes a pair of the worst offenders to task over at Getting Blanked– and, frankly, I couldn’t sit here and attempt to honestly deny that it isn’t somewhat bad for the club to appear at the moment to be on the losing end of this tug-of-war (even though I would certainly argue that they’re not), but the whole bloody thing is pretty ridiculously inconsequential.
There’s an elephant in the room whenever anyone lets shit dribble out of their mouth about how harmful this is to the Jays’ brand, or what a public relations disaster it must be: the fact that the transactions that will take place– or fail to take place– the next two months are so infinitely more crucial to the team and the brand that there is no earthly way a poorly-received end to the Farrell saga registers even a blip on the radar of most fans by the time all is said and done.
We can waste words on what it means right now if we really want to– I mean, it’s not like anyone would rather examine the pros and cons of the Bobby Wilson acquisition, and subsequent Chad Beck D’ing FA, right?– but what is going to colour our view of this off-season when we ultimately look back on it in March and April sure as shit isn’t going to be whatever the fuck happened here with Farrell.
If the club adds some legitimate pieces to the big league roster over the winter and looks like a legitimate contender, all is forgiven– water under the bridge. If they don’t, nobody is going to be pointing to the loss of a manager as anywhere close to the most egregious thing that Rogers and the Jays laid on us or the 2013 version of the club.
When you get right down to it, it really just doesn’t matter very much. And I’ll say it again: not that I discount all of the other things that Farrell may have brought to the table, but I’m fucking thrilled that we’ll be seeing someone else pulling the strings on the in-game stuff next year. Anybody else. Y’know… except Jim Tracy.