There’s a famous quote attributed to Sigmund Freud that’s used almost in equal measure as evidence that the founder of psychoanalysis was either a) a hypocrite; or b) someone with a sense of humor. Never mind that there’s an alarming lack of evidence to support that Freud ever said this famous phrase.

The legend is what’s important here, and the legend goes something like this: One day, Freud was informally lecturing a group of doctors on his theory of oral fixation when they began quietly laughing. Freud, annoyed at being interrupted, asked what was so funny about his idea. The snickering doctors replied that while he was explaining his theory on the first stage of psycho-sexual development, he was smoking a huge cigar in his mouth.

Depending on the motivation of the story teller, Freud either self-deprecatingly quipped or defensively suggested that:

Gentlemen, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

On Sunday, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that their manager for the past two seasons, John Farrell, was leaving the organization to become the new manager of the Boston Red Sox. As compensation for dissolving the last year of his contract with his previous club, the Red Sox sent infielder Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays in exchange for reliever David Carpenter.

Cue: Every sports columnist in Canada imagining the transaction to be either a harbinger of doom, the representation of all that ails the Toronto franchise or the end result of being backed into a corner by underhanded dealings. However, it is none of these things. It’s merely a baseball transaction that involves a manager, and as rare as that is, it isn’t the loss of value that it’s depicted as being.

While we have little idea of the value, at least in terms of something tangible like runs or wins, that any manager provides to his team, it’s generally perceived that in baseball, a skipper’s dealings are less impactful than most sports. Given the one-on-one pitcher-batter battles that comprise the game, and the plethora of data available to inform strategic decisions, I’d go so far to suggest that trading a manager for a player who can contribute as a member of the Major League roster in any form at all is a deal that stands to improve a ball club.

In other words, if the value being lost by trading John Farrell came from a player instead of a manager, this weekend’s agreement would represent a good deal for the Toronto Blue Jays.

This is not what Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun will try to tell you.

This is big business and the Blue Jays come off as small-timers here in this ugly mess of a transaction. This is major league sports and the small market Jays show themselves as little more than farm team for the large market Red Sox.

This is only slightly worse than Shi Davidi of Rogers Sportsnet who paints the picture of the team as a cuckolded partner:

The whole unseemly process that sent Farrell back to the Red Sox along with the soon-to-be-outrighted David Carpenter for Mike Aviles leaves the Blue Jays looking every bit the jilted husband, one resigned to a useful pittance in compensation for watching his wife joyously reconnect with her ex.

Toronto is not a victim in this scenario. Yes, a new manager search combined with the orientation efforts once he’s hired will take time away from what’s surely already a very busy off season schedule for the team’s front office. However, that’s all this bit of business costs.

The most important thing to the organization and its fans is what Farrell’s departure means on the field, where the impact will be positive, even if it is minimal. While Mike Aviles isn’t the prize that some had anticipated, he remains a useful utility infielder who turns into an above average hitter when facing left-handed pitching.

What’s being glossed over in the woebegone writing describing the Farrell saga is the fact that this team chose to let Farrell depart for Aviles. While circumstances might have played a role in coercing them to do so, it was still their decision, and one that they made. It could be argued that this is a naive way of viewing the situation, that Boston’s pursuit and “gamesmanship” put Toronto in a corner. However, I can’t help but wonder if anything was keeping Farrell in Toronto beyond the final year of a contract and the pomp and circumstance with which he was introduced at his press conference two years ago.

I seldom enjoy breaching the barrier between tangible and intangible, but there’s evidence, beyond planted stories in the press, to suggest that something was amiss in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse during this most trying of seasons. In addition to the on-going complaints of Farrell’s questionable in-game strategizing, there were comments from Omar Vizquel about the lack of accountability, there was the collapse of Ricky Romero and of course there was the incident in which an entire clubhouse of players and coaches allowed Yunel Escobar to take the field with a homophobic slur written on his eye black.

Most importantly though, there was the contract extension that was never offered to Farrell ahead of the final year of his contract. Without the Red Sox interest, this would’ve left him as a lame duck manager for the 2013 season. While Farrell’s exit may not be causing good riddance sighs of relief at the Rogers Centre, the team presumably could have avoided his departure with an offer that they ultimately chose not to make.

There’s something of a bright spot to point out in these dealings. The Toronto Blue Jays didn’t succumb to the pressure of optics, or with pig-headedness that ultimately would’ve created a worse situation than the one the team now faces ahead of the 2013 season. They aren’t in a tail spin now that their manager is gone. There isn’t a tragic drama taking place. There isn’t a greater meaning to Farrell leaving than merely him leaving. Sometimes, a manager is just a manager.

Comments (76)

  1. the lack of evidence *is* alarming, isn’t it.

  2. I couldn’t agree more.

    Getting anything of value for a manager is a win, and clearly they had soured on Farrell.

    I think this whole saga is a blessing in disguise. After the downward spiral that was 2012, I had a hard time envisioning Farrell ‘leading’ this group in 2013.

    Bring on Sandy Alomar Jr or Sal Fasano please!

  3. on a serious note, we don’t know if Farrell leaving the field will have a positive impact until we see the work of his replacement.

  4. I certainly agree that on the field the move ultimately means very little for the Jays, but I really have to agree with most of the media that the Jays don’t look good after this.

    Perception as intangible as it is, still can play a very large factor in decisions that people make. In this case it will be the fans and more importantly, at least for me, is what the free agents are going to think when the money and terms of a deal being offered by the Jays are relatively equal to what a competitor is offering.

    Unfortunately, as fans we’re never going to know just how much it’s going affect things, but when you add it to the host of other issues that reared their ugly heads this season, it certainly doesn’t make things look any better.

    At least the good thing is in this case a couple of impact signings and or trades will go a long way to making everyone forget about this rather quickly. Without them though it’s just one more straw on the camel’s back.

    • +1

      I agree with Parkes that in this case, a manager is just a manager, and doesn’t represent a loss of value to the team as a baseball team.

      As a brand? It certainly harms the brand, as it embarasses the Jays by seemingly having been played by the Red Sox and Farrell. The truth is obviously a lot more complex and nuanced, but public perceptions matter for brands and businesses, and the public perception of the Blue Jays takes a hit here, rightly or wrongly.

      • The brand will survive so long as the Jays win.

        If all things are equal and everyone coming back to 2013 are healthy, right now the Jays have a middle of the pack team. The Jays need to acquire more talent either by trades or FA to change the opinion of the next FA.

    • Why on earth would players care if Farrell wanted to leave for Boston? So I suppose if Boston is the dream job, and this transaction actually somehow affects how people think, then all free agents will now have Boston at the top of their list.

      • It’s less to do with Farrell specifically than the greater dysfunction that this and other things have illustrated this year for organization itself. I’ll be the first to agree that if Farrell was here or not it wouldn’t matter much to a free agent. However, it’s the manner in how he left. A free agent with a family is certainly going to weigh things like that when they’re deciding on where to spend the next few years of their life. Again that’s assuming their looking at offers that are reasonably equal.

        • How can you say a free agent is certainly going to weigh things like that? Wasn’t Farrell a large part of the dysfunction? So now that the team has potentially rid itself of dysfunction, players are less likely to go there because the source of the dysfunction departed via trade as opposed to being fired. Bullsquat.

          • Of course they’re going to weigh things like that. Major decisions like where you’re going to move your family and ones that might potentially affect your career are always going to be carefully considered unless someone is offering a shit ton of money more than the next guy. That was my whole point. All things being equal the next logical step is to go down the list and weigh the other attributes.

            As for the dysfunction it was far more Farrell. Hardly BS.

  5. But…but Gregg Zaun said we should of gotten more! *rolling eyes*

  6. sounds like the writings of a newly minted Rogers employee. :)

  7. I wonder if the Jays ever tried extending JF’s contract. Parkes?

  8. Honest question, but if not for Fasano’s mustache would people be so eager to hire him? Seems like he is held in much higher esteem by the fan base than is warranted.

    • Interesting that you say that but Kevin Gray (yes I know he certainly blew it on the Darvish thing) who reports on the Fishercats wrote a pretty unflattering piece about Fasano.

      Having said that I still think Drew really nailed it with his tweet yesterday:

      Drew F ‏@DrewGROF

      Your list of reasons favoring one hypothetical candidate over another is baloney.

    • I’ve wondered that myself. I’ve got an irrational mancrush on Sally Boy, and it’s based soley on his BA-itude. Sandy Jr seems like a fit because of the Latin thing and….he’s an Alomar. Acta is a retread that – all in all – I don’t like for no real reason.

      But for those in the Whitt camp…..just simmer down, please.

  9. loved the intro.

    good article.

    no reason to blow things out of proportion. Farrell wanted to go because it gives him a job for 3 more years, and that was far from likely if he went in to 2013 on a one year.

    He did whats best for himself, jays did whats best for them. lets just move on and worry about improving the actual talent.

  10. Completely agree. This is NOT the Kansas City A’s of the 1950s, who had owners literally in cahoots with the Yankees and were nothing more than a de facto Yankees farm club playing in the American League. And I’d rather have Mike Aviles fighting for a job than an unhappy Farrell managing out the string of his contract and dragging the rest of the team down with him.

    The Blue Jays are in a mess, and they have a massive PR war on their hands. It won’t be an easy climb out of this. But it’s fixable, without a doubt. They are still in better shape for now and the future than many other clubs. I mean, what roster would you rather have right now, the Jays or the Astros?

    As for the manager, I’ve been favouring Tim Wallach, but the more I hear about Brad Ausmus the more I like him. From what I read, Ausmus impressed the Red Sox to a point that it was an “unexpected” toss-up between him and Farrell. I’d take the plunge and grab Ausmus.

  11. You’re missing the point. It’s not about the loss of any magical managerial powers Farrell may have had or the compensation the Blue Jays received.

    The story is the dirty backroom tactics employed by both Farrell and the Red Sox and the damage — yes, damage — done to the organization as a result. The price getting a free agent to sign here? It just went up.

    Sometimes a manager is just a manager, but the significance of this move goes far beyond Xs and Os.

    • a free agent would be willing to sign for less because Farrell’s here?

      I mean he is good looking and all, but thats simply not true.

      The FA market hasn’t changed for this team, the outlook hasn’t changed for this team, the plans the execution wont change. Why? because a manager is just an instructor for the symphony, he can’t play an instrument.

      Unless we lost Joe Maddon, this team won’t miss a beat with Acta, Fasano, alomar or whoever else.

    • If anything, this will make it easier for free agents to come here. There will be stability in the manager’s office now, and I believe free agents will take note of that. They will also take note of the fact that the perceived problems in the dressing room last year will probably be addressed differently now that Farrell is gone.

  12. If this results in fewer sac bunts in the first 3 innings, I’m all for it…

  13. Steve Simmons is an idiot.

  14. This article is absolutely correct. All articles to the contrary are based solely on how this transaction makes the Blue Jays appear. The fact is, it doesn’t matter one s**t how they appear. All that matters is whether the team is improved. A new manager will come in and be just as effective/ineffective as Farrell, which means that the team acquired Aviles for nothing. That’s an improvement.

    • Agreed…this team is better off than they were before this trade. Thats all that matters at this point. I find it hard to believe that a free agent is less likely to sign with the Jays because the Sox fed garbage to the media to make us look bad to lower the trade value

  15. My long term play here is how dopey the Sox will look when Farrellball also fails in Beantown.

    Writers are inventing the negative spin because that is what they are paid to do. Stir shit up, agitate the Chicken Littles of the fan base. Baseball insiders are yawning over this. How much long term damage did it do to the Sox to have their GM poached the season before? None? Are they a laughing stock? No. Farm team to the Cubs? No. People need to chill out, put on their big boy pants and realize life happens.

  16. Agreed. I’m glad Anthopoulos didn’t worry about the optics of this situation and just did what needed to be done to benefit the ball club.

  17. Mike McCoy for Joe Girardi and Lee Hyde?

    • Comparing Aviles to McCoy is not even remotely close.

      • Irrelevant. You don’t let your rival poach from your club. Ever. regardless, is Mike Aviles worth the fan fall-out when Marco Scutaro will be available in a matter of days? No, no he’s not.

        • You don’t know that he’ll be available, he may well re-sign with the Giants when they have their exclusive negotiating window.

          It doesn’t matter anyways. Are you so obtuse as to think that if the Jays can grab Scutaro at the right price that having Aviles will be a stumbling block? AA has already talked of Aviles as a utility player should a better 2B option emerge either internally or externally.

          • Allowing your rival to poach from you does far more damage than an average body can compensate for. We have enough depth to trade for an Aviles without having to deal with this public shaming. You don’t allow this to happen. Ever.

  18. I glanced through the article but my whole take on this move leaves me wondering if there’s any direction in his organization at all. Yes, trades happen and I understand the rebuilding process but at some point AA needs to KEEP his players and the Jays need to win games. Edwin and Jose were the only 2 producers this past year but something is telling me (and I hope I’m dead wrong) that Edwin or Jose will be gone sooner hen later. We could’ve had Napoli, he was dealt before he even played and hit 30 home runs that year. Vernon Wells produced more offence then the majority of the team this past year, and Halladay’s numbers always speak for themself. As a loyal fan, this team needs star power and in order to make a star, you have to let them show their potential.

    • Napoli had a terrible season, Vernon Wells has a retarded contract, and Roy Halladay is aging, and deserved his chance to go play elsewhere. I also didn’t see Philly or LA in the playoffs, and Texas got bounced by — get this — Baltimore.

    • “Vernon Wells produced more offence then the majority of the team this past year”

      Did I stumble onto a Toronto Maple Leafs intercounty baseball blog? I’m not even sure if they’d mourn the loss of .230/.279/.403.

  19. i think baseball managers are virtually interchangeable…but this does leave a bad taste in the mouth, only because its Boston.

  20. Disagree with a manager is a manager.

    Jays look like a small market team that can be bullied into giving up a manager for the player with the second lowest OBP 282 in the Al.

    If all managers are interchangeable then why are some hired fired eyc.

    Citoball is not the same as farrellball or maddonball.

    What ha not been discussed is a potential rift between AA Rogers and Farrell.

    Was Farrell promised better starting pitchers in 2012 or 2013?

    Will the new manager be tougher on bautista and bench him if he argues with umpires?

    Will lawrie’s be benched for dumb base running?

    No one on the jays has any feeling how the new manager will deal with personnel issues.

    Cost of free agents went up?

    To assume that a mostly new coaching staff would not have growing pains for 2013 is naive.

  21. The Rockies are mad….. If they would have known Toronto was dumpster diving – they would have offered Jamie Moyer for Farrell

  22. They just took a giant PR hit to acquire a guy whose value on the trade market one year ago was a C prospect (and that’s being kind to him) and a minor league reliever. One year ago when he had more trade value than he does today, by the way. There’s obviously no way of quantifying the PR part, but I still don’t think it was worth it. Fire him when the season was over and get on with more pressing business, that would have been the way to go knowing that AA wasn’t ready to play hardball with the Sawx.

  23. You may be right but
    1) Boston is still a divisional rival that the Jays play 19 times a season
    2) a manager is not just a manager when he’s accompanied by a sizable portion of the coaching staff. Let’s see how much this hurts before jumping to conclusions either way. I have a feeling we’re gonna lose some of these guys, and that the players won’t all be thrilled about that.

  24. it’s been a while since i’ve read any freud, but based on my understanding of the way he ran things, i would question wether anyone would have instantiated a cigar-measuring contest in any kind of lecture with their dear papa. he was known to toss people out of his circle for any sort of dissention when it came to the theory/practice of analysis. i think it’s probably a saying that became more popular as more people began to get into psychoanalysis, and as more began to see the process as having suspect value – it’s a way of dismissing the entire practice out of hand, and i don’t know that any of that would be possible until you have non-freudian forms of analysis coming to greater prominence. it would be interesting to ask someone formally trained in psychoanalysis, as it’s probably something that comes up.

    as for feral, that filthy animal went over aa’s head. so i imagine that aa had no plans of trading him unless his demands were met. feral knew this…perhaps a source of their friction? and so he went to “ownership” who were able to deal at a level above aa. i think this is what should be more concerning. i’m more pissed at the red sox than anything aa did…but it does show a lack of faith in aa, and it does show that he isn’t the papa freud of toronto. even if all you take from this is that the “no lateral moves” policy now has the caveat “without compensation” – a keen eye will understand that there was no caveat until the policy was broken…it says something.

    the lesson here, i think, is that most of the times: a cigar is NOT “just” a cigar.

  25. While Farrell looked like “Major League Manager” straight out of central casting, he didn’t make much of an impact here. I applaud AA for finally putting an end to this ridiculous distraction. I’m more concerned about the larger trend of downright shitbaggery we’ve seen cycled through here over the last year or so. I’m talking about Ben Francisco, Jeff Mathis, Francisco Cordero, Jesse Chavez, Omar Vizquel, David Pauley, Drew Carpenter and on and on. Farrell, who was introduced with such pomp and promise two short years ago, is another swing and miss. So please Mr. Anthopolous makes some moves to improve the major league roster this off-season and all will be forgiven.

    • AA did not put this to rest. He did the exact opposite. You put stuff like this to rest by intervening in the process long before it’s a topic of conversation in the media. You do it by very publicly telling the Red Sox to go fuck themselves. You do it by not standing for a rival club poaching right under your nose. You do it by firing Farrell after the Red Sox have hired someone else. It’s the principle of the matter. There was a contract to be honoured. It should have been honoured. If Farrell wanted a one year contract then that’s what he should have negotiated when he was offered the job.

  26. I’ve yet to side with the reactionary mouth breathers regarding the state of the franchise, but I can’t buy this “it’s no big deal” business regarding the POACHING of John Farrell. Even if his loss is entirely inconsequential to what happens on the field, and it will be, the optics are plain bad. You don’t allow your vilest of rivals to poach from your club, period. You just don’t, period. Especially in such an underhanded, entitled fashion. With all due respect to Mike Aviles, he is incapable of removing the stink from this.

    • Or maybe AA just infected the Red Sox with the Farrell virus.

      Humans are complex. Once Farrell stated his Boston desire out loud, there was no organizational benefit to thwarting Farrell’s move.

      • I think the court of public opinion will beg to differ. The value of telling the Red Sox to go fuck themselves is greater than anything that Mike Aviles will bring to the Blue Jays.

        • It’s staggering that you probably actually believe that. Last time I checked, fan opinion doesn’t win games, or give any kind of asset that can be used in a trade.

  27. If it is indeed true that the manager’s influence on the overall success of the on-field product is negligible, then we should say “fuck it” and hire Varitek just to REALLY piss off the Massholes.

    • I would be fine with this. Hey, I’d be fine with Bobby Valentine. Then we’d really hear it from the conspiracy theorists.

  28. Wow there are some really dramatic people out today. The only truly embarrassing thing is how many of you guys are crying over this. Get over it. We could have just outright fired Farrell for his poor performance and his mishandling of the team, but we got something back for him.

    • I would rather have taken nothing in return. Fire Farrell. hir another manager. The value that Aviles represents pales in comparison to the toll exacted on the Blue Jays in the court of popular opinion. You do not let your vilest of rivals poach from your club. Ever.

  29. Does Fasano still have the ‘stache? If so, cancel the manager search because we have our man.

  30. I think the fans complaining or seeing this overly negatively (and I do think there is a certain, solely-PR negative aspect to it that is important) wouldn’t be doing so if the Clevelands hadn’t been smart and hired Francona before this mess ended.

    If the Jays could have turned around and hired Tito (which many people thought was the best guy on the market anyways), it would have gone a long way to telling the BoSox what to go do with themselves. Again, from a purely PR standpoint.

  31. Can someone plot ‘manager wins’ against ‘team salary’ in one of those funky graphic things. And then plot ‘manager wins’ against steals, sac bunts, and suchlike. Particularly manager wins of managers who managed for multiple MLB teams.

    I’d also like to see a baseball team managed by a software algorithm that makes roster decisions strictly and solely on statistical evidence, and see where that ends up. Let’s face it – you could easily do it. Every field decision a manager makes has a statistical option. Why not hire a robot?

    Here’s another project for you. Which current MLB manager is most like a robot?

  32. I could be wrong, but I think it was the great Bobby Valentine who once said:

    “Gentlemen, a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke. Nice inning there, Youk.”

  33. And the award for “Most Active GB Post Since the Brett Lawrie Incident” Goes to…

    Fukkstik Farrell leaving town!

  34. I think the managerial search will be a lot easier this time. The front office has already done the ground work and they know who’s available and who they want. Maybe they’ll take a different approach with the new guy over Farrell, but that might be a good thing.

  35. My take on this was that, a week ago, Boston was the one painted into the corner. They fired their eccentric manager after one year, seemed to be in a tailspin where they traded a quarter-billion dollars, and had no clear agenda around what they were doing. They also had a fan base that wanted Farrell to be their manager, and Farrell himself wanted the job. They could wait the Jays out, and in a year hire Farrell, with some lame-duck manager in the interim, or they could make a big deal with the Jays to get the guy to come over. Or, they could hire somebody else, and disappoint a lot of people.

    The Jays, meanwhile, were in a position where they could have disappointed Farrell by keeping him around for a season when he’d asked to move, or they could have raked Boston over the coals on that one. They didn’t. They made everybody happy on this, and yeah, sure, they got some value, but if they hadn’t done this, and had put some piece of shit playing 2B next year, how much worse would the team be? The team would have been about the same, simply because they didn’t feel compelled to make a deal with a team that was unwilling to meet Toronto’s demands.

    The argument in favour of making this deal is that it looks like Toronto’s a very accommodating organization. The knock on the trade is that if the Jays are in a position where they are ‘forced’ to make a deal, they will make a deal that isn’t optimal for them. Bottom line is that AA has had his ninja black belt taken away.

  36. Very well-written post.


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