I'm not going to change anyone's opinion of John Farrell.
In two seasons managing the Blue Jays, the
former (damnit!) Red Sox employee led the team to a cumulative 154-170 record. More specifically, that's an 81-81 record in his rookie year (with an extraordinarily young, unproven pitching staff and only one legitimate, star offensive threat in Jose Bautista) and a forgettable 73-89 mark in his sophomore session (with a smoking pile of destroyed arms and confused hitters that, in April, resembled a somewhat-appropriate MLB roster).
I mean, really. I call it "forgettable" because heaping on Farrell for the Jays' lack of success this past year seems to be the thing to do. But considering how truly decimated their pitching staff was - Romero with a career-worst-shattering 5.14 FIP, Morrow making just 21 starts, and a truly forgettable revolving door of "not the solutions + a fairly great Casey Janssen" behind them - who could have done better?
And even with the celebrated emergence of Edwin Encarnacion as a slumbering offensive superstar, Bautista lost 70 games to a wrist injury and the rest of the offense faltered massively in the second half. Players like Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, and Adeiny Hechavarria - lauded as prospects in spring training who might get a chance to see time in September - each ended up logging a quarter season's at-bats worth of playing time as, essentially, MLB regulars.
In retrospect, 73 wins for the 2012 Blue Jays actually seems kind of impressive given the ridiculously outlier-of-an-injury-rate the team dealt with.
The fact remains: a lot of fans didn't seem to like John Farrell as a manager. "The 2012 Blue Jays roster might be a vapourized city under a mushroom cloud, but damnit, he's not blowing the fallout winds in the right direction!" some of them screamed. (Not literally.)
Farrell was accused of old school stubbornness, not unlike the Cito that preceded him, despite generally appearing to be an articulate, intelligent, and forward-thinking baseball mind: as demonstrated in some of his previous efforts, documented quite nicely here. Everyone Lots of fans claimed Farrell was over-managing the bullpen, or that he was far to green a manager himself to be effectively leading a roster built on immature youth that required enforced accountability and old-school...wait, yeah, that thing you were accusing him of having to much of just a few sentences ago.
Peoples' opinions of Farrell are peoples' opinions of Farrel. I have mine, and you have yours, and neither of them are really relevant anymore. It's kind of surreal, actually, that he's gone. It wasn't that long ago I wrote one of this site's first feature lampooning his interview and hiring process.
What I'm more concerned about, and why I'm firing off this fast Monday night post in a ranty-sorty-of-way, is addressing the unsettling sense of frustration Farrell's departure to manage the Boston Red Sox has left in my churning stomach. I also sort of have the flu, so maybe it's just that and this is all a waste of time.
See, there's a difference between optics and realities. In every situation. We don't always take the time to appreciate that - preferring to rush to judgements evaluating one, when we're really measuring the other - but it's a distinction that is far too often ignored in the world of professional sports.
Now, the realities crowd might be able to point to all sorts of statistics, factual, or literal reasons why John Farrell's defection won't hurt the Blue jays organization. As one Twitter follower put it to me on Saturday night, "This will cost your team zero victories next season." They, and the rest pushing that sentiment, may be completely right.
But the optics of this situation bother me. A great deal. You may say I'm overreacting, or that it's irrelevant, but from my perspective this is one of the first truly ugly black eyes issued by a throttling punch of unfortunateness to the contemporary (defined: post-Alex Anthopoulos hiring) Toronto Blue Jays.
Yes, some of this will seem like cherry picking. And yes, some of it will be more about me complaining about atrocious PR (optics!) than what actually happened (realities!). But the whole Farrel thing just
never doesn't sit well, and here are a few reasons why that might be the case for some fans.
At a purely literal level, it really looks like the Boston Red Sox just decided to steal the Blue Jays' manager: because they wanted him, and because they could.
I know. I know. "Realities," "maybe the Jays didn't care," "maybe they're better off without him," etc. Again, all
probably possibly true. But this story's resolution confirms the validity of the rumours preceding it, that Boston drove the bus that led to the Farrell result, that this was an active pursuit on their part. The Jays could have stopped the process cold at any time, but they didn't. They didn't make this deal because it was their idea, and even though finding yourself in that situation isn't always your fault, it's just galling to think that this whole exchange was purely, 100%, reactive on their part.
Why do the Blue Jays seems so powerless in this? How were they, like, caught completely flat-footed by something everyone and their grandmother (maybe not their grandmother, not a lot of grandmothers on Twitter) knew might be an issue months ago?
According to Gregor Chrisholm, Farrell himself spent his end-of-season debriefing basically telling them he wanted to go to the Red Sox. With one year left on his deal at that point, indications would seem that once he played that contract out, he was as good as gone anyways. You can't fault Anthopoulos for "dealing" him now and getting something, I guess, and it speaks to what I'd mentioned above - the situation's not necessarily the Jays' fault, but damnit, you'd have to believe more could have been done to avert it.
When you're a GM, and your manager sits down in your office and tells you he wants to play for another team - one of your chief division rivals - that's what you'd call a personnel disaster. That presumes a certain amount of discontent existed prior to the declaration of intended defection. Farrell's revelation apparently "caught the organization completely off guard." That's someone's major failure.
We look like a farm team for Boston's coaching staff.
Put yourself in the Red Sox (Sox's? Soxs'?) perspective for a moment. If you want John Farrell to be your manager of the future, but Terry Francona's in the way, sending John Farrell to cut his manager's teeth with another organization for a few years before coming back wiser and more experienced is the best possible thing that could happen. For the Toronto Blue Jays, staging a coaching staff coup of a talented baseball mind only to develop him for multiple years so he can return to his former team better for it is...well, the opposite.
I'll stop short of suggesting some ridiculous conspiracy theory. Frankly, this kind of outcome would be too tough to calculate in order to be believable. But Lee Harvey Oswald did fire that one rifle more times, faster, than FBI specialists said it should be possible.
NO ONE IS MAKING A BIG ENOUGH DEAL ABOUT THE DIVISIONAL RIVAL THING.
One of the biggest selling points of Farrell's initial hiring by the Jays was that he brought with him firsthand knowledge of players in the Boston system. Especially the pitching staff. Why doesn't that logic work both ways?
Shouldn't we be more angry that Farrell, in additional to being (probably) better as a manager, now returns to the Red Sox with a thorough insider's perspective on every player in the Toronto Blue Jays organization? He's seen all the scouting reports, been privy to the highest of high-level discussions. He knows what Alex wants to do, he's seen how Alex things and operates, and he can relay any number of infinitely specific details that could be of use to the Boston braintrust.
I don't think there's a universe in which that can be a good thing.
And just "to an opposing team" would be bad enough - this is a division rival. One that we hate, because they're so...perpetually better than us? Except for 2012. Yay, 2012! Hey, we might actually start to appreciate this year. It's just hard to escape the logic that...well, one surefire way to not be better than Boston is to do anything that might potentially make Boston better than us.
Candor is one of Alex Anthopoulos' best selling points as a General Manager, and this completely undermines and contradicts what he's said previously. That's...a bit of a blow to the old credibility.
In the wake of all those identical rumours last year, the Blue Jays very vocally and definitively issued a policy dictating that they would not allow contracted employees to leave the organization in acceptance of positions that would be considered a "lateral" move. So, a Blue Jays manager can't leave to become a Boston Red Sox manager.
This is a complete contradiction of that.
Not only are the Blue Jays going against their own word, they did it in such a quiet, ineffectual way that it really seems like a definitive "rolling over." Anthopoulos justified it on PTS by saying (paraphrased), "If you know that's where Farrell wants to be, then it makes sense to see if we can work something out." That's not really a justification. It's basically saying, "I promise I will do this thing, unless I can't do that thing, in which case I probably won't do that thing."
Or, it's like saying to your employees, "You work for us. You're not allowed to play anywhere else. Unless you tell us you want to play somewhere else. In that case, yes, you're allowed to play somewhere else."
McCown - and I'm 100% on board McCown's train of thought for this one - followed up by suggesting a scenario where Alex could have played - excuse me - hardball. IE, keep Farrell while Boston is forced to hire another manager, and then fire him. Alex countered with, "Well, I would ask you, how would that benefit the Toronto Blue Jays."
McCown subsequently headed the nail with, "Image and reputation."
Alex doesn't really counter that, except to suggest they basically want to be perceived as nicer than that. Well, jolly. Yay for the moral high ground. Being the nice one is great, except when you're taking the bully's punches. I never thought in a million years I would quote a Tom Clancy novel-based movie, but some Russian guy in The Sum of All Fears says, at one point, "Better to appear guilty than impotent."
Look, part of me wants to believe (and sympathize) with the Anthopoulos version of events (ALEX: Everything is fine, Farrel's our manager > TWITTER: Farrel wants Boston, Boston wants Farrel > FARRELL: No I don't. > ALEX: No he doesn't. > FARRELL: Actually yeah, I do. > ALEX'S PANTS: Someone is crapping inside of us). You want to assume AA was truly powerless and hopeless given Boston and the employee's simultaneous desire for a reunion, and that prying Mike Aviles out as some token compensation is really the best they could have hoped for.
Just simply caving might have been Alex's best move. Anthopoulos phrases Farrell's departure (to Boston) as an inevitability, even if it was after 2013, and his approach was essentially to recoup as much as he could. That's probably smart, and in the long run, maybe he was right.
But even if it's a pragmatic and prudent rollover, it's a still a rollover.
Nice sentiment. And I like you, Casey, I really do. But this is a division rival essentially stealing our team's manager, as I believe I mentioned repeatedly above. This is just dumb PR. The dumbest, actually. Don't do it, and I can't believe no one immediately told him not to. Why is that Tweet even still there?
Less of a beef, and more of a harsh reality to end the article: If John Farrell's attitude and heart really were in Boston, it's nothing but good that he's gone.
Managerial talent aside: we like to believe our executives, players, and managers all share the same brand passion we do as fans. That's what unites us - the idea of winning with a particular flag on our
backs hats - and creates an empathy in the fans' pursuit of seeing these public figures achieve great things. If John Farrell's own empathy is far toward a brand that's based in another city - a hated divisional rival, no less - then having him exit stage left as fast as he did can't possibly be a bad thing.
The John Farrell era is over. I'm still firmly in Alex Anthopoulos' corner for the vast majority of executive decisions he's made running the Toronto Blue Jays, and I want to believe he had literally no
say choice in these events and just salvaged something from a bad situation I didn't cause.
But, however minor Farrellgate may end up being, his departure is an indictment of the Toronto organization from the inside and it does nothing to help the team claw over one of the very teams they're trying to beat on this very complicated and painful path back to the MLB posteason.
This isn't a disaster. It's what it feels like to win silver. I think.