And so the annus horribilis continues to a conclusion that was inevitable since that very second on April 5 when John Farrell returned to Toronto as manager of the Boston Red Sox, tipping his cap dismissively to a braying, bitter crowd after an exchange of lineup cards.
Monday, Farrell and the Red Sox will turn their full attention to the World Series, which begins Wednesday at Fenway Park against the St. Louis Cardinals. It will be one year to the day that Farrell’s hostage-taking of the Toronto Blue Jays ended with a helicopter ride under cover of darkness to Fenway Park; a helicopter ride to Pretty Boy Farrell’s dream job, disguised as a trade.
Since then, Farrell has continued the charade of painting his move from the Blue Jays as an honourable albeit hugely fortunate confluence of timing and intentions. “You know, I was in a situation where I wasn’t weighing options,” Farrell said Saturday, when he was asked to assess where he was now compared to a year ago. “There were some things that transpired that brought me here. But it wasn’t like I was, you know, a manager in waiting somewhere.”
This is, of course, utter rubbish.
The die was cast the second the Red Sox ran manager Terry Francona out of town; the second the first proxy advance was made.
At any rate, the Red Sox have gone worst to first, but determining how much influence a manager has on the outcome of a season, let alone a game, is an imperfect art. For numbers guys, it’s another aspect of baseball that doesn’t matter because it can’t be boiled down to a number. Beyond abject incompetence, there is little way to determine who is a good manager and who is a bad manager. Even players’ opinions are given short shrift, usually with a wave of the hand and a dismissive “Well, what the hell did you expect them to say?”
Boston GM Ben Cherington, in fact, deserves kudos for dumping payroll in 2012 and making bargain-basement additions such as Shane Victorino this winter.
And while everybody’s raving about closer Koji Uehara, it should be mentioned that he was in fact the fourth closer the Red Sox tried in 2013 before getting it right; that it was more a process of elimination than managerial genius.
But can we dismiss Farrell’s role on a team that shaved almost a full run per game off its earned-run average? When pitchers such as Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz say he made a difference? Can we overlook his role in re-establishing an environment conducive to success?
There will be other ex-Blue Jays ties at work during the World Series. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who played for the Jays in 1999 as Darrin Fletcher’s backup, hasn’t overseen a worst-to-first transformation as has Farrell. However, he’s taken a roster with six rookies, an entirely new starting rotation from the 2011 World Series championship and a team that was without its cleanup hitter and his major-league-best average with runners in scoring position (Allan Craig: .454) to its third World Series since 2006. He’s the granite-jawed equal of Farrell when it comes to giving good managerial TV face. Elsewhere, the injured Chris Carpenter is a charter member of the J.P. Ricciardi diaspora, and Carlos Beltran joined the Cardinals as a free agent after jilting the Blue Jays because of concerns he had about his health on the Rogers Centre turf.
That’s the Blue Jays’ story, anyhow, and they’re sticking to it. Just like You-Know-Who. And far from simply getting the last laugh, he’s getting a four-hour, prime-time special for a minimum four nights these next two weeks. His dream; our nightmare, but nonetheless worth a tip of the cap, because while it mustn’t be loved, a perfect crime must be respected.
Follow me on Twitter: @GloBlair
Editor's Note: An earlier online version of this story gave an incorrect location for Game 1 of the World Series. This online version has been corrected.