It should all be done by now. John Farrell should be able to show up to the visitor’s clubhouse at Fenway Park on Friday afternoon with a newly signed contract extension in his hip pocket, ready to wave when the first ‘so will we see you in the office down the hallway next season?’ question is asked.
But unless the Blue Jays have a September surprise in store for Friday morning, Farrell will find no shelter this weekend. Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has picked a war he can’t win with the city’s voracious media, in the process beginning the last, raspy wheeze of his disastrous tenure.
Farrell, the son of an east coast lobsterman and the former Red Sox pitching coach that Josh Beckett still pines for, even after his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Farrell, the guy the Red Sox tried to get from the Blue Jays last season. Twice.
So Farrell is no less attractive to the Red Sox now than he was last winter. Removed is the pressure of following Terry Francona. And based on the torpor that has settled over the team already, there are doubtless Blue Jays fans who would tell general manager Alex Anthopoulos to trade him right now. Let the Red Sox have him. Get some arms in return.
Except that’s really not the answer. What the Blue Jays should have done by now is told Farrell they want to extend his contract by two more years. If he doesn’t want to do it? Move on. Get somebody else.
The reasons Farrell’s name has been linked to the Red Sox are the same reasons that J.P. Ricciardi received a contract extension in his first year as Blue Jays GM when the Red Sox made sotto voce inquiries about his interest in filling a similar role with them: because there’s an emotional and family tie to an area where baseball is the lifeblood.
Look, it would be nice to have a better read on Farrell as a manager after almost two years, but injuries to the pitching staff and the loss of a third of his starting lineup for most of the second half make that impossible. His in-game moves don’t always pass muster – the Blue Jays are an undisciplined team on the basepaths – and that, plus a half-baked approach at the plate, has at times created the sense of a team that is frightfully haphazard. That reflects poorly up and down the personnel food chain, sparing no one.
Yet for those observers who were forecasting an 88-win season, it is difficult to dismiss the fact that Farrell had the Blue Jays three games over .500 on June 25 with three-fifths of the rotation on the disabled list and holes throughout the lineup.
There is a steadiness to Farrell, now in his second season as the Jays manager, that suggests it is worth seeing where it all goes. This is not Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke rewarding coach Ron Wilson; there is no sense that Farrell is totally out of step with his players or their abilities as was the case with Wilson, or that he is in the twilight of his professional career.
More to the point, isn’t this where Anthopoulos’s predecessor, Ricciardi, sometimes seemed to get it wrong? Why waste the two years of riding the learning curve with a callow manager – and despite his track record in player development and as a coach, he is that – simply to bring in someone else and do it all over again?
Just as prospects don’t always take a straight line to success in the majors, it stands to reason the same could hold true for a team or manager. Surely Anthopoulos realizes this; surely he realizes that it’s one thing to be coy with the status of a trade or contract negotiations with a player, quite another to allow the status of his manager to be muddied.
This issue should have been settled by now.
The Toronto Blue Jays begin a three-game series against the Red Sox in Boston on Friday.
Friday: Toronto RHP Henderson Alvarez (7-12, 5.04 earned-run average) vs. Boston LHP Felix Doubront (10-7, 5.03)
Saturday: Toronto LHP J.A. Happ (3-2, 4.46) vs. Boston RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-4, 6.15).
Sunday: Toronto RHP Carlos Villanueva (7-5, 3.42) vs. Boston RHP Clay Buchholz (11-5, 4.47).
Need to know
This was not exactly the scenario the schedule makers had in mind when they paired the American League East rivals against each another at Fenway Park in the final month of the season. Two teams duking it out for last place in the division is not exactly a ratings grabber. With Boston skipper Bobby Valentine almost certainly on his way out as soon as the season is completed, the most interesting aspect to the series could centre on John Farrell. The Blue Jays manager, who was the Boston pitching coach before he was hired in Toronto, continues to be the No. 1 choice to be Valentine’s successor, at least in the eyes of the often overzealous Boston media. Farrell still has another year left on a three-year deal in Toronto and told reporters in Toronto this week he remains committed to the job.
With files from Robert MacLeod