Two hours before game time Tuesday, John Farrell became the veritable pearl in the oyster shell in the visitor’s dugout at Rogers Stadium, enveloped by a large group of media.
The learned art for a baseball manager in pregame sessions is to treat every question as though it’s the first time he’s heard it, no matter the level of intelligence.
Joe Torre was a master at it. Buck Showalter would sooner throw a poison dart. Farrell gives articulate answers with sentence structure that would please an English teacher.
When, the Boston Red Sox manager was asked, will you cease to become the story in Toronto?
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said, paused a moment, and continued, “The story is the game and what takes place between the lines. It’s not about anyone who’s attached to a given team. People want to see a game well-played and, hopefully, that takes place these three nights.”
He could have crowed.
Farrell asked out of the third and last year of his contract (2013) with the Toronto Blue Jays to take the Boston job. John Gibbons got the vacated post in Toronto; asked if he could imagine leaving one managerial job for another, he chuckled and said: “I’m not going to answer that.”
Farrell had previously served as Boston’s pitching coach under Terry Francona. When the Red Sox first came through Toronto this season (April 5 to 7), they followed Francona and his new team, the Cleveland Indians. Francona left a bottle of wine for him in the visiting manager’s office.
Back then, predictions far-and-wide had the Blue Jays being in first place come August, and the Red Sox bringing up the rear of the American League East. Still, while it seemed at the time he had left Toronto for an inferior situation, Farrell got jeered lustily by a full house that April night, as though he’d desecrated the Maple Leaf or dissed Tim Hortons java.
Four months later, with the stadium roof closed against the threat of rain, the public-address announcer’s booming voice reverberated around the stadium a few minutes before the game started Tuesday.
The Boston Red Sox, he said by way of introduction, “managed by John Farrell.”
It produced a tiny cluster of jeers, barely noticeable. Farrell took the lineup card out to home plate – cause in April for thunderous booing. Tuesday, the ceremony went unrecognized. No one booed.
Boston entered the three-game series in Toronto with 71 wins, two more than all last year. They hold down first place in the AL East.
Perhaps Jays fans have been humbled. Farrell is no longer the story.