There is always an element of historical revisionism that kicks in whenever a manager and a team part company.
A case in point is John Gibbons, who when he was fired by the Toronto Blue Jays was regarded as a fight-picking, arm-squandering guy who would never get another major-league job. The first two descriptions were always gross over-simplifications; the latter moot now that he is back with the Blue Jays.
But that won’t be the case with John Farrell and the Blue Jays. The end of that relationship is pretty much as both sides describe it: Farrell, now the Boston Red Sox manager, called the Blue Jays job “an opportunity,” at his news conference on Tuesday at baseball’s winter meetings at the Opryland Hotel. It was. And now we know that Farrell is a self-admitted opportunist.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos – who moved up his daily briefing by half an hour so Toronto reporters could attend Farrell’s session – explained again that if the Blue Jays did not get “proper value back” for Farrell he wouldn’t have been traded to the Red Sox. Proper value, in this case, was a journeyman infielder; a 25th man who was in turn dealt to the Cleveland Indians for a bullpen arm. John Farrell was traded for ‘Meh ...’
The divorce between Farrell and Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays would have gone smoothly if Farrell hadn’t kept talking. It’s probably true that Farrell asked the Blue Jays about going to Boston after the 2011 season, following the firing of Terry Francona. But he didn’t need to say it; and he certainly didn’t need to toss out the whole Anthopoulos as Montreal Expos GM comparison.
Farrell, in the words of one of Anthopoulos’s friends in the industry, betrayed a confidence. “John,” the Anthopoulos friend said, “needed to shut up about when he asked the Blue Jays about the Boston job. All it’s done is raised the idea that he might not have been focused on his job.”
Anecdotally it has emerged in the past two weeks that several of Farrell’s former players wonder just when exactly he knew he was going to be with the Red Sox. So Tuesday, absent any news on the player front – Anthopoulos believes his remaining needs can be best filled in January, and he won’t be getting into a bidding war to fill them – Farrell’s managerial session was of particular interest.
The Red Sox have a whack of cash to spend but with the two prime free agents, Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, seemingly wanting no part of Red Sox Nation, it’s become a Jonny Gomes kind of winter.
Farrell admitted he was surprised that the Blue Jays jacked up payroll after he left, but only because of the quality of young players that left. It was, he said, “quickly fast-forwarded.” Asked if he verified or investigated the veracity of newspaper reports in Boston, which surfaced in the summer, that he was the preferred replacement for Bobby Valentine as Red Sox’s manager, he said: “Did I try to verify it? At the time my response, which was all I know how to say, was that my focus and attention was with the Blue Jays at the time. There was no way to verify it. That’s where my commitment was. My total effort was where my best effort was on a given day to try and put a game plan together that night.”
Let’s just say it: Farrell was destined to be manager of the Red Sox the second Bobby Valentine was hired on a two-year contract. Anthopoulos essentially said Tuesday that Farrell was not approached about an extension as a means of smoking out his true intentions because, well, because he had other things on his plate.
He would never say it was because he realized Farrell wasn’t the right guy for this team, but if he truly believes Mike Aviles was good value in return, it’s all anybody needs to know.