It’s not as painful as Sophie’s Choice, but has the potential to be as tragic.
Blue Jays manager and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell has been mentioned as a possibility to take over for Terry Francona as Red Sox manager.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has said that the club doesn’t have a policy of keeping employees against their will, so the door is open from their end to let Farrell leave if that’s what he chooses to do.
There are reasons for Farrell to go. The Red Sox have more money to spend and it’s familiar terrain for him with the way things are run; he knows the players and the media.
But there are compelling reasons to stay in Toronto.
Let’s take a look.
The known vs the “I think I know, but don’t really know”.
We can get into the romantic idiocy of the “rich tapestry of history” with clubs who’ve been around as long as the Red Sox; but the Blue Jays have a pretty good history of their own and a surprising worldwide loyalty.
Would he have the stomach and the wherewithal to walk in and be a different person that who he was as Francona’s pitching coach? To discipline those that need to be disciplined?
Familiarity with the landscape is fine, but Farrell was the pitching coach and not the manager; it’s a different animal to be the man who has to stand there and answer the questions after the loss rather than one of the lieutenants who has authority, but not total authority.
And if he makes the mistake of thinking, “oh, I’ll get through to those guys; they love me”, then he’s walking the plank before he starts.
Strategy, money, and power.
Farrell handled the pitchers well with the Blue Jays, but as has been the case with other pitchers/pitching coaches who became managers like Bud Black, his strategies were questionable when it came to the offense.
The Blue Jays lineups were oddly constructed and didn’t maximize the awesome production of Jose Bautista; Farrell let them try to steal bases at will, running themselves out of innings.
These types of mistakes wouldn’t be allowed to pass in Boston; the front office demands a large say in how the on-field decisions are made; the fans and the media would latch onto one gaffe and let it drag on for a week.
If he thinks the Red Sox are going to pay him more to be their manager than the Blue Jays, he needs to look at the facts surrounding his predecessor and the way the club feels about their managers. The details of Farrell’s contract with the Blue Jays have never been disclosed; this could be residue of the perceived mistakes made by former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi letting it be known how lowly paid his managers were, thereby limiting their authority with the players because there would be no hesitation for fire them due to financial obligations.
Here’s news: the Red Sox don’t want to pay their managers either; Francona’s salary didn’t break $1 million until he was with the team for two years and had already won a World Series; he didn’t start making truly big money along the lines of other managers with his accomplishments until 2009.
Francona had moderate say-so in personnel to the tune of “we’ll listen to what you have to say and then do what we want”; Farrell would function under the same constraints and probably less at the start.
The stomach to do what must be done.
Would Farrell have it in him to crack necessary heads in the Red Sox clubhouse? To confront Josh Beckett when he pushes the envelope? To tell Kevin Youkilis to quit whining? To advocate the dispatching of Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield? To hit back against the media?
There’s something to be said for the unknown. Not only do the Red Sox need to clear out some of the poison in that clubhouse, but they have to bring in an outsider as manager who won’t have any interest in “we don’t do it this way here”.
Farrell knows how things were done and would be expected to maintain that template.
Just like Francona couldn’t alter his personality to be the guy who flipped the food table or ripped people in the media, the players would know what they’re getting in Farrell and that would be a negative.
The innocent climb vs the establishment.
The obvious choice would be to jump to the Red Sox, but examining their respective rosters and circumstances in an objective way, the Blue Jays are in far better shape than the Red Sox.
They’re younger; they have a load of young pitching with the underrated Ricky Romero; the Cy Young Award-caliber talent Brandon Morrow; plus Kyle Drabek and Henderson Alvarez.
The media expectations aren’t as stifling; the fans aren’t as expectant of success; there’s not a crisis-a-day atmosphere nor the suffocating aura and underlying anger of what went wrong.
The Red Sox are old; they’re in absolute disarray; the media is still picking clean the bones of the rotting corpse of their 2011 collapse and subsequent departures of Theo Epstein and Francona; and there are painful changes that must be made to the clubhouse culture that would render it unrecognizable from what Farrell was a part of for four years.
The dynamic isn’t what it was when he started as Red Sox pitching coach and it grew more infected as the core group and the same management team was kept together.
It’s easy to survey the situation from the safety of Toronto; to speak to people from the Red Sox to find out exactly what happened—the players and his former bosses—and to come to the conclusion, “it wouldn’t happen with me there”; but it might’ve happened with Farrell there.
The Blue Jays are younger; they have some money to spend; they’re hungry; and they’re ready to win.
The question Farrell has to ask himself is does he want to be the obstetrician and oversee the birth of something that could be special?
Or does he want to be the hospice doctor/coroner and dismantle and dissect what may already be dead?
I’d stay in Toronto.
And that’s what Farrell should do.