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The End Of John Farrell’s Dream Job

On Wednesday morning John Farrell was fired by the Red Sox, five seasons, three division titles, and one World Series win after he left Toronto for his “dream job.” And six years after he first tried to go.

Red Sox dysfunction will never not be a delightful thing, but of course, for Blue Jays fans this is especially personal. Farrell forcing his way out of Toronto and to a team Jays fans perceive as a fierce rival (though I’m not sure the animosity flows quite as freely in the other direction) was deeply wounding to our self image. It played straight into the insecurities we have about being a second- or third-tier market in the game of baseball — a reality that’s hard to deny, but that feels especially wrong given the size, wealth, and expansiveness of the Jays’ territory. (Can I get a “Fuck Rogers!”)

Those wounds were masked by a deep bitterness about the whole situation that was incredibly venomous at first and only hardened as 2012 became 2013 and that season unfolded. It was that winter that the Blue Jays transformed themselves into instant World Series favourites with a dazzling series of trades and signings, adding José Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, and the reigning NL Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey. Rubbing this dramatic remaking in Mr. Dream Job’s face was practically the exclamation mark on an off-season of absolute giddiness. I mean, who could forget?…

When he returned with the Red Sox in April of 2013, Jays fans at Rogers Centre were ruthless in voicing their displeasure. It was easy to be that way. Like jilted lovers whose lives suddenly get better post-breakup, we were riding so high in that moment that we could barely contain ourselves. But, of course, Farrell got the last laugh. The Jays stumbled badly. The dumb-ass shitty Red Sox won the goddamned World Series. Our villain was maybe a little too good. It was fucking humbling.

The Red Sox finished in last place the two seasons after that, so the drive to hate on him abated somewhat, but hoo boy has it returned in a big way the last two seasons. At that point Farrell’s teams got scary good, and their playoff disappointments — they were 1-6 over their last seven playoff games with Farrell at the helm — got more and more gloriously delicious.

I’m as guilty of all this as anybody. I’ve been very much here for Farrell’s job security becoming a national conversation, and the Red Sox decision this morning not to bring him back? You’re goddamn right I smiled about it.

Not all of that was about Farrell, though. Like I say, Red Sox dysfunction is an incredible thing. I mean… just go  ahead and spike this tweet straight into my veins:

What absolute shitheels! And it’s not just that one, either. Already in the wake of this decision we have some fucking WEEI trashlord absolutely throwing David Price under the bus, talking about “a toxic clubhouse culture that developed on his watch and that [Farrell] was powerless to stop.”

That starts with Price, the unhappiest $217 million man on the planet. The left-hander arrived with a reputation for being a great teammate, and this current group swears by him, but he has almost single-handedly made the clubhouse a misguided and dismal place.

Price seems to have prioritized media feuding and defiance above all else, and if there was any doubt before, let it be permanently dispelled — signing him to wear a Red Sox uniform was one of the worst mistakes in team history. We can only hope he stays healthy enough to trigger his opt-out at this time next year.

The irony is the treatment Price found so offensive was downright tame compared to the volley of arrows launched at predecessors like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett. Price had it easy, but he’s too thin-skinned and narcissistic to know it.

Actually, the irony is that I’m pretty sure the treatment the wagon-circling trash clown author gives Price here is in no way tame compared to the volley of arrows launched at predecessors like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett! Oh my fucking god, it’s so great. (I especially love the “we can only hope” in there, just in case anybody was wondering if this was actual journalism or mere unhinged fan ranting).

A beloved Blue Jay like Price taking unnecessary shit from dumbfucks isn’t so enjoyable to watch, but you know what I mean.

Interestingly, I tend to believe that Price has a not-insignificant role in Farrell’s story arc among Jays fans, too. Because if it hadn’t been for the Jays’ acquisition of the lefty ace in 2015 as crescendo to the club’s stunning run of deadline trades, I’m not sure we’re having the same kind of moment of schadenfreude over Farrell’s firing as we are today.

Post-departure Farrell never exactly cut a sympathetic figure among Jays fans, and save for all the well-wishes while he battled cancer, probably didn’t even get close. But his image would have been rehabilitated pretty significantly, I think, had the Anthopoulos era gone up in flames instead of in that glorious starburst. The way that Farrell exited the club wouldn’t have easily been forgotten, nor would his unremarkable turn as manager here, or his piss poor handling of the Yunel Escobar situation (and subsequent embarrassment of a press conference). But, for one, he would have earned points, I think, for his clash with glorified babysitter Omar Vizquel.

Nothing about AA’s decision to bring in Vizquel reflected well on the front office, but especially not the central incident with Farrell, which Bob Elliott recounted in 2014 for the Toronto Sun. Vizquel had reportedly footed the bill to bring Henderson Alvarez’s family up from Venezuela to watch the then-rookie make a scheduled start in Miami. The family came, but it turned out that Farrell, scrambling for pitching in the wake of “the not-so-memorable week which saw Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison all walked off the mound with injuries after pitching a combined five innings,” had “decided to bump Alvarez from his scheduled Sunday start to Monday when the Jays were at Fenway Park.” Vizquel, as Elliott told it, “thought he had been slighted, began second guessing Farrell and 13 weeks later knocked Farrell’s failure to ‘jump on mistakes’ by young players.” Farrell’s response at the time had, quite rightly, been something along the lines of “I’m not running a Little League team here, I’m doing what’s best for the team.” When Vizquel popped off, Farrell was livid. The two reportedly had a heated exchange in the manager’s office. Farrell wanted Vizquel released. The front office sided with the (very wrong) player against the (very right) manager.

In this hypothetical world where Anthopoulos didn’t become the golden boy in July of 2015, someone taking a second look back at Farrell’s tenure here would also would have likely given him points for the failings he’d identified in that somewhat alarming quote from the 2013 Saber Seminar:

We can have a seminar on this question — not just because it’s Toronto and Boston. There are very distinct differences and it starts, I think it starts, at the top. And the reason I say that: I found Toronto to be a scouting-based organization, which to me is on one plane, one-dimensional. You’re looking at tools. Here, it’s a player-development based system. It’s the paths of the individuals that are running the organization. And that’s not to be critical.

“We all know that there’s three different veins in this game that people advance (through): baseball operations, scouting, player development. Well, in the player-development vein, you’re going to look at things in three dimensions: mentally, physically, fundamentally to address and develop people, or develop an organization. I think as a scouting base, you go out and you evaluate the physical tools. And that’s kind of where it ends, or that’s the look at that time. That was my experience, that was my opinion.

Jays fans didn’t like hearing that stuff at the time — especially from that particular source — but it would have been remembered differently if not for David Price — the man some in the lunatic Boston media would paint as the reason Farrell has lost his dream job — and what happened in Toronto in August, September, and October of 2015. Farrell would have been rather strongly vindicated, I think.

Life’s funny sometimes, eh?

And the other thing is, I think he would have especially been vindicated if the same front office group had come in to succeed Alex, given more of a clean slate to impose their philosophy on the club, while espousing so many of the same kinds of things that Farrell did when he made those criticisms. In interviews you’ll even hear Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins drop the “mentally, physically, fundamentally” mantra that Farrell did in that 2013 answer.

And why wouldn’t Farrell sound like this new front office? He was drafted and developed by Cleveland. He played there four years, and spent the fifth year of his big league career still in the organization while recovering from injury. After being released by the Angels after a year-and-a-half in their organization, he signed with Cleveland again in mid-1994. And after spending 1995 in the Mariners organization, he was released at the end of spring training 1996, then signed again with Cleveland.

When Farrell’s playing career ended, he worked as an assistant coach and pitching and recruiting coordinator for Oklahoma State University. Then, in November 2001, just a month after Mark Shapiro took over the GM’s chair in Cleveland from John Hart, Farrell was hired to be their director of player development — a role he served in for five seasons. He then joined his former Cleveland teammate, Terry Francona, as pitching coach in Boston (Francona himself had served as a special assistant to Hart during the 2001 season). And after he left that job for his detour in Toronto, he was brought back by then-Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, who is now, of course, in the Blue Jays front office under Shapiro.

There’s a pretty deep history there. Deep enough that — as absurd and maybe even downright offensive as this may sound to a whole lot of Jays fans — I don’t think it’s even out of the realm of possibility that the Jays would look to bring him back in some kind of a player development role. He’d certainly be a philosophical fit. And while I don’t know that he’d necessarily want that headache, both in terms of all this bullshit becoming a perpetual talking point and in the fact that he’d be taking over the Eric Wedge role as a living Sword of Damocles dangling over John Gibbons’ head, it… uh… it sure as hell would be real damn funny. As someone who covers the team, I am very here for a thing like that. Even if, yes, it means an even greater measure of vindication for ol’ Fuckface Farrell.

All of which is to say, let’s go ahead and laugh at his misfortune today. It is glorious and well worth enjoying, as is all Red Sox misery. But let’s maybe not all laugh too hard at it, because yet again it could be Farrell who ends up laughing the most in the end.

  • Will Murray

    The Escobar stuff is what really soured me on Farrell. It was just astonishing to see a full-grown adult trip over himself at a press conference the way he did. I mean, I certainly get athletes, and men of a certain age, aren’t going to be as aware about the shifts in what is acceptable language these days (see Gibbons, John and the playing in dresses for example), but holy shit, Escobar didn’t exactly use a throwaway, flippant, comment. He used a word that was wholly and completely unacceptable and one that has been for years. It was a slur. And Farrell somehow managed to flub his reaction to it (incidentally, perhaps he and Vizquel finally mended fences over this as, if memory serves, Omar didn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about either).

    I actually had some sympathy with him post-2011. When he left Boston, I think he fully intended to be committed to Toronto, because the chicken and beer fueled fire that brought down Francona was hardly something anyone predicted. After that, though, it’s hard not to think that once Bobby Valentine was making things even worse that Farrell didn’t already have one foot out the door.

    It’s funny. As much as it’s fun to chortle about his demise, I can see myself having sympathy for him once again as the Boston media circles the wagons to tear him down on the way our of town in order to protect the Red Sox themselves. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that.

  • AD

    Farrell will always have that world series win which the jays dont have in the last five years so he accomplished what he wanted. It seems childish to mock him now and you cant take that away from him. I can honestly see him coming back here since he is tight with cherington and wedge who work in player development for the jays.