Thursday, October 27, 2011
Farrell situation a win-win for the Blue JaysPosted by Chris Lund
With much talk in the last three days regarding the possibility of John Farrell moving from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Boston Red Sox, the issue of Farrell's situation with the Jays seems to have slanted altogether.
If I recall, it was only a matter of weeks ago that there was a sect of Blue Jays fans and pundits that didn't seem to care much for Farrell's status with the team, even going as far as suggesting that the Jays should hire the recently unemployed Terry Francona to manage the team and in turn demote Farrell to pitching coach.
Now that there are rumors of the inverse occurring and Farrell perhaps moving over to the Red Sox, these same people are up in arms, ruing the potential loss of one of the game's bright young managers. The Blue Jays announced forcefully that they will not let an employee under contract to break it for a lateral move to another team. Farrell just completed the first year of a three-year contract.
Well, which is it? Does it really matter if Farrell takes off to the Sox? My inclination is to say no, absolutely not.
It's pretty clear that these stances have absolutely nothing to do with the on-field product of either team.
Put any manager at the helm of either squad and neither is greatly different. Boston would still be a team in search of long-term answers after its season-ending collapse, and Toronto would still be a team regarded as an up-and-comer with the misfortune of being buried in the AL East.
When Toronto management admitted that it has no internal policy barring lateral moves between organizations, observers thought the club was a few watts dim of a lightbulb: How could the Jays let their staff walk?
Quite frankly, it's a tough policy to argue against given that lateral moves are fairly rare. How many people leave their post of batting coach at one organization to become the batting coach of another? Similarly, they wouldn't be a particularly desirable big league club to work for if they barred their staff from being promoted. All in all, the policy makes a fair amount of sense, so why the hubbub?
For starters, there's the issue of Toronto appearing to be a feeder organization for a division rival. Part of the enthusiasm surrounding the Jays is that they seem to be a team with all the answers.
Turning Roy Halladay—who was planning to leave in a matter of months, anyway—into Kyle Drabek and Travis D'Arnaud, turning Shaun Marcum into Brett Lawrie, turning a series of surplus relievers and one prospect (Zach Stewart) into Colby Rasmus, signing Jose Bautista, Yunel Escobar, etc. to what are now seen as very reasonable contracts.
In other words, doing all the right things is good work if you can find it, and the Jays are the John Dillinger of baseball since October of 2009.
What happens to that perception, though, if Farrell all of a sudden gets up and leaves for his former employer? Is the team seen as less desirable? In the eyes of many, yes, of course. A traditional American League power is squashing the up-and-comer.
That being said, if Farrell wants to leave, why stop him? It's not as though this is a Hall of Fame pedigree manager; he ran the dugout for an 81-81 campaign in his first season as a skipper. The Jays are certainly an exciting team to be at the helm of these days and a proud franchise in their own right, but they do not trump the allure of Fenway and Boston in 2011.
More to that point, it's not as though the Jays would be unable to find a list of quality candidates to run their team this season. There is never any shortage of former big league managers in the world, and many of those waiting to get a call certainly have more pronounced resumes than Farrell.
Even internally, there are solid candidates. Torey Lovullo (who is also being discussed for the Boston job), Brian Butterfield and Don Wakamatsu are all in line for management gigs in the future. Sal Fasano was named manager of the year in the Double-A Eastern League for his work with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Perhaps it's equally a sign of the times in Boston if its first choice for manager is their former pitching coach—who possesses one year of management experience—a year after the Red Sox pitching staff imploded down the stretch. New GM Ben Cherington has been adamant that previous managerial experience is an asset but is by no means required.
The Red Sox clearly want to start fresh, but is a former employee from the old regime the ideal candidate to fulfill that role? Probably not. If I'm the Red Sox or Farrell, I leave the past where it is and continue with the challenges ahead of me as I had planned.
With that in mind, the Jays really have nothing to lose in this scenario. If Farrell chooses to stay, they retain the man they hired to lead them into the future and the plan stays on course. If they lose Farrell—and for what it's worth, I don't think they will—there would presumably be some sort of compensation, and given the intra-division element to that switch, I'm sure the package coming back would be well worth their trouble.
Simply put, if Farrell wants to leave, let him leave. It didn't matter two weeks ago; why should it now?
Chris is a writer-at-large and encourages you to talk baseball.
For further baseball discussion, you can follow him on twitter under @thechrislund or send him an e-mail at chris (dot) lund89 AT gmail (dot) com