So, it’s official: John Farrell is the 12th full-time manager in Blue Jays’ history and, more importantly, the bench leader who will look to oversee the young club’s return to prominence in the AL East.
The former major league hurler, tabbed by Alex Anthopoulos after an extensive search that was ultimately narrowed down to Farrell, Brian Butterfield, Sandy Alomar Jr. and DeMarlo Hale, comes to Toronto with a wide array of major league experience that includes serving as the Boston Red Sox pitching coach and the Cleveland Indians’ director of player development.
So what does the hiring mean for the Blue Jays? Well, that won’t be made completely clear for a while. Until then, here are a few thoughts on the selection of Farrell and the reaction to the hire.
Let’s take a breath, Jays fans
Alright, so other candidates with big league managerial experience were available at the start of this search, as was the in-house favourite Butterfield. I don’t know yet whether Farrell’s hiring was a good decision or a bad one, but I do know that no one else does, either. Of course it’s tempting to offer up a reaction immediately, but the reality is that none of us sat in on Anthopoulos’ candidate interviews or spoke to sources from other teams about the manager hopefuls. Unlike with players, we do not bear witness to whether or not coaches have value, as we don’t see them consult with players and help them develop their game or share strategy. Keep that in mind before deciding – before he has met with a single one of his charges, mind you – whether Farrell’s hiring was a coup or an idiotic decision.
What now for Butterfield?
‘Butter’, as he is affectionately known in the Jays’ clubhouse, survived until the end of the search, a testament to how much respect the team has for the eight-year Jays coach as a baseball mind and as a person. But even someone with the character of Butterfield would find it hard to swallow his pride and remain in Toronto to serve under the man who beat him out for the manager’s job. It’s hard to ignore the fact that in less than a year, the 52-year old has been demoted from bench coach to third-base coach and has come up short in his bid for the manager position. If he elects to take a job elsewhere (no one would blame him, and he should certainly be able to find one), the Jays would find themselves down a character guy and tremendous clubhouse presence.
Pitching a priority
Since taking over the reins as GM, Anthopoulos has continually placed emphasis on pitching as the core of the team – and continues to do so in hiring Farrell. In three years with Boston, Farrell aided the development of Josh Beckett from a flamethrower into more of a pitcher and helped Jon Lester grow into a frontline starter. During his four-year tenure in Boston, the team owned a 4.08 ERA (second in the AL during that span to the Blue Jays’ 3.99 mark, oddly enough). If he is to be praised for the team’s pitching achievements, he should also take some of the blame for setbacks that include the underwhelming play of prized Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka, a poor season from John Lackey and the rapid decline of closer Jonathan Papelbon. Still, Farrell’s track record has shown that he knows how to manage young arms, something that will clearly come into play in Toronto.
The Latin American connection
Seeking to return to prominence as an organization with their finger on the pulse of the Latin American baseball market, there had been talk of opting for a Latin manager for the club. On the surface, the Jays did not do so (Alomar Jr. would have been the pick in that case). But Farrell’s role with the Indians included overseeing the team’s operations in both Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Even though his managerial role is not one typically connected to overseas scouting, he could have some contact with Jays Latin scout extraordinaire Marco Paddy.
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Written by Ben Fisher