So that’s it.
Just like that, it’s over. The end of an era that never really had the chance to get off the ground.
An era that began with so much hope, so much hype, and so much excitement, yet an era that ended with such a thud. An enormous sense of unfulfillment and disappointment.
So describes the John Farrell era in Toronto.
With his long rumoured departure to Boston now confirmed, we can officially close the book on an incredibly unremarkable two years – years that will be known more for their struggles than their successes.
Farrell was hired on October 25, 2010 and leaves town almost two years to the day later. He inherited a team that featured the AL Home Run King in Jose Bautista, a young up-and-coming ace in Ricky Romero, and a young, dynamic General Manager in Alex Anthopoulos. It was a team that had an outstanding 2010 season under Cito Gaston (85-77), and was seen as a rising power in the AL East.
The team that Farrell leaves behind can not be described in the same manner. Toronto regressed to 81 wins in 2011, and dropped even further to 73 wins this year. That gives Farrell a managing record of 154 – 170, highly disappointing by any calculation.
What’s worse, however, is that the team itself seems to be in shambles. So many players were ravaged by either injury (Bautista), underperformance (Romero), maturity issues (Lawrie, Escobar), or apparent disinterest (Kelly Johnson), that it is now impossible to gauge where this team is. Are they a bunch of guys itching to breakout and leave a fluky season behind them? Or are they a group that is crushed by their 2012 failure, so disillusioned and hopeless that they will have absolutely no chance in the powerful AL East for years to come?
It would seem that the person best equipped to answer that question is the one man who just flew the coop.
His departure opens up a whole slew of questions about many things, perhaps most importantly about the morale of the team. Toronto’s struggles were well documented down the stretch. There was the Escobar eye black incident. You had Brett Lawrie making foolish baserunning mistakes time and again. Moises Sierra also made mistakes that professional players have no business making. Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson both looked like they would rather be somewhere else than on the ballfield. A manager can’t control the talent level he is given, or the way the team performs on the field, but he sure can get the team prepared, both mentally and physically. Seeing fundamental errors and genuine disinterest repeated over and over has to fall on the manager. It’s not fair to blame Farrell for the injuries to Bautista and his starters, but I think you can absolutely blame him for the other stuff. It looked to an outsider like myself that he had fully lost control of his team. A manager can’t do that. He just can’t – not in baseball, and not in any workplace.
Which leads me to my personal thoughts on Farrell. I liked the guy. I thought he was a fine manager who made a lot of mistakes, but they were rookie mistakes that will happen as a first time manager. A lot of people seemed to get off on crucifying him on Twitter – I was never one of them. I think he may be a good manager one day. But I can’t say I commend him for how it ended. Yes he wanted to go to Boston, and yes it was his dream job. But when you have a contract, the least that can be expected is that you honour the terms of that contract. He did not. I’m sure there will be many conspiracy theorists out there who insist that Farrell intentionally butchered this season once he saw the writing on the wall for Bobby Valentine in Boston. I can’t see that being true – but isn’t it telling that nobody really tried to keep him in Toronto?
At the end of the day, it’s better for the team and for the fans that John Farrell is gone. Some say that it will put the Jays at a surefire disadvantage having him go to a division rival because now he knows their personnel and tendencies. I don’t believe that – first of all it didn’t help the Jays when they played Boston (as former pitching coach he should have had knowledge), and second of all the Jays will likely have a completely different team next year. No, with Farrell gone, Anthopoulos can bring in somebody who wants to be here. As Ian at the Blue Jay Hunter so nicely put it in his post this morning: Toronto shouldn’t be a layover in a manager’s journey, it should be a destination.
So what’s next for the Blue Jays? There many people out there demanding a manager with experience, one who knows how to manage young teams. But does that really matter? I think the 2012 season should tell all of us that it doesn’t. Look at Boston, who brought in a very experienced manager and failed spectacularly. Look at the White Sox, who brought in a rookie with ZERO experience, and then nearly made the playoffs. Most importantly – look at the Cardinals, who lost one of the greatest managers of all time to retirement, hired a rookie to replace him, and are now ONE WIN AWAY FROM THE WORLD SERIES! It’s a team that makes a manager, not the other way around.
With that said, I think the Jays should consider Sandy Alomar Jr. He has paid his dues as a coach in various roles on other teams, and is a former catcher. You may have noticed that the managers of each of the four squads that made the ALCS and NLCS were all former catchers. Why can’t it work for us?
All that I know is that, no matter who takes over, I’m looking forward to clinching a playoff spot in 2013 at the expense of John Farrell and the Boston Red Sox.
So long John…