NASHVILLE, Tenn – With no Blue Jays news to report on day two of the winter meetings, the focus shifted to the manager that was, as John Farrell had his turn at the podium, facing a combination of Boston and Toronto media.
The scene was pretty familiar, actually. For the last two years, every time the Jays and Red Sox have faced each other – whether in Toronto, Boston, Dunedin or Fort Myers – the assemblage around Farrell has been equal parts Toronto and Boston media, with the Sox’ scribes often co-opting the scrum for their own (sinister? I didn’t say that, you did) purposes.
This time, though, the tables were turned, and I was astonished to see some dismissive snickering from members of the Boston media as we Toronto types asked Farrell a few questions about his departure from the Blue Jays and the happenings on our side of the border since. It was a stunning display of a complete and utter lack of self-awareness, and it’s going to happen again on April 5th, when the Red Sox come to Toronto for the second series of the regular season.
I started to ask Farrell what he thought the reception from Blue Jays’ fans might be for him that Friday night, but he cut me off before I could finish the question, saying "Looking forward to it" then ending the session.
Earlier, he had taken issue with the fact that some Blue Jays’ players have said that they thought Farrell might not have been as invested in the team as he should have been, especially in the latter stages of this past season. He said emphatically (he wasn’t really all that emphatic about it, but he did say that he was saying it emphatically, so there’s that) that "my focus and attention was there every day. I don’t think anything that I demonstrated through my actions was anything less than 100% focused on the Blue Jays."
Farrell said that he didn’t orchestrate his exit from Toronto, but that the move was precipitated by his affirmative response when asked by the Blue Jays, both last year and this, if he would have interest in managing the Red Sox should their job become available to him. So it’s true, the Red Sox orchestrated it, but he helped to build up the snowball once it got rolling.
It should be noted that even though J.P. Ricciardi is a popular villain among Blue Jays fandom, he was offered the opportunity to become the Red Sox’ General Manager after his first season with the Blue Jays. Surely a dream job for him, less than an hour away from his home, with a team on the verge of greatness. Ricciardi declined, out of loyalty to the Blue Jays for giving him his first opportunity to build a club. Farrell accepted and then thanked the Blue Jays for giving him his first opportunity to run a club on his way out the door.
Farrell did apologize, by the way, to any Blue Jays fans who felt unappreciated due to his comments upon leaving. He said that was not his intent, that he thinks Toronto is a great baseball city with very good fans.
Farrell was not asked whether he likes apples at any point during his media session, but he did express admiration for the Blue Jays’ moves to improve the club last month, saying the deal with the Marlins was "a heck of a trade" and that the Red Sox have "work to do if we want to compete with them."
He also wasn’t asked if he knew the trade with Miami was coming, but since Alex Anthopoulos didn’t know the trade was coming until Farrell had been gone for over a month, that question seems to be moot.
Speaking of Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays’ GM took the high road all the way in discussing Farrell’s departure, saying that he believed Farrell was completely committed to the Blue Jays, working hard up until the minute he was no longer in their employ. Alex said it wasn’t a matter of Farrell coming to them and saying he wanted out, but that an opportunity that seemed incredibly unlikely when Farrell joined the Blue Jays arose, Farrell was interested in pursuing it, and the Jays were able to get enough value back that it made sense to make it happen.
Anthopoulos wouldn’t take the bait when asked about suggestions that Farrell checked out sometime in August or September, or that he had an eye on the Boston job throughout Bobby Valentine’s train-wreck tenure with the Red Sox. He thanked Farrell for his time in Toronto, praised his work and said that despite what some players have said, he saw Farrell giving everything he had to the organization. It didn’t even look as though he was gritting his teeth or anything.
The Blue Jays’ GM also dismissed the notion that the Red Sox had done anything untoward in their pursuit of Farrell, saying he had no indication that any of the rumours or stories about Farrell being at the top of Boston’s wish list came from anyone with the Sox, which would have constituted tampering.
Both Farrell and Anthopoulos are trying to move beyond the story, but nothing they say or do can take the bad taste out of the mouths of many Blue Jays fans, nor should it. As I said last month, I’m still sort of hoping that the Jays open the season against Cleveland with Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ starting the first three games, just so they can hit the Red Sox with Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
What else happened on Day Two on the Blue Jays’ side of things?
-I ran into Mike Barnett in the Opryland Hotel lobby. The former Blue Jays’ hitting coach from 2002-05 was lost, looking for a banquet hall, as are about 97% of the people in this place. Barnett was on his way to the Blue Jays’ affiliates’ dinner, because he’s once again a very proud member of the Toronto organization. He’ll serve as the Jays’ minor-league hitting co-ordinator.
-There are jobs waiting for Bruce Walton and Don Wakamatsu with the Blue Jays should they want them. Walton had been the Jays’ pitching coach the past three seasons, and has been with the organization since the late 1990s, while Wakamatsu was Farrell’s bench coach the past two years – neither was invited back to join John Gibbons’ staff. Both are free to look for work with other clubs (and Wakamatsu could very well wind up Buck Showalter’s bench coach in Baltimore), but if they don’t find something they want, the Blue Jays would be happy to have them back in some capacity – as scouts or roving instructors, most likely.
-The odds of the Blue Jays making another move here at the Winter Meetings are very slim. Anthopoulos said that he would bet on nothing happening, that no deals are cooking on the front burner right now. Of course, he’s said that before and made a trade the next day. Things can heat up in a hurry, and Anthopoulos always has a lot of balls in the air. The Jays aren’t in a position to add any further payroll, though, so any deals they make would have to wind up with the money being even.
On Day Three – an off-the-record lunch with John Gibbons and the announcement of the recipient of the 2013 Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence!