Grange vs. Davidi: What to do with Farrell?

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell returns to Toronto. (AP/Matt Slocum)

John Farrell returns to Toronto for the first time Friday night since leaving his job as manager of the Blue Jays this off-season for the same role with the Boston Red Sox, a position he described as his “dream job.”

Over the past few days, Sportsnet columnists Michael Grange and Shi Davidi debated what kind of reception Blue Jays fans should give Farrell.

Michael Grange says…

Ffffeww. Opening Night is out of the way. So is the opening series against the Cleveland Indians. Now we can get on with the serious business, right Shi? Now we get to the fabulous stuff. Now we can watch first-hand what 40,000 people feel about feckless, faithless, John Farrell, who makes his return to Rogers Centre as the manager of the evil fried chicken-eating Boston Red Sox.

Fans will be in a frenzy, as they should be, given Farrell effectively flipped them all the flamingo when he asked to be relieved of the burden of managing the Toronto Blue Jays.

Like I said: Feckless and faithless. I’m trying to think of some other F-words I can fling Farrell’s way to continue with my alliterative flourish. Any come to mind Shi?

Shi Davidi says…

Well played, Michael, and I’m sure many of those in the house Friday would be happy to suggest one F-word in particular, but I’m not going to go there. The reason? I think fans should make their statement, give him a good booing, and then move on.

I know that may be heresy to some, and people have good reason to heap scorn on the guy, but there’s no need to make this linger the way past hate-ins have for turncoats like Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and A.J. Burnett. Those guys really hurt their teams upon leaving.

Farrell? He helped the Blue Jays, and not just by setting the stage for John Gibbons to take over, but by also fetching Mike Aviles, who was later flipped for useful reliever Esmil Rogers. Fans should thank him for his disloyalty. Plus having him visit after the off-season the Blue Jays had is like running into your ex-girlfriend at a party with Mila Kunis on your arm and a Ferrari in the driveway.

Isn’t living large the best revenge?

Michael Grange says…

Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Sorry, I had to do a triple take there. That followed my spit take. If I’m hearing you correctly, you’re suggesting Toronto fans – Toronto Blue Jays fans – be mature about this? Be bigger than this? Umm, just a sec, I have to look something up …. Yup, just like I thought: The Blue Jays haven’t won ANYTHING for 19 seasons.

You can make the case that the end of last season was the absolute low point of the entire 19, minus a few Tim Johnson war stories and J.P. Ricciardi truth massages and Brian McNamee’s encyclopedic knowledge of Roger Clemens’ butt. And … well, I could go on.

But it’s not just that Farrell left. If Farrell asked out say, on Nov. 20th – the day after the Jays trade with the Marlins became official – I’m not even sure anyone would care that much. It’s that he left when things were at their worst. That’s the issue. That and the fairly compelling evidence that he looked at his entire Blue Jays experience as practice, until, you know, a real MLB job came along.

Some grudges are worth holding on to.

Shi Davidi says…

Wow, remind me never to get into your bad books. Look, I get holding on to grudges, and we in this city have been pretty good at doing exactly that. Maybe too good. But when you’re looking back at McGrady, Carter, Bosh and Burnett, the lingering venom is understandable given the scorched earth they left behind, and you hated seeing them come back in better situations.

That sucks, but that’s not the case here, and it’s almost better that he didn’t wait to ask out after the fact. If I’m a fan, you have to love the thought of him second-guessing himself, wondering what might have been had he stayed.

After all, what’s the point of dwelling on the lows when you’re poised to ride high? Why poison the waters like that? This is a time for fandom in Toronto to leave the days of inferiority and playing the part of bitter jilted ex in the past – we’ve done that to death.

The Blue Jays have taken a big step forward, the Maple Leafs seem playoff-bound, the Argos are Grey Cup champions and the Raptors are, ummm, well, the other three teams are trending the right way.

Stay mad at Farrell? It’s his loss, not ours.

Michael Grange says…

Oh sure Shi, be a grown up; I hope you’re proud of yourself. OK, here’s my last ranty point: I’ll concede that the Blue Jays are in a better place – like infinitely better – than they were when Farrell made a like a small furry thing on a sinking ship.

And it feels good that the ship is now a luxury yacht, the S.S. AL East Pennant, or something like that. But the only reason for that is the good work of Alex Anthopoulos, the general manager who is as much a proxy for Jays fans as is humanly possible: the kid from Montreal was literally one of the faces in the crowd not that long ago, wishing he could somehow be part of Major League Baseball.

That he runs his own team is one of the great stories in baseball. That and the fact he’s proven wicked-good at his job makes him as much a fan favourite as any of the players on the roster.

Anthopoulos went out of his way to hire Farrell as the manager when he got the chance. He tied his still unproven career to the square-jawed son-of-gun from Boston. And as a way of saying thanks, Farrell screwed him. He did a very average job of managing and he made the organization look second-rate when he jumped ship.

Sure Anthopoulos got the last laugh, but that doesn’t obscure that Farrell did him wrong. I’m guessing Jays fans will have AA’s back and let Farrell have it for as long as he’s coming back across the border. I’m all for that.

Shi Davidi says…

Mike, you’ve quit pouting and delivered some well-reasoned arguments. That being said, let me leave you with this: What if Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays needed the Farrell experience to get them to the point they’re at now?

We’ve all had that relationship in our past that didn’t end well, but ultimately taught us a lot about ourselves and about life, and in many ways all the hurt provides a tipping point that pushes us forward. Farrell is that relationship for Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays.

In hindsight, there’s no doubt he was the wrong hire for this team, and it didn’t help that the circumstances that led to his arrival changed – Terry Francona, it turned out, wasn’t going to be Red Sox manager for life – and for Farrell, it was like the woman he’s always loved suddenly getting a divorce mere months after he got married.

I don’t like the way he handled it, but I can at least see why it went down the way it did. There’s no teacher like experience and the past two years rammed a whole bunch of it down Anthopoulos’s throat, and you can bet he came out of it smarter. Ultimately, to pick up on my earlier analogy, things can certainly go awry with Mila Kunis and the Ferrari could end up wrapped around a telephone pole while Farrell finds true love, but this is high life we all wanted to live, for better or worse.

So vent if you must, let out all the bile, gloat if you’re so inclined, but do it once and then move on. It’s time to settle into a better present, and leave a bitter past behind.

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