A quick glance at the upcoming series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox and it looks like a boring series between two teams fighting for fourth place in the American League East. But if you dig a little deeper, there is a sub-plot involving managers on both sides that the media will talk about.
Both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays had high expectations of contending for a wild-card spot this year. As of today, they are 14 and 15 games behind respectively, with 26 games left, so the math is not in their favour. Both teams have dealt with injuries to star players, with Toronto missing Jose Bautista, J.P. Arencibia, Brandon Morrow, and Brett Lawrie for periods of time, and the Red Sox David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Kevin Youkilis. Both teams have also endured pitching problems and off years from prominent starters, such as Ricky Romero from Toronto, and Josh Beckett and Jon Lester for Boston. While some of the players mentioned above have since been traded, they contributed to the current record of the Red Sox.
While players have taken some of the heat for the poor record, it is often the managers who get the most, and it hasn’t been any different for John Farrell and Bobby Valentine. Bobby V. has taken much of the criticism in Boston this year for his run-ins with fan-favourite and since-traded Kevin Youkilis, his pitching changes, line-up shuffles, and no-nonsense style of managing that has not worked on this veteran Red Sox club. Although he works in a big baseball market and has the backing of the owner for the rest of the season, look for the Sox to usher in a new manager while they transition their re-build.
The manager the Red Sox reportedly want to usher in is Jays manager and former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. Farrell is under contract through 2013 and has stated he is committed to the Jays, who on paper have a more talented roster than Boston in the next few years. Farrell himself has taken criticism this year from playoff-starved Jays fans, especially his handling of the bullpen and early on his reluctance to play “small ball” when the team was having trouble manufacturing runs. While Farrell certainly is not on the hot seat, if next season the team, if healthy, underperforms, then a change may be in store. Personally, while Farrell has had some hiccups along the way, he appears to be a good leader who has a calm persona and always tries to stay positive with his young team. The fact that he was a former Major League pitcher helps as the players know he has been through what they are experiencing and can relate to them.
While Farrell will be peppered with questions about if he is leaving the Jays after this year to come to Boston, I can’t see a reason why he would want to. With the current lack of trust between players, manager, and ownership, and with the Blue Jays having a younger, more talented team, the move to Boston would seem like a step back from a record standpoint. The big question will be if Toronto General Manager Alex Anthopoulos can ink Farrell to an extension before his contract runs out next year, because if he can’t, Boston may be waiting to pounce on Farrell. The Jays could in theory “trade” Farrell to Boston and get compensation, say in the form of Clay Bucholtz, but like the Bobby Valentine situation has shown, managers can be difference makers, good or bad, and from my seat on the couch, Farrell has and will continue to be a good one.
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From the couch…