In Depth

John Farrell expected 'the inquisition' in Toronto return

Two walks, and plenty of boos, summed up John Farrell's Friday return to Toronto after spurning the place for a job he'd always dreamed of in Boston.

Red Sox manager makes 1st trip to Toronto since spurning Blue Jays

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell walks in from the outfield during batting practice prior to his first game in Toronto since leaving the Blue Jays during the off-season. (Fred Thornhill/Reuters)

Two walks summed up John Farrell’s Friday return to Toronto after spurning the place for a job he’d always dreamed of in Boston.

The first took 45 minutes, winding from the Red Sox’ midtown hotel down to the Rogers Centre in the cool of a sunny afternoon.

During it, the former Blue Jays’ manager related, a number of people welcomed him back to town, some tagging along for short, casual conversations.

Walk number two covered 25 long strides (he’s six feet four inches tall) from the Boston dugout to home plate with the lineup card. That wasn’t quite so nice.

"Boooooooooooooo…" [Take a deep breath] "Boooooooooooooo…"

The umpire’s meeting was taking a minute or so, giving the aggrieved party (the fans) a chance to regroup until Farrell started back to the dugout.

"Boooooooooooooo…" [Ear splittingly loud]. "Expletive deleted and not really for a younger croooooowwwwdddd…" 

It was about 10 steps short of safety that the Boston manager tipped his cap to his newest admirers, and the sound rose about 20 decibels to just below painful.

Farrell understood all this would happen, even as he prepared for his role as Benedict Arnold – the man who left the Jays for the promised land of Beantown with a year still to go on his contract.

'The inquisition'

A couple of hours before "the moment," he went through "the inquisition" (as some of the Boston beat writers were jokingly calling it) under the stands with about 35 assorted media types.

He was asked why, in sports, a man leaves a job he says he likes (managing Toronto) for one he’s always dreamed of (skippering the BoSox), and that’s considered horrid, when a similar man in civilian life doing the same thing would be congratulated and handed a keepsake mug with a photo of the staff on it.

"That’s a great question," he said, thoughtfully. "We live in the public eye. Every move we make, every action we undertake is scrutinized, it’s publicized and it’s talked through and through.

"Sports give people the right to express their opinion in the stands."

Players and coaches, he said, have to remember that the game is played for the people who come out to fill the seats.

"We provide that right — for people to come out and share in that [and] some will share whatever they want to do.

"I’m not going to look negatively upon that."

Many look negatively on Farrell for the way he left Toronto.

Farrell was asked in his Friday presser if he regretted the way he might have handled things last season.

"That question came up repeatedly throughout the second half of last year," he said. "And, to look back, I know I can look myself in the mirror and say I gave this organization, the Blue Jays organization, everything I had on a given day."

Numerous media reports said the former Boston pitching coach was just a third of the way through his new three-year contract to manage Toronto when he told the team’s honchos his dream job was running the Red Sox.

That was 2011.

Wounded feelings

Then it was perceived he did nothing in his second year to soothe wounded feelings among fans by pledging to fulfill his deal and keep working towards building a winner.

Toronto reluctantly let Farrell out of his contract this past winter, trading his rights to Boston in return for infielder Mike Aviles, who was then sent on to Cleveland for pitcher Esmil Rogers.

Blue Jays boosters, and those who barely knew how to find the Rogers Centre, found themselves insulted, as only urban Canadians can, faced with the possibility anyone would purposely abandon their "world class" city.

Ironically, if Farrell had left any other way (such as by being fired), he’d hardly be missed.

His 154-170 record hardly left an impression, nor did his club’s penchant for running itself out of innings, acting in an immature way or upsetting veterans with their apparent willingness to let the youngsters run the place.

Leaving the impression, however, that Toronto was a lesser spot — a waypoint on the road to something larger — was what had the denizens of the triple decks in the Rogers Centre annoyed.

"Farrell sucks!" they yelled for about a batter or so. Then everyone settled down to watch a ball game.

Until the top of the second when Boston’s Jose Iglesias was nailed on the elbow by a Josh Johnson fastball, leaving him dancing around near the Toronto dugout. Out came a concerned Farrell to check on his hitter.

"Boooooooooooooo…" (No offence to the young player, you realize).

That kind of night.

Afterwards, with a 6-4 victory in the bag following a sloppy but thoroughly entertaining evening, Farrell was ready for more.

"This game is always going to be about the players, but given the circumstances, the fans had fun with it," he said.

Someone asked if he was expecting the crowd to be "that bad?"

Farrell would have none of it.

"This was a great crowd, the energy they create, it was just an outstanding night," he said. "Great atmosphere to play this game in."