The Blue Jays avoided a three-game sweep at the hands of surprising Baltimore on Wednesday night, halting a four-game skid in the process, while rookie outfielder Anthony Gose had his first-multi-hit game in a month.
Thing is, none of that will matter, at least not in the minds of Red Sox beat reporters, when Toronto players and manager John Farrell arrive at Fenway Park Friday to prepare for the opener of a three-game series.
Expect Farrell, the 50-year-old former Red Sox pitching coach, to be besieged with questions about the possibility of returning to Boston, where the Red Sox have played .460 baseball (63-74) under first-year manager Bobby Valentine.
'I can understand there can be a natural connection, because I’ve worked there in the past, but my focus and my commitment has been here [in Toronto] and is here, unequivocally.'— Jays manager John Farrell on rumours of returning to Boston
“As I’ve said repeatedly when it’s come up,” Farrell told reporters earlier this week, “my focus is clearly here with the Blue Jays. I’m under contract, obviously [through 2013].
“I can understand there can be a natural connection, because I’ve worked there in the past, but my focus and my commitment has been here [in Toronto] and is here, unequivocally.”
Farrell reportedly was Boston’s top choice to replace the fired Terry Francona last October, and Red Sox ownership along with general manager Ben Cherington were said to have made a formal attempt to see if the Blue Jays would allow Farrell to leave.
While Jays ownership/management was believed to be willing to listen, the sides never could agree on compensation, so Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos subsequently revised the team’s policy that no longer allows an employee under contract to leave for the same job with another club.
So, for the foreseeable future, Farrell is the Jays’ skipper, unless Anthopoulos and Cherington can strike a deal. It has been done before, most recently when Chicago White Sox GM Ken Williams let manager Ozzie Guillen walk last fall with three regular-season games and the 2012 season left on his contract.
Managers on the move
Guillen soon joined the Miami Marlins in exchange for two minor leaguers. On Nov. 5, 1976, the Oakland Athletics traded manager Chuck Tanner to Pittsburgh, following manager Jimmy Dykes’s move from Detroit for Cleveland counterpart Joe Gordon in 1960. Ten years ago, Seattle dealt manager Lou Piniella to Tampa Bay for outfielder Randy Winn.
Meanwhile, Valentine continued to make headlines Wednesday during his weekly radio interview with WEEI in Boston when co-host Glenn Ordway asked if he had checked out on the season with the Red Sox 13 ½ games out of the American League wild-card race.
“What an embarrassing thing to say. If I were there, I’d punch you right in the mouth,” Valentine told Ordway before quickly adding: “Ha, ha. How’s that sound? Is that like I checked out? Why would somebody even … that’s stuff that a comic strip person would write.”
Valentine later clarified with humour.
“I don’t think that physical violence is necessary for 60-year-old people,” he said. “I think it made the point, though, that there are lines that should be drawn in the sand when someone is trying to be professional and sounding unprofessional. It’s better to be abrupt and then let everyone know you’re kidding.”
Last month, Red Sox owner John Henry denied reports that Red Sox players had called for Valentine’s job during a series of meetings, saying the players took responsibility for the team's disappointing performance.
At the time, Valentine also declined to point fingers.
"Personally, I think we're in it together," he said. "I think we're going to get hot."
Perhaps, but not in time to quell the Farrell-to-Red Sox rumours.