Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell is a guy who commands respect. While his 6-4, 200-plus pound frame and Hollywood chin certainly helps in that regard, it has much more to do with his expertise than anything else.
It is for that reason that the Red Sox could suffer a bit of a blow if and when Farrell is announced as the new manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, which was widely reported on Thursday to be imminent.
Farrell's likely departure would take from the Boston organization a lynchpin in the effort to build a team around pitching and defense. His efforts have fostered the growth of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard, to name a few, while earning the respect of Josh Beckett, who was with the team before Farrell, and John Lackey, who said after his final start of the season that he feels confident going into his second year with the Sox due to what he learned from Farrell.
While the Red Sox' team ERA fell to ninth in the American League in 2010, some of that had to do with injuries (Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka), adjustments (Lackey) and a bullpen which struggled to get outs. The staff as a whole has shined during Farrell's tenure. It led the AL in ERA in 2007 and ranked in the top half of the league in both 2008 and 2009.
Boston gave up 2,831 runs in the time in which Farrell was pitching coach, if indeed he is moving on. The last four-year stretch in which the club allowed fewer runs was 1992-95, when Rogers Clemens was approaching the "twilight of his career" and steroids had yet to induce a complete onslaught of offensive gaudiness.
In addition, Farrell’s four-year run has come during a largely stable period for the Red Sox' coaching staff, a rarity in this day and age of fluid coaching changes. Hitting coach Dave Magadan has also been with the club since 2007, bench coach DeMarlo Hale since 2006 (first as third base coach and now as bench coach), bullpen coach Gary Tuck since 2007 and third base coach Tim Bogar for two years.
Most of that unit teamed with manager Terry Francona to first win a title and then guide the club to consecutive 95-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. But beginning with the departure of former bench coach Brad Mills, who left to manage Houston after serving in that role under Francona for six seasons, the group has begun to break up.
The reported Farrell departure would further dissipate a crew that had toiled together during a wildly successful span. Additionally, Farrell is just the second Red Sox pitching coach to serve at least four consecutive years in the position since 1991, Joe Kerrigan being the other.
But with success often comes change. Francona knew this, saying it was only a matter of time before Farrell, who has never managed at any level, was offered a managerial gig.
If and when he inherits Cito Gaston’s former job in Toronto, Farrell will begin working with a young staff loaded with talent. All but nine of the Blue Jays' 162 starts in 2010 were made by a pitcher no older than 28, with 25-year-old Ricky Romero leading the way with 14 wins.
Kyle Drabek, the key component in the Roy Halladay deal last offseason, made his major league debut in September and would immediately become Farrell's prize pupil. Essentially, there is plenty with which to work.
Throughout the 2010 season Francona often talked about Mills' job in Houston and how much he was rooting for the Astros to perform well. If and when Farrell joins the Blue Jays, he might not get that same support from the Red Sox' skipper, simply due to the fact that the two friends and their teams are in the same division. They’ll be looking to beat the other into submission 18 times a year.
Farrell will, however, continue to get respect, of which he has gained plenty since coming to Boston.
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