Red Sox get John Farrell from Jays
BOSTON -- John Farrell, the 50-year-old son of a lobsterman who shares the same birthday as Roger Clemens, on Sunday officially was named the 46th manager of the Boston Red Sox, 17 days after Bobby Valentine was fired.
Even before the announcement, Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, who had developed a close relationship with Farrell during his four-year tenure as Red Sox pitching coach (2007-10), tweeted his excitement at the news.
"Welcome back John!!" Lester tweeted under the handle @jlester31 Sunday morning. "Can't wait to get back to work!!"
Red Sox DH David Ortiz, a pending free agent, also spoke highly of Farrell's hiring.
"To be honest with you, there is something about John that they can see because they've been chasing John for the last couple of years," Ortiz told Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com. "I love John. John is my main man. Even when he was the pitching coach.
"But I don't know if it's fair for him to walk into this situation that we are in right now. Hopefully everything goes well and he can change things around. He's up for the challenge and what he's going to bring to the table. Hopefully everything goes great. I know things didn't go the way he expected in Toronto and hopefully it works out for him here.
"We needed something different. I think you're going to notice a difference. We need somebody to increase the way things are around here and John's the guy. I'm excited."
The Red Sox came to terms with Farrell on a three-year contract after completing compensation negotiations with Farrell's former employer, the Toronto Blue Jays, in which the Red Sox sent shortstop Mike Aviles to the Jays and received journeyman reliever David Carpenter in return.
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"We are thrilled to name John Farrell as our new manager," general manager Ben Cherington said in a statement released by the team. "John has been a major league pitcher, front office executive, coach, and manager. His broad set of experiences, and exceptional leadership skills, make him the ideal person to lead our team. I have known him in various capacities throughout my career, and I hold him in the highest regard as a baseball man and as a person."
Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said that Farrell told him of his desire to return to Boston a few days after the end of the regular season.
"This was a dream job for him, an opportunity he really wanted to pursue,'' Anthopoulos said in a conference call with reporters Sunday afternoon.
At that point, Anthopoulos said, Toronto had not yet heard from the Red Sox, and he told Farrell that if the Red Sox didn't ask for permission within a few days, the Jays could not wait and that he was prepared to put "it to bed.''
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But a couple of days later, Anthopoulos said, Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry called Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston, setting the process in motion, confirming a report by ESPN Boston.
Compensation talks took place primarily on the ownership level, Anthopoulos said, with the Blue Jays set on acquiring a major league player in return from the start of the process.
"A lot of names went back and forth,'' Anthopoulos said, before the sides settled on Aviles, who was Boston's everyday shortstop until the end of the season, when the Red Sox gave extended playing time to rookie Jose Iglesias.
Carpenter, the pitcher Boston received back for Aviles, was going to be dropped from the Blue Jays' 40-man roster, Anthopoulos said, meaning any team could have picked him up for the $20,000 waiver price in December's Rule 5 draft.
Anthopoulos complained that news of Farrell's hiring leaked out Saturday night and mentioned "gamesmanship ... not on our end.''
When asked if Boston was guilty of gamesmanship or whether he suspected any tampering had taken place, Anthopoulos said that the process did not go "as smoothly as it could have" but seemed to exonerate Red Sox officials. He referred to Cherington as "first class."
"I didn't have any issues with Ben,'' Anthopoulos said. "Paul had no issues with the ownership group.''
Cherington and his baseball operations staff interviewed four other candidates in a week-long process that ended Thursday: Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach, Yankees bench coach Tony Pena, Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus and Orioles third-base coach DeMarlo Hale. Like Farrell, Hale had been a member of Terry Francona's coaching staff in Boston.
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At the same time, the Red Sox were in contact with the Blue Jays, seeking their permission to negotiate with Farrell, who had a year remaining on his three-year contract to manage the Blue Jays.
Ausmus, in particular, greatly impressed the Red Sox during his interview. But Boston ownership, determined to avoid the mixed signals created by Valentine's hiring last winter, gave its support to Cherington's choice of Farrell.
Farrell, who in his first year in Boston won a World Series ring in 2007, inherits a team that lost 93 games and finished in last place for only the second time in the last 80 years. Under Valentine, the Red Sox not only endured an unprecedented siege of injuries but were wracked with internal issues that pitted the manager against players and coaches, culminating in a late-July meeting with ownership in New York in which Valentine was not included.
Farrell faced criticism of his own in Toronto, where the Blue Jays, after going 81-81 in his first season, 2011, slipped to 73-89 in 2012. This past season Toronto lost three starting pitchers in the span of four days to serious injuries (season-ending for two, a nine-week absence for the other) and also lost star slugger Jose Bautista for the season's last 10 weeks because of a wrist injury.
Veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel called out the Blue Jays for a lack of accountability.
"It's part of the inexperience," Vizquel said. "If you make mistakes and nobody says anything about it -- they just let it go -- we're going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We have to stand up and say something right after that mistake happened. We have to talk about it at meetings. We have to address it in a big way in the clubhouse.''
But Red Sox officials privately downplayed those criticisms, saying they had not altered their opinion of Farrell. During the period when he was pitching coach, the Red Sox staff held opponents to an American League-low .254 batting average and led the league in strikeouts (4,771).
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Anthopoulos said, "I don't think it's fair to pin on anybody,'' saying the Jays bore collectively the responsibility for their disappointing performance.
"His work ethic did not waver, his focus did not waiver,'' Anthopoulos said of Farrell. "He was always fully committed to his day-to-day job.''
Anthopoulos said no one could have foreseen the Red Sox firing Francona as Red Sox manager following the 2011 season, creating a "perfect storm" of circumstances that led Boston to seek to bring Farrell back as manager. For that reason, he said, he did not regret hiring Farrell, and refused to be drawn into a discussion of any negative feelings he might have regarding his departure.
"This is the one job (for Farrell),'' Anthopoulos said. "There's no other city that was more of a perfect fit and a perfect opportunity."
Anthopoulos said he spoke with Aviles and assured him that at minimum, he would be the team's utility infielder and might be given a shot at the team's second-base vacancy. "No doubt he has his flaws, but he is a high-energy player and has some power.''
Aviles went to social media to thank Boston fans.
"Wanna thank #RedSoxNation for all the support, great city, team and fans!" Aviles posted on Twitter as @themikeaviles. "Loved my time there but now it's time for a new chapter! #gojays"
Aviles, 31, played 136 games for the Red Sox in 2012, primarily at shortstop (128 games). He hit .250 with 13 home runs and 60 RBIs. He exceeded expectations defensively at short, but his on-base average of .282 tied J.J. Hardy of Baltimore for lowest in the AL among hitters qualified for the batting title.
Carpenter, 27, has struck out 60 in 60 innings over 67 career major league games, all in relief, with the Astros (2011-12) and Blue Jays (2012). He is 1-5 with one save and a 5.70 ERA (38 ER) in his big league career.
The right-hander appeared in 33 major league games in 2012, including 30 with the Astros prior to being sent to the Blue Jays in a 10-player trade July 20. In 2012, he also pitched in 23 minor league games for Houston's Triple-A club in Oklahoma City and Toronto's Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate, posting a 1-1 record with four saves, a 3.08 ERA with 25 strikeouts and only seven walks in 26.1 innings.
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