BOSTON Meeting with the media in the visitors dugout at Fenway Park -- his typical time and place before each game -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell was given exactly three questions related to his day-to-day duties. After that, the questions quickly turned, as expected, to speculation on his future. Specifically, his possible future as the next manager of the Red Sox.
Farrell deftly sidestepped each question.
The Sox former pitching coach, who won a World Series in 2007, his first season with the Sox, is in his second season as the Jays manager and is under contract for one more. Farrell -- who the Sox attempted to pry from Toronto last offseason before Bobby Valentine was hired as manager -- attempted to remind the assembled media of his current contractual obligations.
Theres a lot of speculation, obviously, Farrell said. But as I said last week in Toronto, Im the manager of the Blue Jays. This is where my focus and commitment is. Im under contract. Thats obvious, because if I wasnt, I wouldnt be sitting here today. But at the same time, weve dealt with a lot of challenges ourselves and I can understand the natural connection because Ive worked here in the past. But my focus is clearly with the Blue Jays.
With the firestorm growing around Valentine and with the Jays at Fenway for a three-game series, the speculation has grown that Farrell would be the next manager of the Red Sox.
I cant look on other situations because my focus is here, he said. I tell you weve got a lot of challenges ourselves with getting guys back on the field. So I can tell you this, knowing what the Red Sox have gone through with the amount of players that theyve lost to injury, I can empathize with Bobby and having to deal with a lot of changes to the roster. And because of that change, youre always trying to filter in new guys and trying to get an understanding of what theyre capabilities are and how you can best utilize them to win a ball game.
Having spent four seasons with the Sox and now managing within the division, Farrell has followed what has been happening with the team this season.
You always pay attention to a certain level of your opponents, and more so just the changes in roster because thats how you plan a game accordingly, he said. Theres been a lot of injuries on that side of the field. Weve dealt with a lot of our own so I cant even begin to fathom what it might be in the current situation. I do know this: I have empathy for whats going on because weve dealt with probably an equal number of injuries to marquis players, to the rotation. And as a result you have to always deal with change and thats where some uncertainties have come in to my job and to what we are as a team. So you have to learn quick about the players capabilities and do the best you can to put them in a position to have success.
He can also empathize at least with the on-field issues -- with what Valentine has been through this season.
As a manager? Yes, because weve had a lot of the same situations unfold, Farrell said. Its not easy. Its definitely not easy. We come in here today with the rotation thats mapped out and yet you come to the ballpark, youre waiting for the next phone call and in this case JA Happ is out. So now are you on Plan A or B. Right now I think both teams are on about Plan T or U. So thats kind of where were at.
He also knows managing in any market has its own unique set of challenges. As for managing in Boston, he wouldnt know, he said.
Ive never managed in Boston, he said. Ive managed in one place, thats right here in Toronto. Having worked in Boston, sure theres a tremendous fan base that is very passionate. The expectations are always very high. But as a competitor, thats what you aspire to do and be involved in.
Farrell has close relationships with several high-ranking front office personnel, from his time with the Sox but also with the Indians before that.
Well I had the fortunability to work closely with guys that I respect, guys that we have history even prior to working here in Boston, he said. Whether it was assistant general manager Mike Hazen and I running the farm system in Cleveland, not only are they professional colleagues, on some level they became personal friends and we had success. We shared a lot of challenges along the way. But thats what you would hope would take place having worked for a number of years in one place or the other.
Wherever it is as a player, coach, or manager, he has to be able to block out the distractions. Including todays distractions of speculation on his next place of employment.
The thing you learn early on as a player is that you have to devote your energy and focus to the things you can control, Farrell said. Whether thats your performance that impacts potential decisions, but at the same time you cant allow what peoples impressions are or the perception affect the way anyone does their job. And I hold myself to that same standard and that same approach. So we spent the afternoon planning for this series, going through our conference calls, as we typically do for every series. Were here to win a ball game tonight.