By Sean McAdam
At the start of the interview process to select the next manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, John Farrell had two strikes against him -- he had never managed professionally and he faced some institutional bias that suggests pitching coaches don't always make the best managers.
Ultimately, however, Farrell overcame any obstacles and was introduced Monday as the 12th manager in franchise history.
"A lot of attributes stood out,'' said Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos by phone. "From the first phone interview we had, you could tell that he was very prepared, a great communicator and strong leadership qualities.''
Anthopoulos said the conventional wisdom which argued against hiring a pitching coach "crossed our minds. But in fairness, not too many have been given that opportunity.''
It may have also helped that Bud Black, who had been the pitching coach of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before being hired to manage the San Diego Padres, directed the Padres to a 90-win season and had them in playoff contention until the final day of the season.
"I wanted the best candidates, regardless of what position he played during his career,'' Anthopoulos.
As far Farrell's relative lack of managerial experience, Anthopoulos noted that a number of successul managers -- including Joe Girardi, Dusty Baker and, the man Farrell is replacing, Cito Gaston -- also lacked prior experience before being hired for their first jobs.
"More experience is something you welcome,'' said Anthopoulos, ''but there have been plenty who have succeeded without it.''
"Obviously, my background is pretty well-documented, so it wasn't a surprise,'' said Farrell after returning to the Boston area Monday night. "As the the initial conversations took place, if there were any concerns in those areas, there was a comfort area arrived at that squelched those thoughts.''
On the plus side, Farrell has thorough knowledge of the Blue Jays and the rest of the American League East, where he has coached the last four seasons.
"On the other hand, if John had been in, say, the National League West,'' added Anthopoulos, "I don't have any doubt that he still would have come in to the interview process very prepared.''
As familiar as Farrell is with the division, he was aware that the Blue Jays are the only team in the A.L. East to fail to make the postseason since the 1994 strike. Moreover, the Jays have perennial powerhouses (Yankees, Red Sox) and talented upstarts (Rays) to overcome.
But that, as it turned out, was a selling point.
"As daunting as some might see the East,'' said Farrell, "to compete against the
best for the majority of the schedule, honestly, was an attraction.''
Farrell also believes ownership (Canadian cable giant Rogers Communications owns the Jays) will provide the necessary resources to support a payroll "that will enable us to keep our own players when they reach arbitration and free agency and also add free agents.''
Anthopoulos, meanwhile, also had high praise for Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who finished second to Farrell from among more than 20 original candidates.
"I think DeMarlo is going to be outstanding manager,'' said Anthopoulos. "He's a hidden gem. I don't think people realize how good a baseball man DeMarlo is. He has a real feel for the game and the ability to communicate with players.''
Anthopolous also interviewed third-base coach Tim Bogar in the first round and saluted the Red Sox for the staff they had assembled.
"It's telling that so many candidates came from that staff,'' he said.