Going deep: John Farrell returns to Toronto, expect boo birds to be out in full force

Ian Denomme
The Eh Game

They say living well is the best revenge. We’ll find out Friday night if that’s enough for fans of the Toronto Blue Jays when former manager John Farrell returns to the Rogers Centre.

If “living well” means having a new-look roster and being expected to makes the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, Toronto fans should be happy. But that’s almost certainly not the case. The Blue Jays’ former manager-turned-villain will surely be greeted with a chorus of boos when he takes the field with the Boston Red Sox.

Farrell went 154-170 in his two seasons as the skipper in Toronto before bolting for his “dream job” in Boston last October. Farrell was traded to the Red Sox for infielder Mike Aviles, who was later shipped to the Cleveland Indians.

There was anger and resentment in Toronto. According to the Boston Herald, Canadians don’t like being scorned:

“Somewhere along the road from Toronto to Boston, John Farrell became a bad guy to Canadians last year.

One critic mentioned this spring that the opinion is more of a Canadian habit than based on anything terrible Farrell did in his exit as Blue Jays manager to become the Red Sox boss.

Canadians don’t like it when anyone leaves Canada. It happens too often and those that stay have a complex about it, according to the one loyalist.”

There’s certainly some truth in that statement, but those feelings are amplified in the world of sports fandom, on either side of the border. Think the feeling wouldn’t be the same in New York or Boston if a manager split for a division rival?

It will all make for an interesting and perhaps volatile atmohphere Friday night whenever Farrell makes an appearance on camera or on the field. The irony, of course, is that Blue Jays fans don’t really have a lot to be angry about any more.

A lot has changed since October. The Blue Jays reloaded their roster shortly after Farrell left. They made a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins to acquire Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson and Emilio Bonifacio. They signed Melky Cabrera and traded for reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. It all makes for an impressive roster, on paper, for new Blue Jays manager John Gibbons – one with the kind of talent Farrell could only have dreamed about during his short tenure.

That won’t stop fans from letting Farrell know how they feel about him. As many have pointed out, including Blue Jays reliever Darren Oliver, it’s not that he left, “It’s the way he left.” Farrell acknowledges that and expects a chilly reception. Again, from the Herald:

“In this case, with how things unfolded, the unique set of circumstances that surround both the change in Toronto and here in Boston, I can fully appreciate that they [fans] might have those feelings,” said Farrell. “What might come out of it, we’ll see.”

Farrell dream job meant taking over a Red Sox team in transition. They went 69-93 in 2012 under Bobby Valentine and finished in last place in the AL East for the first time since 1992. Farrell was the pitching coach in Boston under Terry Francona from 2007 to 2010 and won a World Series ring in 2007.

The Red Sox are off to a 2-1 start after winning their season-opening series in New York. The Blue Jays meanwhile won just one of three against the Indians. For that, fans should boo on Friday. Boo because the Red Sox are a division rival with two World Series wins in the last decade.

Boo Farrell early and get on with the business of baseball. Take pleasure in the assumed demise of the Sox and what’s expected to come for the Jays. Then let it go. As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi so eloquently put it:

“Having [Farrell] visit after the off-season the Blue Jays had is like running into your ex-girlfriend at a party with Mila Kunis on your arm and a Ferrari in the driveway.”

Well said. Also, don’t boo Brian Butterfield.