The managerial futures of two men crystallized here Friday.
John Farrell should manage the Boston Red Sox in 2013, and Omar Vizquel is not ready to manage in the major leagues — yet.
Farrell and Vizquel were the principals in the internal tumult that turned public this week, revealing just how far the Toronto Blue Jays are from winning the American League East.
Vizquel, days away from his retirement as a player, made pointed comments to the Toronto Sun, saying in Friday’s editions that “a lot of mistakes were let go” by the coaching staff this season.
Vizquel suggested that the team’s youth and inexperience compelled Farrell and his coaches to take a hands-off approach to discipline. “It needs to be talked about,” Vizquel told the Sun. “It shouldn’t just be let go and say, ‘Ah, we have another day.’ You have to get on it. You have to say, ‘I didn’t like that play,’ and let’s try and do something different.”
So here was Vizquel — 45 years old, on record as saying he wants to manage as early as 2013 — offering a damning critique of the man who has kept him in the major leagues all year despite his .548 OPS.
Was this a brazen attempt at politicking for Farrell’s job near the end of a disappointing season? I would hope not, but the timing did not reflect favorably on Vizquel. In fact, Vizquel said during a Friday news conference that he’s already thinking about team issues from a managerial standpoint.
Vizquel apologized to Farrell and his teammates during a closed-door meeting for the comments, but he didn’t back away from the assessment itself. “I don’t regret it,” Vizquel said. “I think we need to talk a little more about the things we do on the field.”
This was straight from the Guillen-Valentine School of Controversy Creation. Vizquel, as the Jays’ elder statesman, would have been better served by mentoring mistake-prone infielders Yunel Escobar and Brett Lawrie more aggressively (and more privately) throughout the year. Instead, he created an unnecessary distraction during the final days of his Hall of Fame playing career — and probably raised doubt in the minds of some employers about his immediate readiness to manage.
Vizquel offered a dubious answer when asked why he commented to the media rather than addressing teammates. And Farrell pointed out that Vizquel didn’t personally attend the workouts during which the coaching staff attempted to address the team’s weaknesses.
“He was not privy to all the one-on-one meetings,” Farrell said. “He’s not at the early work, based on his stature. Out of respect to Omar, this is a well-polished, well-accomplished player. In those early work teaching settings, having not been there, he might not have been aware of the messages and examples we continue to address.”
In other words: Omar, if you wanted to act like a manager or coach, why didn’t you show up early, too?
I believe Vizquel has the potential to be a good manager. I highlighted his qualifications in a column last month. But it’s apparent that he needs seasoning before taking the reins of a major-league team. Managers must be more measured in their public comments than Vizquel was in speaking about his boss. Vizquel also came off as insensitive in tone-deaf remarks concerning Escobar’s use of a homophobic slur on his eye black.
As for Farrell: At this point, he’s a better fit for the Red Sox than the Blue Jays. That’s not to say he’s performed poorly in Toronto. But his two seasons on the job have been unfulfilling for all involved. When Farrell agreed to manage the Jays, he did so with the idea that the team was going to invest in veteran talent and compete for the AL East title. That hasn’t happened. The injury-hampered Blue Jays are 69-88 this year, and it’s uncertain how much progress the organization has made.
In Rogers Communications Inc., the team has deep-pocketed owners. An offseason splurge could be in the offing. (Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos recently told Ken Rosenthal that he will look to acquire “veteran complements.”) But this team, as presently constituted, is more than one or two players away. So why not trade Farrell to Boston for a major-leaguer — struggling pitcher Daniel Bard, perhaps — and start over with a fresh approach?
Farrell was Boston’s first choice last offseason, but the Blue Jays didn’t want him to leave for a lateral move. At the time, he had two seasons left on his deal. Now he has only one — the time at which teams typically address managerial contracts. The Jays need to decide if Farrell is their long-term manager — and vice versa. If either party answers no to that question, it’s better to change now than plan for 2013 while pretending everything is OK.
Farrell brings exactly what the Red Sox need, especially after Bobby Valentine’s reign of error. Farrell is thoughtful and intelligent, with senatorial presence. He carefully considers questions from the media and pauses to compose his thoughts before answering. That would be a welcome change at Fenway Park, where the garrulous Valentine alienated players and stirred up one unnecessary controversy after another.
Farrell, as the Boston pitching coach from 2006 through 2010, was a steady force alongside manager Terry Francona. He appreciates the franchise’s culture and expectations. He has a strong rapport with left-hander Jon Lester, who has foundered since his departure, and it’s likely that fiery second baseman Dustin Pedroia would welcome Farrell’s return. If Francona was too lax and Valentine is too caustic, then Farrell is capable of striking a balance.
“When major issues come up, some players will come forward and speak to me, but teams — in many cases — have players that police themselves and will address issues as they arise,” Farrell said Friday. “That’s typically the way teams operate.
“Anytime you have a blend of very talented young players and veteran leadership, that’s helpful. The tone is set with myself and the staff and the expectations we outline. Yet you like to think there’s a level of professionalism that is a common thread through all.”
Farrell was talking about the 2012 Blue Jays. But he might deliver the same mission statement on the dais at Fenway Park next month, as he’s named manager of the 2013 Boston Red Sox.