NOT the same as the old boss.
I admit that I knew precious little about what the selling points were on John Farrell when word came out he was on Alex Anthopoulos' short list. Oh I knew that his name had come up for different teams in previous seasons, and that for various reasons things never got serious - but I really had no idea what his professional history was and until he became a candidate for the Jays, I had no reason to know.
When I started answering for myself the question "What do I think about Farrell?" (and by extension the other finalists) my bias was towards Brian Butterfield (Told y'all he wasn't gonna leave bitches!) and so my approach was "Is this guy good enough to overcome my bias?" and it was a slow process - but the first big factor was finding out about Farrell's front office experience. It seemed to me that Alex's style lent itself very well to having a manager who was more than a manager without being an egomaniac (Hiya Buck S!). The growing impression of Farrell was that he was a guy who'd contribute solid input on the entire system and that matched up very well with AA's stated and established philosophy of collecting as much good input as possible.
Part of my hesitation was the question of whether or not we'd lose Butterfield if he wasn't promoted but ultimately, if Alex thought he was getting the right guy then maybe that price was acceptable. More to the point, it seemed clear to me that Alex has to know how valuable Butter is and anyone he hired would share that view, so they would likely pull out every stop to retain him and that's all you can ask. Still, given the lack of willingness on Anthopoulos' part to have these decisions discussed in public, right up until word leaked out about who the choice was, I really couldn't decide between the two.
Now that the cone of silence has been lifted, I have to say - WOW.
It's hard to specifically define why, but the feel of today's discussion is that this guy is the manager version of all the things which have impressed me/us so far about Alex as a GM. And just so I'm clear, I can't imagine there's anything I'd have said about him that would be higher praise. I am more excited about the future now than I was a week ago by several orders of magnitude (and I was excited before). It's also very impressive that Farrell apparently not only was interested in this job but perused it.
One remark that I picked up on Twitter that I thought was perhaps the best one-sentence summary I've seen today was this:
AndrewStoeten If we needed a last year of Cito for this guy to become available, maybe it was worth it. Difference between the two is striking as hell.
The point there, if you missed it, is that Farrell was contractually forbidden from seeking a managerial job last winter. I'll do Stoeten one better and drop the maybe. If (knowing what I know now) you'd have said to me "You can have Farrell next winter but that means you'll have to watch Cito totally screw it up for a year" (to be clear, I'm NOT saying Cito screwed everything or even most things up in 2010 - just saying IF that was the price) I'd find that a tremendously cheap price to pay. At least, based on my perceptions from today.
Some related notes - the discussion today included confirmation that Bruce Walton and Brian Butterfield WILL return in 2011. I can't overstate the value of that, in my view. The other members of the staff, even Murphy, are fungible (although the indications were that Farrell was interested in and attempting to retain Murphy). It's widely reported that Farrell will probably want to bring good friend Torey Louvello (currently the Red Sox AAA manager) on board, which would presumably cost Nick Leyva his slot if the reports are true. Beyond that, it's so much speculation.
Second - Manny Ramirez wasted no time in speaking up and saying he'd love to play for the Jays and for Farrell. My impression is that if you can say to Manny "We're willing to pay X for your services, give me a shout if you want to play for that price" and not get caught in a bidding war (maybe one of those phantom bidding wars against a non-existent competitor which Scott Boras is famous for) then it's intriguing. Farrell was ask about the idea and his initial response was that he was very impressed with Manny on the field and in the clubhouse. He seemed not at all to feel any caution concerning the "troublemaker" image that has grown up around Manny. Also, they have to be convinced they can handle Adam Lind as the every day first baseman (or be willing to make the very bold move of trading him and signing or trading for a solid defensive 1B).
Third - I think most of my fellow bloggers have already noted this but I'll say it anyway: You old school baseball writers need to get the hell over wondering where team personnel live in the off season. Seriously. If Farrell delivers playoff baseball in Toronto, he can live in Samoa in the off-season and it won't matter. Get your gorram priorities straight.
Fourth - With all due respect to John Gibbons who I did and do like, here's another place where I give Alex credit as having done better than his predecessors. You couldn't possibly have had the sense of impending greatness regarding Gibbons, or Carlos Tosca, or Tim Johnson, or Buck Martinez (to name a few) that you get from Farrell.
There have been so many competing thoughts today that i might remember something later that I forgot to mention so don't be surprised if this one is edited and amended at some point.