TORONTO — When you think about it, it’s all kind of silly.
Why would Toronto fans be so upset that John Farrell left for the Red Sox? Farrell won 73 games for the Blue Jays last season, four more than Bobby Valentine’s Sox. What’s the big deal?
The Blue Jays went out in the offseason and made the deal of the century. They got Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Emilio Bonifacio. They revamped their entire team. They replaced Farrell with John Gibbons, who managed the Blue Jays to a .500 record from 2004-08.
What is there to be angry about?
So you look around Rogers Centre and you see some idiot with blue face paint heckling Farrell, playing off Farrell’s comment that he left Toronto for his “dream job” in Boston.
A kid held up a sign that read, “Yo Farrell. You were never our DREAM manager.”
“I can’t wait until you finish in fourth place and the Boston media makes your life miserable!” said another get-a-lifer.
When Farrell brought the lineup card out before the game, he was booed loudly for a good three minutes. Farrell could barely hear Gibbons during their conversation.
When he went back to the dugout there was more hellacious booing. Fans were running down to put their signs in Farrell’s face.
“Traitor!” some chanted. There was another “Farrell” chant in left field that fizzled quickly.
Toronto fans feel betrayed. Farrell had a year left on his contract and he left for a better job. This happens in college basketball all the time. It happens in all professions. You get a better job offer, more money, and you leave.
Farrell has handled the situation quite well. It started at the Winter Meetings when he had to answer questions from the Toronto media about his defection. It continued in spring training as Farrell made two trips to the Blue Jays’ training facility in Dunedin, where even there he heard some expletives.
He knew he’d have to answer more questions before Friday’s series opener. His players were very supportive of him. When Shane Victorino told the guy in the blue face paint to shut up, the guy yelled back, “Go back to Hawaii!”
“Loyalty! Loyalty!” shouted one fan as Farrell walked out of the dugout to the batting cage.
When Farrell came out to tend to Jose Iglesias after the shortstop was hit in the elbow with a Josh Johnson pitch in the second inning, the “Farrell! Farrell!” chants started again.
Before the game Farrell was asked what message he wanted to relay to Toronto fans who might be upset that he abandoned the team.
“That this is a great city and unfortunately some things over the past couple of years didn’t play out on the field as we had hoped or planned or intended,” Farrell said. “But I will say on my walk in from the hotel, a 45-minute walk, I had a chance to meet up and talk with people on the streets coming in here. You know what? Surprisingly, a lot of people welcomed me back and I had a couple of casual conversations on the walk in. It was a good way to come to the ballpark.”
Evidently, those people were not at the ballpark.
Farrell seemed calm and collected and knew what was coming. He seemed to have his answers prepared. He lightened things up right off the bat by asking, “Is this a special event tonight?”
Farrell took the pressure off himself and the angry Toronto fans by killing them with kindness.
“It’s good to be back,” he said. “You know, I fully expected that this would be [like this], as it’s been reported by a number of people leading up to this. It’s good to be back here in Toronto, for sure.”
And he said he understood the fans’ anger.
“I fully respect and can understand the sentiment, the questions, and maybe what might transpire here tonight,” he said. “That, to me, shows that there’s a lot of passion here for baseball and I certainly fully respect all the changes that have gone on this offseason with the Blue Jays. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here. And to work with [Blue Jays general manager] Alex [Anthopoulos], to work with [Blue Jays president] Paul Beeston, it was a great opportunity.”
When Farrell was manager, the Blue Jays were development-oriented. After he left, they decided to trade off their top prospects and go for it.
“The Blue Jays are a darn good team that we’re going up against and we’ve got our hands full this weekend,” Farrell said.
“This game is always about the players. We’ve got two good teams going at it tonight in this series and that will hopefully be the case throughout the remainder of the season.
“With that in mind, the focus is in between the lines.”
And then out of the blue in the third inning, a chant of “Farrell! Farrell!” resonated through Rogers Centre.
Jays fans are mad. They feel betrayed.
Sometimes sports can be so juvenile. It’s not just here in Toronto, it’s everywhere.
When will sports fans understand that people come and people go? People go for the money, for a better situation, for a better life for them and their families.
Farrell simply did what any Canadian or American would do — he sought to improve his life.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.