Monday, October 1, 2012

Has John Farrell Lost Control of the Clubhouse?


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Any time there are rumours about the Blue Jays, the natural instinct is to brush them off. After all, Toronto is linked to dozens of rumours throughout the season. Most of the time it's regarding free agents or trades, but this rumour is a different kind of animal altogether.

Omar Vizquel's comments from last week indicated John Farrell is running a loose ship as the Blue Jays manager. As far as I'm concerned, where's smoke ... there's fire. As George Costanza would say, "this thing is like an onion; the more layers you peel, the more it stinks".

As much as John Farrell and the coaching staff might deny that there's no discourse in the clubhouse, the actions by the players certainly fall in line with the "consequence-free" environment that Gregg Zaun hinted at.

Why has Brett Lawrie committed baserunning blunders on multiple occasions? Why has Moises Sierra repeatedly made fundamental mistakes in the outfield and on the basepaths? Why has Yunel Escobar taken away outs from teammates?

It just doesn't make sense why these things have happened over and over again this season. You'd think these guys would have learned their lesson after 159 games, but perhaps John Farrell isn't addressing these issues after all.

I don't want to accuse Farrell's mind of being elsewhere (thinking about a new position with the Red Sox for example), but maybe John Farrell has checked out. Why else would behaviour like this be continually tolerated?

It all kind of adds up, doesn't it?

This is a young Blue Jays squad and obviously they'll make their share of mistakes on the field as they go through their growing pains. However, there comes a point when repeated offenses indicate there must be something much deeper at hand.

Has John Farrell really had "the talk" with these players? Because it doesn't make sense that Sierra would commit gaffes time and time again. If Farrell did in fact sit them down and address those issues, you'd think that would be one thing they'd never do again.

And the Omar Vizquel situation just adds a new level to the conspiracy theory that the Blue Jays clubhouse has run amok. I find it very disheartening that Vizquel was brought in this season essentially in a mentor role, and even he admits that the Blue Jays run too loose a ship.

Did Vizquel actually instill any wisdom upon the young players? We'll never know for certain if he accomplished what the Blue Jays brought him in to do, but I have a hard time believing that he struck a cord if the players are still making rookie mistakes at season's end.

Not that it's Omar Vizquel's job to oversee the entire Blue Jays team ... that's obviously John Farrell's responsibility. But if Vizquel couldn't get through to these young players and John Farrell couldn't get through to them either, who is going to step up and police this team?

Ken Rostenthal was just one of the many pundits who have suggested the Blue Jays need much more veterans in the clubhouse moving forward. But with long-tenured veterans like 48 year old Omar Vizquel and 41 year old Darren Oliver, how much more veteran presence you have than that?

Combine those guys with long tenured players such as Jose Bautista, Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor and even Adam Lind, and there are no shortage of guys who could step up and be leaders in the clubhouse. Aside from Jose Bautista, why has nobody grabbed the reins and tried to steer this team back on course?

From the outside looking in, this is a very dangerous environment that reminds me of a similar situation the Blue Jays were in just a few years ago. There was a widely publicized clubhouse revolt at the end of the 2010 season, one in which Cito Gaston was playing out his final days as the Blue Jays manager.

With Cito heading out the door and a season basically in the books, it sounded like back in 2010 it was a consequence free environment in the Blue Jays clubhouse, not unlike what's happening right now.

If John Farrell is truly intending on going to the Boston Red Sox, why would he rule with an iron fist if he's only heading out the door anyway? And even if Farrell did run a tight ship, if the players got wind that he was leaving the Blue Jays, why would they listen to him?

My gut tells me that John Farrell will not be back as the Blue Jays manager next season. Which is completely fine with me, because there are plenty of other internal candidates who could step in and fill the role.

The only thing I ask the Blue Jays is that when the season comes to a close on Wednesday, they deal with these internal issues in a swift fashion. There's no sense in letting a toxic atmosphere like this marinade over the offseason; they need to either cut bait with John Farrell or extend him.

If John Farrell wants to go to Boston, let him go to Boston. On the other hand, if John Farrell is committed to being the manager of this team, there's no question he needs to reel in the young players on this team.

The more I think about it, the more I believe John Farrell is good as gone at the end of the season. And if the manager has checked out, then frankly I can't blame the players for checking out, either.

11 comments:

  1. I thought I liked him last year, but I am not a big fan of Farrell anymore. I think we can do better.

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  2. Very interesting if you're right. When AA hired Farrell less than two years ago, it seemed to be a long term thing. Everyone around baseball praised the move and it seemed Farrell would grow into his new job as the Jays grew into a contending team. Now we have this thing. And if Jen Royle's source is right that there's friction between Farrell and AA, then things have really gone downhill.

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    1. I guess a lot can change in the span of two years, right? Farrell could have been the league's best manager this year, and it still wouldn't have mattered very much because of all the injuries. Developmentally from a manager's standpoint, 2012 was a step backward for John ... and part of that isn't his fault at all. He just really didn't have all that much to work with.

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  3. Semi-long response here: I have to say, I don't think young players making repeated mistakes = John Farrell checking out. I think it is more about the personality of the two players that Zaun rants about (with no actual insider knowledge of the clubhouse). Brett Lawrie and authority aren't the best of friends (ask the Brewers) and I don't think you can fault Farrell for Sierra not wearing sunglasses or for his blunders on the basepaths and in RF after approx. 2 months in the big leagues. Brett has recently showed that he is more aware of his mistakes, and talks of respect between him and Farrell. I am more inclined to think Romero's opinion (see today's National Post) of Farrell, that he has done the best with what he has and the players appreciate him, is the prevailing one in the clubhouse - one that Vizquel, as someone a little removed from the day-to-day, may not always see.
    As for "sources" - we've been burned before. Unless I've been in an alternate reality and we actually have Yu Darvish on our roster. Also, AA has already stated unequivocally that Farrell will be returning next year.

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    1. True, there could be a few "bad apples" so to speak that maybe just have trouble with authority or whatever. Guys like Lawrie and even Gose seem like very instinctual players - act first, think later. I'll give these guys the benefit of the doubt since it's their first full season in the bigs, but if Farrell is around next season and these mistakes continue, then something really needs to change.

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  4. Whether he comes back or not, I'd say it's hard to argue that he hasn't lost control of the clubhouse. Too many stories.

    I'd imagine Beeston and AA right now are furiously figuring out a) how to spin JF leaving for Boston when it happens and b) who's taking over.

    Based on both the bungled Yu Darvish hype and Yunel press conference, I don't have a lot of faith that they'll be able to spin this one well for the casual Toronto sports fan.

    If it happens.

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    1. That's what I'm thinking ... where there's smoke, there may be fire. Too much bubbling under the surface for there to not be SOMETHING going on at least.

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  5. What the Jays need is someone like Dave Winfield or Paul Molitor or Cal Ripken, someone who is a true champion and respected throughout MLB. Unfortunately, I can't think of any current "old school" player that could fit the bill. These kids in the clubhouse need a great big kick in the ass, and it's safe to say that our "veterans" are not up to the job.

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  6. Think Ryne Sandberg.....

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  7. Of course, the only reason the Sox want him is they think he'd be the stern leader. If he's losing control of a clubhouse, doubt the Sox would want him. A little Catch-22 sort of thing there.

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  8. First of all I'd dismiss that tweet from Royle as hogwash. I think she attended the Amy K Nelson school of journalism. What she tweeted was totally inappropriate. Having said that at this point I really don't care if Farrell stays or goes. The base running blunders are inexcusable and somebody should have been riding the pine pony for a few days afterwards. (Was it last season or the season before when Charlie Manuel put Jimmy Rollins on the pine pony for some fielding blunders? If Jimmy Rollins can sit for a few days then I don't see why Brett Lawrie can't.)

    I think Zaun is full of BS and has no idea of what is going on in the clubhouse and Vizquel should have kept his trap shut or had a private talk with Farrell. Airing the dirty laundry in public doesn't present anybody in a good light.

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