It won't be because of poor play. It will be because Toronto fans hates Boston manager John Farrell.
Bobby Valentine was relieved from his duties as Boston's manager last October following a 93-loss season and a proclivity for controversy.
Farrell, who was in the midst of a contract and had just finished his second year helming the Blue Jays, was immediately identified as Boston's top candidate. He was officially hired, signing a three-year deal after the two teams were able to negotiate compensation in the form of exchanging players.
The primary reason he was so coveted by Boston was his familiarity with the organization. He served as the team's pitching coach from 2007 through 2010 under former manager Terry Francona, earning rave reviews for his baseball acumen.
Farrell left Boston following the 2010 season to pursue managing and was hired as the Blue Jays skipper. However, he produced a combined record of just 154-170 during his two years leading the team.
Now that Farrell is returning to Toronto in a different uniform, it’s expected that he will be on the receiving end of quite a bit of negativity. It won't be because of his mediocre record with the Blue Jays but rather the perception that he left the team that gave him his first chance to manage as soon as a better opportunity came along.
The Toronto Sun's Steve Buffery didn't mince words when writing of his disdain for Farrell's exit from Canada: "In Farrell’s world, though he speaks like a politician—that is, he says a lot without actually saying much—if you read between the lines, Toronto just wasn’t big-league enough for him."
The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reported that Farrell is being called a “scoundrel” in Canada and is considered the biggest sports villain in Toronto since NBA star Vince Carter demanded a trade from the Raptors in 2005.
Buffery also accused Farrell of being selfish and not caring how he negatively impacted the Blue Jays or their fans:
By all means boo Farrell when he ambles on to the Rogers Centre infield Friday night for game one of a three-game series against the Red Sox.
But then get on with it, because I’ve got news for you. Farrell doesn’t care. He wouldn’t care if Toronto fans boo him until cows come home, or when the beer truck arrives at the Red Sox clubhouse at Fenway Park.
He got what he wanted.
Predictably, Farrell is choosing not to engage in all of the negativity. Instead, he is choosing to take the high road. He explained to WEEI’s Alex Speier that he doesn’t care what his image is because he is focused on the present:
Villain or bad guy, whatever it might be, I can only say we’re looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead of us. People are going to have their own opinions, and I respect that. It goes along with the heightened interest in the Blue Jays and a lot of the changes they’ve made…I can fully appreciate that they might have those feelings…But we’re looking forward to going up there and competing against them.
Baseball is a game of limited opportunities, especially when it comes to making a career as a player or a coach. It’s imperative to strike while the iron is hot because there is no guarantee another opportunity will present itself.
Farrell’s career arc as a manager is no different than anyone else's. He originally left Boston when he got his first offer to manage a team. After two years in that capacity with Toronto, he moved to another managerial job he deemed to be more desirable. That’s simple career mobility, not the actions of a bad person.
A busy offseason saw the Blue Jays make a number of additions that immediately propelled them to contender status, giving the team and its fans a lot to look forward to. Continuing a grudge against Farrell in light of their expectations for this season seems both perplexing and petty.
No matter how much booing and name-calling takes place during the series between the Red Sox and the Blue Jays, the ultimate outcome will be determined by who wins the games. Even so, it appears that a new rivalry is brewing, and it’s all because John Farrell is a hated man in Toronto.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference