“He took a different approach to the pitching job than I think most guys do,’’ said Cherington. “He took a more comprehensive approach.
“He acted more like a coordinator would in football, like a defensive coordinator — he was managing a group and so he was involved in different aspects of the pitching program more than perhaps some others would.’’
The Sox were confident they put the right guy on the job a year ago. But whether it’s the kid who takes a summer job at Dairy Queen or the accomplished corporate suit picked as IBM’s next CEO, some things about the new hire aren’t known until he or she is on the job.
“What I think we’ve learned about him has been related to just the job being different than the one he had in the past,’’ said Cherington, “and he has shown [that] incredible thirst for knowledge in areas that maybe he hadn’t been involved in the past.
“So as the pitching coach, he’s maybe not spending as much time thinking about, oh, our offensive running game, as an example. Or lineup particulars, or what a position player might need over the course of a season to stay strong.
“As a manager, you have to do all that. Every piece of information that was available to him from the first day he took the job, he was so eager to soak it all in so he could learn just as much as he could, so that he could figure out the best possible way to transfer that to his staff, to his players, in a way that made sense.
“And he did it with a ton of humility. He is a confident guy — with his stature, he’s respected. But he is also a guy with a ton of humility. And the combination is very effective as a leader.’’
Some of that, Cherington figures, comes from Farrell’s boyhood days in New Jersey, helping his father and brother Paul try to keep alive a lobster business that eventually fell into bankruptcy. Farrell to this day remains an avid fisherman, often returning to the ocean with rod and reel on a rare off-day during the season.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit,’’ said Cherington. “It comes up indirectly, because you think of someone who grew up in New Jersey, in that environment, a working-class environment. His dad was working hard as a fisherman and I suppose — who knows how life twists and turns? — but you can close your eyes and kind of imagine what growing up in that type of environment might lead to and the sort of values that you might carry with you growing up like that. I think John has some of those.
“I mean, managing a baseball team is much different than running a fishing boat. But as far as sort of the commitment, with the day-to-day commitment of a work ethic and expectations for others to do the same, the willingness to grind through the tough times, and be resilient, and still show up with the job done, those are qualities that he has and those are qualities that he’s helped make sure have spread to the rest of the team.’’
A method and a mission
Relentless. Farrell uses the word over and over when characterizing the team he has shaped. His Red Sox show up at the park each day, most of them hours ahead of schedule. They grind through at-bats, to the point where opposing starters can almost be heard uttering “uncle’’ into their gloves as they study the next pitch.
“It’s the one word that we have continually tried to drive home,’’ said Farrell. “And I think that has played out, whether it’s a given game, a given series, over the course of [the season].
“Our guys love the attention to detail. And in some ways, that [gives] them an edge inside a game to be opportunistic. But it’s that overall relentlessness that has become a trait for this group.’’
Inside the clubhouse, Farrell’s ways have engendered obvious respect and dedication among his players. It’s clear in their play that they’re having fun, and equally obvious that they like the guy who leads the show.
“I think he does a great job of walking the line between demanding professionalism, accountability, responsibility,’’ said relief pitcher Craig Breslow, the former Yale star. “But he also allows guys to be individuals.
“You know, this team has a strong identity and I think that kind of pervades what we do on the field, and John is a smart enough guy to stay out of that.’’
“He’s letting us play, brother,’’ added outfielder Shane Victorino. “That’s the one thing he said in spring training: ‘You guys just go out there and play — you know, be professional.’ That’s the one thing he’s done all year long, let us go out there and be the team that we can be.’’
The makeup and mantra of the 2013 John Farrell Red Sox mirror, in some ways, those of Francona’s team in 2004, the endearing “Idiots,’’ so dubbed by outfielder Johnny Damon. Overall, the 2004 team wasn’t as scruffy as the current haggard bunch, but both clubs bonded under a similar theme.Continued...