They are the John Farrell Red Sox, with their lumberjack beards, colorful tattoos, and glittering bling, none of which has anything to do with the image their square-jawed, clean-shaven manager projects.
Parked next to his ragtag bunch, the 6-foot-4-inch, 51-year-old skipper at first glance appears to have walked onto the wrong set, straying from his leading man’s role in some PBS documentary on the thinking man’s manager into a land that time — and grooming tools — forgot.
But as Red Sox Nation learned to its delight in 2004 — when the self-anointed “Idiots’’ won Boston’s first World Series in 86 years — looks can be both deceiving and inconsequential.
“He wants to win, that’s what’s important,’’ said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. “He doesn’t care if we dye our hair purple. If that’s what’s going to bring us together — that we are going to win ballgames — then that’s what it’s about.’’
Farrell, one of a New Jersey lobsterman’s six children, was hired just a year ago, brought back in the choppy wake of Bobby Valentine’s zany and disastrous one-year tour as Boston manager. Previously the Sox pitching coach for four years (2007-10) under manager Terry Francona, Farrell left here to become the Blue Jays skipper in 2011. Out was his only way up, as no one at the time thinking that Francona, with a pair of World Series championships on his Boston résumé, was going anywhere but directly to the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Abruptly discharged after the club’s spectacular September failings of 2011, and now the Cleveland Indians manager, Francona had played a lead role in coaxing Farrell to take the pitching coach job here in 2007. Farrell by that time had logged a handful of years in the Cleveland front office as director of the Indians farm system, seemingly on course one day to be a general manager.
“He is such an intelligent guy, and he is so well-rounded, that whatever path he took he was probably going to be whatever he wanted,’’ Francona said. “We were just fortunate enough for him to be the pitching coach in Boston, or he probably would be a general manager right now.’’
One of Farrell’s teammates during their playing days in Cleveland, where Farrell, a righthander, went an impressive 14-10 in his second season (1988), Francona recalled driving from Fort Myers, Fla., to Winter Haven at 3 o’clock one spring morning to convince his old pal to join his staff.
“We talked for hours because that is such an important choice,’’ said Francona. “And [even] without experience, I thought he would be really good — and we were right.
“We knew we wouldn’t have him long because we knew when you get guys like that, they are going to be managers. But having them for however long is better than not having them.’’
Farrell grew up in Monmouth Beach on the Jersey Shore, and though drafted out of high school by Oakland, he opted to attend Oklahoma State. It was a smart call, the Cowboys making it to four straight College World Series during his time pitching in Stillwater. The towering righthander was drafted again in 1984, for the second time in as many years, by the Indians, and finally turned pro with the Cleveland organization, ultimately making his major league debut in 1987 after three-plus seasons in the minors.
A career 36-46 with a 4.56 ERA, Farrell battled through severe arm woes, including a pair of elbow surgeries, to keep his playing career alive, and made a comeback with the Angels in 1993 after sitting out two seasons. He went 3-12 in 17 starts upon his return, hung on for another three years, then finally called it quits in ’96 after making a pair of starts with the Tigers.
Within weeks of hanging up his glove at age 34, Farrell was back at Oklahoma State, completing a degree in business management. He also caught on as OSU’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, remaining in that role for five years before returning to the Indians to start his new career track in the front office.
“I’ve always found myself in the position where I’ve been different from the group,’’ Farrell told the Globe soon after he left Boston to manage the Blue Jays. “I was a person in a front office that played in the big leagues and then I was a pitching coach that worked in a front office. I guess there’s a uniqueness in the whole thing.’’
Consistent within all of Farrell’s roles, said Ben Cherington, is what the Red Sox general manager depicts as his “incredible thirst for knowledge.’’ The lead voice in bringing Farrell back as manager, Cherington witnessed from afar Farrell’s drive and persistent desire to get better when they were farm directors with opposing clubs, and then up close during Farrell’s four years on Francona’s staff.Continued...