ESPN Boston reported today that the Red Sox are in serious negotiations to acquire former pitching coach John Farrell from the Blue Jays. Farrell is the Blue Jays' manager, and the Red Sox, well, they're looking for one.
How are the Red Sox going to get Farrell from the Jays? Naturally, they'll trade for him:
The source guessed it would take a player or players of "substantial value" for the Jays to allow Farrell to go to a division rival, though the source did not have direct knowledge of the negotiations, which are taking place on multiple levels of each organization.
The Red Sox attempted to acquire Farrell a year ago, but they weren't willing to bow to Toronto's asking price of what was rumored to be pitchers Clay Buchholz and/or Daniel Bard.
OK, the usual caveats apply here—perhaps the Red Sox are just talking with Toronto for leverage against poor Brad Ausmus, whom they reportedly want to hire—but, cripes, it looks like the Red Sox might actually surrender something of value here. And that's a bad idea.
Do you remember 2002? You'll be forgiven if you don't. It was a long time ago. We were still talking on flip phones then. Professional athletes still used performance-enhancing drugs. And the baseball team based in Tampa Bay, then called the Devil Rays, made the strange decision to trade an actual player—outfielder Randy Winn, who had just concluded an All-Star season in which he hit .298/.360/.461—for a manager. The manager was, in this case, Seattle's Lou Piniella, who had, one year prior, overseen the greatest regular season in American League history. The 2002 Mariners, though, were a pedestrian-by-comparison (but also third-place) 93-69, and Piniella agreed to head to Tampa.
Once in Seattle, Randy Winn continued doing Randy Winn things—per Baseball Reference's WAR calculations, he gave the Mariners 3.1 wins in 2003 and 4.0 in 2004. He helped them affordably, too, earning a total of $6.8 million in those two seasons. Midway through 2005, Seattle flipped Winn to San Francisco for en-route-to-burnout pitching prospect Jesse Foppert and no-hit catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who, improbably, upgraded Seattle's offense behind the plate. (The Mariners had been using a Pat Borders/Miguel Olivo tag team. Yes. Pat Borders. In 2005.) This is good service to a team.
Things did not go as well for Lou Piniella in Tampa. The 2003 Rays, in his first year on the job, went 63-99. (This was better than the prior year, in which they went 55-106 under feckless Hal McRae.) Piniella bleached his hair in June as a gift to his team for winning three games in a row. The Devil Rays proceeded to lose six of their next eight. In 2004, Piniella led the team straight through the 69-win barrier: Tampa won 70 for the first time in its history. The Devil Rays had an improbably good bullpen that year and a league-average offense. But then in 2005 the bullpen regressed and the Devil Rays became the Devil Rays again. They went 67-95, and Piniella resorted to wacky measures, including threats to open games with relievers. (As far as I can tell, he never followed through.) He also (deservedly) bashed the team's owners. By 2006, he was gone, and the Devil Rays were losers again. Joe Maddon owned the cellar for two years before the team's surprising 2008 run.
In baseball, only the rare manager has a great deal of influence. Almost every team wins and loses on the basis of its talent rather than its mojo. The lesson the Red Sox appear to have taken from 2012 is that they need a manager with a proven Boston mojo. This is the wrong lesson to take away. The right lesson? Never, ever, hire Bobby Valentine.