Farrell reflects on Year One

John Farrell’s first season as manager came to an end on Wednesday and for the most part the club played up to expectations this year. At the start of Spring Training this looked like a club that would finish around the .500 mark and seemed destined for a fourth-place finish in the American League East.

I think only the most die hard of fans thought this team had a realistic shot of making the post-season but even without meaningful games in September it was enjoyable to watch this young club improve as the season progressed. Despite the record there were lot of surprises on this team: The debut of Brett Lawrie, the underwhelming performance by the starting staff, the late-inning collapses and of course more moves by general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

Here’s what Farrell had to say about his first year in Toronto and what, if any, changes he would made if he could have done it all over again:

John Farrell:

Any surprises in your first year?

“The one thing I was never exposed to was the responsibility of 25 players. In the past it’s been 40 percent of a roster with the pitching staff, but the depth of the 25 guys that you’ve got to be in tune with, to be put them in the best position for success, managing the clubhouse, being in tune with what’s going on with an individual player whether it’s mentally, physically or fundamentally, there’s a lot of time spent, a lot of maintenance in those areas to be abreast of each guy in the clubhouse.”

Were you challenged by any position players?

Not one on one, no. Or really even in game situations where maybe a decision based on my background might have run counter to what their thoughts were. I feel like there has been an honest respect on both sides, a mutual respect with their team and just the way our staff and myself communicate with them. I think there was a very clear understanding of what the expectations were for our group, for what each individual was. Sometimes that might have been a conversation and a message delivered that they might not have necessarily liked but it was an honest one.

Adjustments as the season progressed?

“We set out in Spring Training to create a different culture or a different approach to the game. One that was certainly more aggressive. We knew that would provide, or present, more opportunities to run or create more runs in certain situations. But the flip side of that is we knew we were going to take more risks and because of that there might be some outs that we do run into. It’s hard to say if we were to go back at the start of the year, with the roster that we had, and just say okay we’re going to play station to station baseball, I tend to believe right now we wouldn’t have scored as many runs.”

Looking back would you have changed anything?

“To get better at, would be the use of the bullpen. Recognizing that every year a given team is put together, there are going to be some uncertainties there. We had a number of options late in the game and because of those options there might not have been the defined roles that when you’ve got one guy, one closer, one eighth inning guy, that might be more readily available. In reflecting, in retrospect, handling the bullpen that’s certainly an area that can be improved upon and yet I feel like that can happen with continued consistency and continuity from the entire group.”

“In going back I would have liked to have had more defined roles for the group that was down there. That might have been because of my personal usage or matching guys up and yet when a given pitcher might not have performed well we went to the next option. It might have created a little bit of inconsistency in their mindset and to be able to think along with the game knowing that, okay, my time of the game is coming up and I can mentally prepare. So that chance that took place, whether it was Frankie as a closer, Rauch as a closer, Dotel as another available guy. In hindsight I wish I had done a better job with that group.

“If that would have lent to more consistency on the whole season, as I look back, I could have done a better job in that area.”

Message to Alex Anthopoulos about improvements to the club in the offseason?

“Those have been ongoing conversations since probably mid June. And that’s one of the benefits of the communication that we have with Alex and his staff. Whatever is said on (team meeting) Friday won’t come as a surprise. It will be a continuation of all the conversations that have taken place. I really feel like when you look at any team that is contending or going into the post season their cornerstone in the rotation. Improvements in that area whether they’re internal or external would be item number one.”

How close is this team to contending?

“I think what will play directly into that is the additions or the changes that might take place. If we’re able to upgrade in that or if we feel the upgrading are greater internally. We have every belief and certainly I do that next year is a step in that direction and that is to contend.”

What does the final record say?

“We’re a .500 team. That’s not satisfying, that’s just I think where we are right now. We’ve gone through a lot of change and at the same time because we’ve played in many stretches very well on the road this team doesn’t shy away from challenges or environments that might be hostile for lack of a better term or not being in the comfort of being at home. I think that goes hand in hand with the  resiliency and the overall characteristics and personality of the team. “

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