|Name:||John Edward Farrell||Position:||Starting Pitcher|
|Best Season (1989)||9||14||.391||3.63||31||31||7||2||208.0||196||84||14||71||132||1.28|
Long before he became nationally famous thanks to his stewardship of ESPN’s favorite team, John Farrell was drafted as a pitcher out of Oklahoma State in the second round in 1984. While other players in this round would go on to have illustrious careers, like Greg Maddux taken a pick before by Chicago and Tom Glavine and Al Leiter taken later on, Farrell was a pretty good pick for the Tribe considering their other choices in the early 1980’s.
Farrell was only 21 when drafted and quickly worked his way all the way up to AAA Maine in his first season. After two more years developing in AA, he would return to AAA in 1987 before getting the call to the show and making his debut on August 18th, earning the win in an extra inning game. He would enter the starting rotation and continue his success, throwing a complete game for a win in his second appearance and nine shut out innings in his third. Finishing out the year in the rotation, he would pitch at least six innings every start and finished the year with an impressive 3.39 ERA.
What made this particularly impressive was that outside of closer Doug Jones, the Indians pitching staff was a complete mess. Only Tom Candiotti surpassed 150 innings and their most used pitchers, Hall of Famer Phil Neikro and nowhere near Hall of Famer Ken Schrom, were absolutely awful with 5.92 and 6.52 ERAs respectfully. In fact, other than Jones and Farrell, not a single pitcher had an ERA below 4.00.
It should come as no surprise, seeing this, that Farrell was a part of the Indians rotation from day one in 1988 (or day three officially). Again he came out of the chute hot and won his first three decisions and was dependable, pitching into at least the sixth inning in his first 27 career starts. However, while he often threw more than 120 pitches per start, it was not due to a high number of strike outs. Farrell constantly had men on the bases, allowing more than one hit per inning and nearly a walk every two. Despite this, he still held a 4.24 ERA in 1988 and was the Indians third best starter at the end of the season behind Greg Swindell and Candiotti.
Similar to Farrell coming up for a partial season in 1987 and joining the rotation in 1988, Bud Black got his start in 1989 and joined the rotation full time in 1989. This marked the first time that an Indians rotation had four pitchers qualify for the ERA title and each hold an ERA below 3.75 since the incredible 1968 season when Sonny Siebert, Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and Stan Williams each pitched at least 190 innings and had an ERA below 3.00.
While this new group was nothing like that one, it was a positive for the Indians that they didn’t have question marks on their probable starters list for the majority of the season. Not only were these four, Swindell, Candiotti, Black and Farrell reliable, but they were good. Candiotti had the best season among them with a 3.10 ERA and 124 strike outs, but it was a career year for Farrell as well as he K’d 132 in 208 innings. By increasing his strike out rate while maintaining his home run, hit and walk rates, he’d become the pitcher the Indians had expected when he was drafted in the second round. With Black and Farrell especially, it looked like the Indians would have a great rotation for years to come and 1988 first round pick, Charles Nagy would be joining them in 1990.
If only. Rather than sign Black long term as they did with many players in the years to come, he was traded to Toronto in September of 1990. Farrell wouldn’t be so lucky. After starting the season as the #2 starter, he held a 4.33 ERA when he hit the DL in June with elbow problems. He missed all of July and August and while he pitched well in his final two appearances of the season, he would have off-season Tommy John surgery that would cost him all of 1991. Another Tommy John kept him out for 1992, although the Angels did sign him that season. After two ineffective seasons in Anaheim, he came back to Cleveland in the middle of 1994, pitching poorly in AAA before making one relief appearance in 1995. Prior to making a Major League appearance in 1996 he was traded to Detroit for Greg Granger and he retired from playing after six AAA and two Major League starts for the Tigers.
Even with that limited career, Farrell would be a borderline top 100 pitcher in Indians history, but that’s not the real reason he deserves recognition. After going back to Oklahoma State to coach from 1997 through 2001, Farrell became the Indians Director of Player Development, a job he kept from the end of 2001 through 2006. Here, he oversaw the transition as the Indians went from one of the best teams in franchise history to a blank slate. It was under Farrell that the group who eventually made it to game seven of the ALCS in 2007 got started.
His work didn’t go unnoticed and, prior to the 2007 season, Farrell rejoined his former teammate, Terry Francona, as the pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox. After winning the World Series against his former team that year, Farrell became one of the most highly coveted manager candidates and in 2010, the Blue Jays decided to bring him in in that capacity. After just two seasons in Toronto, Farrell would be chosen to be the next Boston manager and was traded to the Red Sox for Mike Aviles along with David Carpenter.
This was just the sixth trade for a manager in MLB history, but the third since 2002 and it worked perfectly as Farrell saw a turnaround of the Sox after the unfocused Bobby Valentine period and brought them back to the World Series in 2013 (when he finished 2nd in the manager of the Year voting to Francona). Farrell remains the manager of the Red Sox and, after battling leukemia in 2015, came back in 2016 to bring his team from two straight 5th place finishes to the top of the AL East yet again.
While his promising pitching career was decimated by two Tommy Johns gone wrong, Farrell seems to have found his true calling in management. His work in the Tribe’s minor league system was huge and still recognized today. His work with Boston, however, as both pitching coach and manager was really what made his name nationally.
It’s probably coincidence, but Farrell and his teammates have had some pretty impressive post playing career success. The 1988 Indians in particular featured future managers, Farrell, Francona, Black and Ron Washington as well as current Blue Jays hitting coach, Brook Jacoby.