BOSTON -- If John Farrell could have left for the Red Sox a year ago, he would have. He made that clear for the first time on Tuesday, after putting a Red Sox hat back on.
What Farrell insists -- and what's in contention in Toronto -- is that in the time after the Blue Jays told Farrell he couldn't leave last winter, his focus was on only the job he had signed up for: managing the Blue Jays.
"The reaction to the anger or the feelings that might emanate [in Toronto] from this happening, I appreciate that," Farrell said in his introductory press conference at Fenway Park. "That means there's passion and there's caring from the fan base. I would take exception to the thought that there was no intent to fulfill a contract. This situation, coming to Boston, came about a year ago, after having spent one year in Toronto."
The only thing that stood in the way of that move last year was Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and general manager Alex Anthopolous.
"The request was denied," Farrell continued. "In my conversations with Paul and Alex, I expressed to them at that time that, 'Yes, [Boston] is a place where I cut my teeth as a Major League coach. We experienced a lot of success, I have a lot of strong relationships that still exist.' I was very candid and honest with them.
"When it came up this year, on the heels of two very extensive days of conversations in a year-end review, I expressed the same interest again. Fortunately, all parties were able to work out this trade."
Where was his heart, then, last season? Farrell said it was with Toronto.
The Blue Jays came to Fenway Park for a mid-September series, and Farrell was bombarded with speculative questions. He brushed them all off. On Tuesday, he said the only times he was interested in the Red Sox job were when Boston called Toronto a year ago, and when Boston was on the brink of doing so again this year.
In essence, a switch was flipped: When the Red Sox gig was on the table, he wanted to be in Boston. Outside of the two offseason occasions in which that possibility arose, he wanted to be where he was.
Farrell said in the first week of September, with a losing season still underway, that he was "unequivocally" committed to Toronto.
"I made that statement and I stand by it," Farrell said. "In our year-end conversations when I spoke with Alex, towards the end of those two days of discussions, he asked, 'If Boston calls,' -- because it had been speculated so much -- 'where do you stand on it?' I said at the time in that call that I would be interested in speaking to them. 'If you approve it, I would be glad to speak to them.'
"That's how it evolved. Then, for 10 days following that, I was iced out, did not have any communication. Obviously that's when these talks were going on to come to Boston."
Even if Farrell was able to keep the focus on his job in Toronto in between Boston's overtures, his relationship with Blue Jays management was bruised, if not more severely damaged by the Red Sox's first inquiry. Farrell said he was able to mend matters.
"Going back to a year ago, there were a couple different conversations with Paul, and Paul and Alex," Farrell said. "From my standpoint, I don't think it affected how we did business one bit this year. There were a couple opportunities, even last offseason, being back in Toronto, where I walked into Paul's office, and I said, 'Hey, are we good?'
"I honestly asked him that, straightforward: 'Are we good?' And he looked at me and he said, 'What are you talking about?' I said 'Are we good? The experience we went through with the Red Sox situation earlier.' And I told him, emphatically, I didn't come to the Blue Jays because of a [non-lateral movement] policy, because of a policy that was amended because of [Boston's] interest a year ago. I came there to win a World Series, to contribute to an organization. And we went about our business as we would have if that opportunity didn't present itself, or the request didn't come about."
Anthopolous was unhappy in an earlier conference call with reporters, alleging leaks from Boston forced their hand in the deal. Talk of tampering has arose, too.
On Tuesday, Boston general manager Ben Cherington denied all impropriety.
"First of all, there was never any tampering, this year or last year," Cherington said. "That just didn't happen. There was understandable speculation because of the history, not just with John as our pitching coach, but the relationships with him here. So understand where the speculation came from and appreciate Toronto's concern.
"If I was in Paul or Alex's shoes, it's not something that I would want to have to go through. But you know, I can say definitively -- wherever that speculation was coming from, it wasn't coming from me. The only conversations I had about the situation were directly to Paul and Alex, until Saturday, when I got a chance to talk to John."
If Farrell's relationship with his front office in Toronto had deteriorated, he at least had some empathy from his GM. Beeston's relationship with his Red Sox counterpart, Larry Lucchino, also helped matters along.
"Alex was very candid," Farrell said. "He's a guy from Montreal and if the Expos were still in play and that opportunity opened up, it would be similar."
Said Lucchino: "You've got to understand that Beeston and I are very good friends. We can spend plenty of time talking about the War of 1812 or the American presidential campaigns and other gossip in baseball. We do that a lot. This time, it was certainly primarily focused on the business at hand. Paul was very strong and assertive about the interest in his team."
The Sox said they vetted the complaints about Farrell that arose at the end of the season from the likes of Omar Vizquel. Farrell -- just as he stood by his level of commitment -- stood by the job he did handling on-field mistakes, and the Yunel Escobar incident.
"There are going to be situations that arise with any club, and how you deal with them, establishing that trusting environment," Farrell said. "If that trust is breached, that's where I chose to deal with players in one-on-one situations, in my office, and then teaching settings came out of that, as far as the decision-making on the basepaths.
"In terms of other situations and Escobar's eye-black situation, there's a minimum amount of professionalism expected. He paid the price in terms of discipline on that. The other comments, they might not have been fully informed as a result of the way some of the discipline is handled. People are going to have their opinions, but by no means should that suggest the clubhouse is a free-for-all."