October 31, 2012 - Cape Cod League (Cape Cod)
For the second time in 11 months, the Boston Red Sox selected a former Cape League player to manage their major league ball club.
First it was the mercurial Bobby Valentine, who as a 17-year-old phenom with the Yarmouth Indians led the CCBL in runs scored in 1967 and managed the Red Sox in 2011 to a disastrous 69-93 record and last-place in the AL East.
Earlier this week, GM Ben Cherington introduced former CCBL hurler John Farrell (Hyannis '82) as the 46th Boston skipper, who served in the same capacity with Toronto the past two seasons and was pitching coach for Boston in 2007-10, including the World Series title campaign in '07.
Farrell, whose son Luke posted a 4-4 record with the Wareham Gatemen in 2011, has a commanding presence and seems to be just what the doctor ordered to put the Olde Town Team back together.
The 50-year-old Farrell has served in a myriad of positions in baseball, including farm director of the Cleveland Indians for five years, pitching coach of the Red Sox and the past two seasons as field manager of the Blue Jays.
A native of Monmouth Beach, N.J., Farrell was 36-46 with a 4.56 ERA in 116 major league games in an eight-year career with the Indians from 1987-96. He won a career-high 14 games in 1988 and a 3.63 ERA in "89, when he made 31 starts. Injuries caused him to miss all of 1991-92.
Cleveland selected him in the second round of the 1984 Draft out of Oklahoma State. Farrell played four seasons for the Cowboys (1981-84), where he compiled an 11-2 record and 3.01 ERA his senior year and was named All Big-Eight.
During the summer of 1982, the 6'4", 230-pound Farrell pitched for a Hyannis squad managed by Jeff Magner against the likes of future big leaguers Terry Steinbach, Scott Bankhead and Jeff Innes.
"I remember John Farrell as a nice young man popular with his coaches, teammates and volunteers," said Tim Ellstrom, longtime PA announcer for Hyannis. "He struggled during the regular season, but came up big in the playoffs."
One of Farrell's hires is third base coach Brian Butterfield, who served the same position in Toronto with the new Red Sox skipper. Like Farrell, Butterfield also played in the Cape League, but as a middle infielder with the Wareham Gatemen in 1976 following his freshman year at U. Maine-Orono.
Butterfield, who batted .217 with the Gatemen during the bi-centennial year, has 34 years of experience in pro baseball and also coached with CCBL Hall of Famer Buck Showalter with the Yankees in 1994-95 and Diamondbacks from 1998-2000. Buck also played in the Cape League during the summer of 1976 with the Hyannis Mets.
Brian's father is the late Jack Butterfield, former UMaine baseball coach and Yankees farm director and director of player personnel who died tragically in a car accident in 1979. His uncle Jim Butterfield was a successful football coach at Ithaca College, winning two national titles with the Bombers.
Two key pitchers for Boston in 2013 are former North Carolina teammates Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard, who both performed on the Cape in 2005 with Chatham and Wareham respectively.
The 6'7" Miller was 8-0 over two seasons with the A's, including 6-0 in 2005 when he was named the Cape League's outstanding pro prospect and co-pitcher of the year.
The lanky southpaw was productive out of the bullpen last season and will be counted on by Farrell in middle and situational relief. He will be inducted into the CCBL Hall of Fame on Nov. 10 in a ceremony at the Chatham Bars Inn.
One of the most effective set-up men in baseball the two previous years, the flame-throwing Bard, clocked at 99 MPH in the CCBL All-Star Game in Hyannis in '05, was groomed to be a starter last spring and it turned into a nightmare.
He lost his blazing fastball, as well as his control and was banished to Pawtucket two months into the season. He will need a turnaround offseason to make the 25-man roster next spring.
The Red Sox starting staff compiled the worst ERA (5.27) in the major leagues last season and Farrell and his yet-to-be named pitching coach will have a monumental task of turning things around for Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey, et al
Farrell and Valentine were two of eight former CCBL players who managed in the big leagues last season, joining AL Manager of the Year candidate Buck Showalter (Hyannis '76) of the Baltimore Orioles, Joe Giardi (Cotuit '84) of the AL East champion New York Yankees, Eric Wedge (Y-D '88) of the Seattle Mariners, Jim Tracy (Chatham '76) of the Colorado Rockies and rookie skippers Robin Ventura (Hyannis '87) of the Chicago White Sox and Mike Mathaney (Cotuit '89) of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Valentine, Showalter, Wedge and Ventura are all members of the CCBL Hall of Fame. They followed in the footsteps of former CCBL players turned big league managers such as Harold "Pie" Traynor (Falmouth 1919) and Robert "Red" Rolfe (Orleans 1930), who both played shortstop on the Cape but turned into two of the best third basemen in major league history.
After a Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh hitting .320, Traynor was player-manager and broadcaster for the Pirates, while Rolfe was a key member of the late 1930's Bronx Bombers who won four straight titles and later became farm director and manager of the Tigers before coaching at Dartmouth.