In the end, it came down to relationships. Ben Cherington and the Red Sox owners know Brad Ausmus someday soon will be running a team as manager or general manager, and as one of those in on the interview said, "He clearly is going to be a star."
But when Mike Matheny was hired by the Cardinals, what he had was a relationship with what is one of the best developmental organizations in the game, as well as a mutual deep respect from and for the most important player on the team, Chris Carpenter, that goes back to catching him in Toronto and St. Louis. Robin Ventura had that same relationship with the White Sox.
That is what John Farrell has with the Red Sox. His relationships with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard (with whose family Farrell lived when he retired as an active pitcher), Rich Hill and others run deep. Cherington views the Cardinals as the model organization of the last decade, and he wants the Red Sox to be a developmental model of its own, not a rich haven for free agents and mercenaries.
Cherington, Mike Hazen, Ben Crockett and Allard Baird are all development people; in fact, Hazen was the assistant farm director under Farrell in Cleveland. Cherington, Hazen and Farrell all are products of the Mark Shapiro School of Organizational Values, where the general manager and manager are what Shapiro calls "partners" and interact with the rest of the baseball operations folks the way they never could with Bobby Valentine, partly because of the way he was hired.
Shapiro has an extraordinary impact on everyone he works with. One of his thoughts is "our relationships define us," and where Bobby Valentine never had time or the ability to build such relationships with anyone in the Boston organization, Farrell returns a man whom players, baseball operations, scouting and Minor League people know, respect and, perhaps most important, trust.
"There has never been a better people person than John," said Toronto third-base coach Brian Butterfield, one of Farrell's coaches expected to come with him to Boston.
The relationship with Alex Anthopoulos had frayed. Farrell and some of the coaches wanted Anthopoulos to trade Yunel Escobar and move Omar Vizquel, while they missed Jose Bautista's internal leadership. Anthopolous will now move on with his ambitious baseball operations staff. Sandy Alomar is the favorite to replace Farrell, although there have been rumblings about the possibility of Pat Hentgen being interviewed for the job, a possibility endorsed by three big-time baseball people: Carpenter, Matheny and Roy Halladay.
Butterfield and first-base coach Torey Lovullo are expected to go to Boston with Farrell. With Dave Magadan gone, the Red Sox are expected to try to bring Chili Davis back as hitting coach; Davis went to Oakland from Pawtucket. If Alomar gets the Toronto job, Alex Cora may have the opportunity to be on either staff in Boston or Toronto.
The deal with the Dodgers in August cleared $260 million in payroll and gave Boston two pitchers in Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster expected to be in the 2013 mix, but also mandated moving forward from within. They know Lester, Buchholz, John Lackey and Felix Doubront will have first call in the rotation, but they need to find out where De La Rosa, Webster, Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo sit in the next line of starter arms, and whether any of them might be able to be a version of what the Cardinals have in Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller.
Farrell's first call is restoring Lester, Buchholz and Lackey and getting them on the same page as their catchers, which is where Cherington's special assistant Jason Varitek will play a big part. Lester lost some of his joy the last couple of years, but it is still there.
They have to sort out how Junichi Tazawa, Mark Melancon, Andrew Bailey and Bard fit in the bullpen, as well as the left-handed roles for Hill, Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales. They also need to discern which power arms out of the system are closest to Major League roles among Josh Fields, Alex Wilson, Michael Olmsted, Chris Carpenter and Clay Mortensen.
Then they must start reconstructing a lineup that lost its grind. Having Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz healthy is extremely important. They need to find a first baseman and one or two more outfielders, and decide if they can go with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway or get another catcher.
There was little that was not dreadful about the 2012 Red Sox season. For one reason or another, Valentine could never mesh with coaches, players or the baseball operations folks, and as injuries and the Dodgers deal tattered what Valentine had to put on the lineup card, relationships on every level became fractured. One of a manager's most important jobs is to unite, and by August the Red Sox were in a divisive state.
Farrell was a brilliant manager of the Indians developmental system, and there are few jobs that better prepare someone for almost any job from manager to general manager than farm director. His son Shane scouted the Cape Cod League this summer, and when he went to find a job, there was a line of teams that wanted to hire him before he went to work with the Cubs.
"He is a Farrell," Angels GM Jerry DiPoto said. "Not only are his [scouting] reports exceptional, but he has his father's people skills. He's going to be one of those people who will build relationships with natural ease, and that is a big part of rising in our business."
Cherington and the Boston ownership want to redefine who the Red Sox are. If, indeed, our relationships define us, they have hired a manager who can accomplish that redefinition.