EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 23, 2013

Tampa's Scott gives the credit to 'Honest John' Farrell

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — We’ve all heard him yakking. Tampa Bay Rays DH Luke Scott has voiced his hatred for pretty much everything about the Boston Red Sox from their fans to Fenway Park.

But he has a respect for the 2013 Red Sox club, which is led by his former coach, John Farrell.

Farrell, Boston’s first-year manager, was the pitching coach at Oklahoma State University when Scott played baseball there. Farrell also was director of player development for the Cleveland Indians organization when Scott played minor league ball for the Tribe.

“We (at Oklahoma State) called him ‘Honest John’ because he’d always give you a straight-up answer,” Scott said.

Honest John’s Red Sox squad and Scott’s Rays club met here at Fenway Park last night in the first game of a four-game series with first-place in the AL East on the line this week. The Rays won 3-0 to pull within a half game of Boston for first in the division.

The reason Scott respects the Red Sox is because of their grittiness under Farrell and bench coach Torey Lovullo. He said it is comparable to the Rays’ personality under Joe Maddon and the Tampa coaching staff.

Scott also was managed in Single-A by Lovullo.

“I think we’re two good teams that are very much alike,” Scott said about the Rays and Red Sox. “We do a lot of things very similar. We do a lot of things well. Both lineups are balanced. I have a lot of history with the management over there. John Farrell and I go way back.

“Just the personal experience I’ve had with Torey and with John Farrell, it doesn’t surprise me about the atmosphere that they’ve created over there in that clubhouse. Not to mention they have the right players as well. They brought in the right players.”

Scott has some good stories from his days with Farrell — one of those being the time when OSU played at Texas A&M and the two baseball programs had a bench-clearing brawl.

The story behind the brawl is quite lengthy. To sum it up, the way Scott recalled it, the Texas A&M fans heckled his OSU team and also egged and shoe-polished the Cowboys’ bus during a three-game series there.

“One guy at the top deck of the stadium had a snickers bar tied to a fishing pole and he threw it down to first base,” Scott said. “We had a heavyset kid that played first base ... and they were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to try to catch (him).”

All that didn’t sit well with then-OSU slugger Jose Virgil, who glared into Texas A&M’s dugout and up at their fans during a home run trot coming around third. Virgil then spit and stomped on home plate. When an A&M reliever threw behind Virgil during his next at-bat, chaos ensued.

Farrell was holding back OSU and A&M players left and right, trying to break things up, Scott said.

“He was holding back Jose Virgil ... and then turned him loose and he went in the pile and just started throwing bodies,” Scott said. “It was pretty funny.

“Just seeing Honest John taking people ... (and) grabbing them by the back of their neck and just lifting them — because John’s big,” Scott said. “You ever shake his hand? His hands are (strong).”

Honest John is a no-nonsense manager. You wouldn’t want to mess with him. And he is always straight with his answers, as Scott noted. But at the same time, although he’s not Maddon’s clone at all, Farrell knows the importance of his team having fun like Maddon does. Farrell’s leadership is a big reason the Red Sox are fighting the Rays for first place this week.

The Rays were supposed to be fighting for first right now. The Red Sox, who won just 69 games last year, weren’t.

And although both teams do have their similarities as Scott pointed out, the Rays have better pitching and pitching usually wins out.

But who knows? The Red Sox have been the most resilient team in baseball all season and they have big, strong Honest John on their side.

Three things are certain: First, this Rays and Red Sox rivalry is growing by the year, even by the game, and it trumps Red Sox/Yankees. Second, when you compare last year to this year and Farrell to Bobby Valentine, you learn how important a manager can be in baseball.

Third, Scott certainly has a lot of respect for his former coach and farm director.

“He’s a very, very smart man, very wise and just knows a lot about the game,” Scott said about Farrell. “I don’t think there’s anything in this game that he can’t do. He’s successful as a manager. He was successful as a pitching coach. He’d be successful as a general manager.”