MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Farrell is beating cancer; he can handle critics

Farrell is beating cancer; he can handle critics

BALTIMORE -- The job of managing the Red Sox is a beast of its own. No matter how well that man has done, it's very much a "what are you doing for me now?" position. John Farrell certainly has been hearing all the moaning and groaning this season.

For the naysayers in Red Sox Nation and the local media, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had this to say Tuesday night before his club took on the Orioles at Camden Yards:

"He's done a great job. We're in a pennant race. I didn't know there was a problem."

In other words, leave Farrell alone. He needs support, not derision.

Farrell led the Red Sox to victory over the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, and last offseason, he survived a tough bout with cancer of the blood system called Burkitt lymphoma. It's a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that starts in the B-cells and attacks the immune system.

Farrell, now 54, underwent six months of chemotherapy this past offseason in a period of just seven weeks. To accomplish that, the debilitating treatment was administered three times a week for 12 hours a session. He endured it so he could be healthy enough to manage the Red Sox this season.

As any cancer survivor knows, chemo is enough poison to eradicate the cancerous cells from the body but not enough to kill the patient. And last week, Farrell received full confirmation that the path to recovery has so far been successful. His latest blood tests came back negative.

"Nice and clean," said Farrell, who goes in for his next tests in November.

How did Farrell get through it?

"I don't know," he said. "All I know is that I'm better for it."

Farrell is a good baseball man committed to return to the helm in Boston. Now everyone should give him the benefit of the doubt.

The Red Sox are in the thick of it again in the American League East with 44 games to go after back-to-back last-place finishes. Farrell has had to shuffle the starting rotation and overcome numerous injuries. David Price at the front end of the pitching staff and Craig Kimbrel at the rear haven't nearly been at their best.

In just about every game, there are moves to question and complaints to lodge. But that's really not the measure of this man. Farrell is a person of incredible character.

"We're always trying to make an assessment of where we are," Farrell said. "The best way I can say it is that there's a real reason why they pop champagne when this is over. Because it isn't easy, and we're in the thick of it. And that's what we want to sign up for every year -- be in the hunt, be in the race. Hopefully [at the end] we'll be dumping champagne."

But Red Sox fans are demanding. They were demanding of Terry Francona after he managed the Red Sox to World Series sweeps in 2004 and '07, the first championship flags to fly over Fenway Park since 1918. Bobby Valentine was basically run out of town after a last-place finish in 2012.

Farrell understands all this.

"You know what that means? That we have an incredibly passionate and knowledgeable fan base," Farrell said. "In some ways, it is unique. It says that people care. And I don't know why you wouldn't want to be in a place where people care. It attracts you. It certainly allows for second guessing and review with hindsight. But that comes with it, comes with the territory."

If cancer taught Farrell anything, it's that he views life now through a more positive prism. Winning and losing is the way a manager is measured, but it certainly is ephemeral.

Life is not. Thus, Farrell blocks out the white noise that is often buzzing around him.

"I think there's a better balance of life after some things you go through," he said.

When asked if he listens to the radio, Farrell said, "I like country music."

Sports talk radio? "No," he responded.

And how does Farrell deal with all the criticism?

"You find like every player you're ingrained with a routine," said Farrell, a former pitcher, who was one of the early Tommy John surgery casualties. "And you stick to your own personal routine. There are things around you that are going to change and can fluctuate with extremes.

"But I think it's important to maintain daily consistency. That's what the players see. As long as I can be consistent with them and they know what they're going to get daily, that's important."

Last Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of Farrell's diagnosis. He was asked whether the ordeal had made him a better manager.

"Well, I think there'd be a lot of people who'd argue that one," he deadpanned.

But really…

"I'd like to think I'm a better person even though things always don't work out the way you might anticipate. There's a different perspective on things, I will tell you that. I think that's very clear. There's an ability to have conversations with players with a different perspective than this time a year ago."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.