MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Farrell aiming high in inspiring journey

From battling cancer to leading Red Sox to AL East title, manager says there's still work to do

Farrell aiming high in inspiring journey

NEW YORK -- The long journey for Red Sox manager John Farrell from cancer recovery to another World Series championship is only partially complete, he said on Wednesday night as his club locked up the American League East title.

Boston knew midway through the bottom of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium that the Blue Jays had lost to the Orioles. And even though the Yankees came back from a three-run deficit to win, 5-3, on the strength of a Mark Teixeira grand slam, the Red Sox had already cemented their spot in an AL Division Series.

Thus, the Yanks were saved the spectacle of the Red Sox celebrating on their home turf, but Boston's ritual clubhouse celebration was as raucous as ever.

Sox owners celebrate clinching

Postseason schedule | Gear

"Honestly, the journey is incomplete. We continue on," Farrell said. "I couldn't be prouder. We're AL East champions, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us.

"Personally, this is something. And I don't look at myself in this situation. This is about our players. Yes, some personal challenges have been met. Perseverance, I don't know, whatever you want to call it."

Dusty Baker once said it best after his recovery from prostate cancer. The ordeal gave the current Nationals manager a whole new perspective on life.

"I was really grateful for a lot of things," he recalled. "I started seeing birds again, listening to them, seeing stars again, not being totally encompassed with work all the time."

And so it is the same now for Farrell.

The worst-to-first story in David Ortiz's final season has been well chronicled. But Farrell's journey from a tough bout with cancer of the blood system called Burkitt lymphoma to a chance of winning his second World Series as Boston's manager is even more heartwarming.

"Obviously, it's great how he's come along and that he's back in the dugout," said Joe Girardi, Farrell's Yankees counterpart. "What he went through must have been very difficult for him and his family. It's a very scary time, because it's unpredictable what's going to happen. He's done a very good job with their club."

Farrell led the Red Sox to victory over the Cardinals in six games in the 2013 World Series, his first year on the job. They then notched two consecutive last-place finishes. Last offseason, Farrell survived 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 in a period of just eight 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.

Asked afterward what kind of inspiration the manager has been to his team, Mookie Betts, a top AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate, couldn't have put it any better.

"He's a fighter, just like the rest of us," Betts said. "He kind of instilled that in us. Fight to the end, and that's just what we're doing."

The joy of winning is not tempered by the ordeal, only enhanced. Like Baker, life for Farrell now is much sweeter.

"It puts you into a position to reflect on things differently," Farrell said. "You take daily moments or daily time blocks to get your day in order, to reflect on the things you're thankful for. I go through that every day."

Farrell is a good baseball man committed to return to the helm in Boston. Baker was the same in San Francisco when he was diagnosed with cancer prior to the 2002 season.

Like Farrell, Baker opted for an aggressive form of treatment so he could protect his family and get back on the job.

Baker had the choice between a radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy. Based on a discussion with his wife, Melissa, he chose the procedure.

"I only had about two months before I had to go to Spring Training," Baker recalled recently. "And my wife tells me, 'Honey, we have to be aggressive with this, because I can't lose you, you know, I just had our child and I just lost my mother.' It was a pretty traumatic time."

Similarly to Farrell, Baker's Giants that year enjoyed enormous success, winning the National League's then-single Wild Card berth and the pennant before losing to the Angels in a thrilling seven-game World Series.

Baker, who also overcame a mild stroke a few years ago when he was managing the Reds, is also on his way to the playoffs this season with a Nationals team that won the NL East.

Barely a year after Farrell was initially diagnosed, he knows he still has the entire month of October ahead of him. A former Major League pitcher whose career ended prematurely because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Farrell would love nothing more than to complete his latest comeback and end Big Papi's career with a World Series victory.

At this time last year, Farrell was facing an offseason of uncertainty. Now, he's healthy and back in the fray.

"It's just like I told them after the game, [Thursday] we're back out here to continue our path," Farrell said. "We have three more stops along the way to meet our goal. And that's exactly where my mindset is, too."

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.