When it comes to the Boston Red Sox, what a difference a year makes.
Twelve months ago, Bobby Valentine was managing a dysfunctional a group of 24 men, one of the most dysfunctional we've seen in these parts. Now, manager John Farrell has this group humming like the finely-tuned engine of a Lamborghini.
What I find interesting in watching John Farrell manage the Red Sox is how new school he is. It stands out, especially in comparison to John Gibbons, the man who replaced Farrell in Toronto.
Both managers were on display at Fenway Park this weekend, where the Red Sox threw a huge monkey wrench into Toronto's comeback plans by winning the first two games of the four-game series.
Gibbons is as old school as you get. He met with the press in his cramped Fenway Park office, wearing a T-shirt and the rest of his uniform. Never far from Gibbons' right hand, is the soda cup that he uses to spit into. Gibbons has an ever-present wad of chewing tobacco that he works on from the start.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have known Gibbons for nearly 25 years. He came up in baseball as a player and then as a coach and roving instructor with the New York Mets. He made regular visits to Wahconah Park when the Pittsfield Mets played there.
As befits the home-team manager, Farrell does his pregame talk with the press from the media interview room at Fenway Park. I don't know if Farrell partakes as Gibbons does, but there's no sign of it when he comes into the room. Terry Francona, whose tobacco habit was well-documented, was tobacco-free during his media sessions too.
It's very much like a presidential press conference as Farrell comes in from a door that leads to his clubhouse.
Asked about pitcher Clay Buchholz's pitching arm, Farrell takes care to explain what he knows -- and what he doesn't know.
"He's in a couple of days shutdown period. We're hopeful that we'll initiate a throwing program on the weekend," Farrell said. "He under went the MRI, which didn't show any structural issues. He has some inflamation in the bursa sac area. Structurally, everything is good."
This is what Farrell knows. A reporter asked him to talk about the Blue Jays' hot streak.
"I can't speak to what the thought is in their clubhouse," Farrell said. "We'll be challenged this weekend."
That's honest without being expansive.
Gibbons has the Toronto reporters sitting on the couch in his office, and he encourages more of a give-and-take with reporters, like this one.
A reporter asked about Toronto's defense and what might happen when Brett Lawrie returns.
"Come on out and say it," Gibbons said to the reporter, wondering through the laughter if the defense would improve.
"I don't know man, he's not here yet," Gibbons said.
Farrell and the Toronto media didn't get along well. I'm not sure that Gibbons and Boston would be a match.
But it's a nice contrast.