Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/6/12

On the surface, the three-game series between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays that opens Friday night in Fenway Park appears to be a battle for last place in the American League East.

With the Red Sox, though, it's never so simple.

Fresh off a wretched 1-8 trip to the West Coast, the Red Sox are bound for their first losing season since 1997 and maybe their worst overall year since an 89-loss debacle in 1992. Worse, they're still being guided by manager-in-crisis Bobby Valentine, who admitted Wednesday that his first -- and possibly, his only -- season with the Red Sox has been "miserable."

Add to that mix the return of the Blue Jays, led by ex-Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, and the series will feature plenty of intrigue.

It has been widely speculated that the Red Sox wanted to hire Farrell after last season to replace Terry Francona. But Farrell, like Valentine, has another year remaining on his contract, and the Jays aren't likely to let him go to the Red Sox without demanding substantial compensation.

A few weeks ago, Farrell bristled at the notion that he would be courted by the Red Sox.

"My focus is clearly here with the Blue Jays. I'm under contract, obviously," Farrell said. "I can understand that there can be a natural connection because I've worked there in the past, but my focus and my commitment has been and is here, unequivocally."

That won't stop the speculation from continuing, however, especially because Red Sox ownership has declined to extend a vote of confidence to Valentine beyond this season. Meanwhile, Valentine's behavior has gotten stranger as the losses have piled up for the Red Sox. On Wednesday, he made his weekly appearance on WEEI radio in Boston and threatened to punch one of the hosts in the mouth for asking if he had "checked out" on the season. Later, Valentine said he was only joking.

"I don't like to talk about my emotions and my feelings," Valentine told reporters in Seattle before Wednesday night's game against the Mariners. "I'll say 'miserable' because it's not what I expected. It's been a little misery, yeah. I don't know if that's 24/7, but I would think after a loss, I'm miserable."

Farrell served as the Red Sox's pitching coach for five seasons (2006-10) under Francona, and during his tenure, the club reached the postseason three times and won the World Series in 2007.

Things haven't gone quite so well for Farrell in Toronto. The Blue Jays were fourth in the AL last season and, like the Red Sox, have been overwhelmed this season by both injuries and underperformance from key players.

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