3 to Watch: The 'To boo or not to boo' edition

TORONTO -- John Farrell suggested last fall that baseball matters a little more to people in Boston than it does to people in Toronto. If I can get through all the NHL trade deadline coverage to find the Blue Jays game story in the paper, I'll let you know if he's right.

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Josh Hamilton said Texas "has always been a football town," which was wrong only in the sense that Texas isn't actually a town. Seems to me I once heard Nolan Ryan say pretty much the same thing, though.

Farrell is going to get booed Friday night, when he returns to the Rogers Centre for the first time since leaving the Blue Jays to go manage the Red Sox. Hamilton will certainly get booed even louder Friday afternoon in Texas, in his first game back after leaving to sign with the Angels.

It's understandable. It's also a little funny.

The Blue Jays didn't really want Farrell to stay . . . but the fans still resent the fact that he wanted to leave. The Rangers didn't show all that much interest in keeping Hamilton (at least not until they lost out on every other offseason target) . . . but fans still resent that he left to sign with a division rival.

"Villain or the bad guy, whatever it might be, I can only say we look forward to the challenges that lie ahead of us," Farrell told reporters Thursday, according to the Boston Globe.

Farrell didn't exactly help his image north of the border when he admitted that he wanted to leave for Boston a year earlier (after his first season managing the Blue Jays). But the quote that seems to stick with many people here is the one where he called Boston "the epicenter of baseball," implying that Toronto was a minor-league outpost where you go to wait for your chance at the big time.

But it's not as if Farrell's decision to leave hurt the Blue Jays. Because of the offseason deals that came after Farrell's move, the Jays came into the season with a much higher profile than Farrell's Red Sox.

"I don't hold anything against him," catcher J.P. Arencibia said Thursday. "If that's his dream job, it's hard to blame anyone for taking it. I have no hard feelings.

"We're happy with where we're at."

Things actually worked out well for the Blue Jays, who ended up with a manager they preferred to Farrell (Gibbons), and even got a player back from the Red Sox in the deal. The Jays got Mike Aviles, then traded him to the Indians for Esmil Rogers, who is now part of the Jays bullpen.

Gibbons joked about the deal Thursday afternoon, saying "Boston's 2-0, so I don't know, maybe Boston got the better end of the deal."

Regardless, people up here are certain that Farrell will get booed, loudly booed, Friday night and perhaps all weekend. It's safe to say Hamilton will hear it just as much all weekend in Texas.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Farrell and Hamilton returns are overshadowing what should be two other high-profile series this weekend. Given how the NLCS went last October, it's appropriate that Barry Zito will throw the first pitch of the NLCS rematch, in Cardinals at Giants, Friday afternoon (4:35 ET) at AT&T Park. There's an ALCS rematch, too, and it includes a CC Sabathia-Justin Verlander matchup in Yankees at Tigers, Sunday afternoon (1:08 ET) at Comerica Park.

2. Farrell's return will get the attention, but what's a lot more significant for the Blue Jays is how Josh Johnson looks in his first Toronto start, in Red Sox at Blue Jays, Friday night (7:07 ET) at the Rogers Centre. Scouts who watched Johnson's final spring training tuneups in Florida came away raving about how strong he looked. If he carries it into the season, he could end up being the biggest of the Blue Jays' big offseason additions, and could also end up as the big prize on next winter's free-agent market.

3. The Rangers always thought Yu Darvish could end up as a top-of-the-rotation starter, so much so that they had no issue allowing C.J. Wilson to leave as a free agent after 2011, and then spending almost $108 million (including posting fee) to get Darvish from Japan. Darvish looked the part Tuesday against the Astros, but how many people were saying, "It's just the Astros"? Now Darvish gets Jered Weaver in Angels at Rangers, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark. If he does it again, you can guarantee no one will be saying, "It's just the Angels."

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