Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports
BOSTON (USA TODAY) -- They come from different backgrounds, got their jobs under strange circumstances and inherited drastically different teams.
John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox is a former pitcher who spent eight years in the big leagues, all in the American League. Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals is a former Gold Glove catcher who spent 12 years in the National League.
Farrell replaced a manager, Bobby Valentine, who was detested by his players and booted out of town after one year and a 93-loss season. Matheny replaced a future Hall of Fame manager, Tony La Russa, who abruptly retired and left behind a World Series championship team.
Farrell and Matheny really don't know one another personally, but the longer they're together on center stage at the World Series, beginning Wednesday at Fenway Park, they'll discover they're a lot more alike than they ever imagined.
They might want to get acquainted because they could be peers for quite a while.
"You are talking about two of the brighter guys in the game," Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona told USA TODAY Sports. "They're just solid, good people. I don't think it's a surprise they're having success."
They are new face of baseball's managerial fraternity.
Jim Leyland, 68, of the Detroit Tigers retired Monday. Two weeks earlier, Dusty Baker, 64, of the Cincinnati Reds was fired. The Washington Nationals' Davey Johnson, 70, retired. Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella and La Russa have no intentions of returning.
Matheny, 43, and Farrell, 51, are the new kids on the block, though MLB's five managerial vacancies might be filled by first-timers.
"All of us were young managers at one time," La Russa said. "At some point, you've got to give guys a chance. There still is value in learning your craft in the minor leagues, but as you can see here in the World Series, there are exceptions."
Matheny and Farrell indeed represent the new era of managers, with laid-back personalities and quiet demeanors, beloved by players, scoreboard operators having bigger egos.
"I've never seen a situation work out well when the coach is the focal point over the players," Farrell said Monday. "Any time you put yourself ahead of them, you jeopardize the dynamic in the clubhouse. Neither of us have forgotten how hard the game is. You're only as good as your players."
Said Matheny: "It's extremely gratifying to see what these players have accomplished. They've earned every bit of this, not me."
Yet make no mistake: They are the right men for the situations.
You think it was easy for Matheny to take over the Cardinals when they still were sweeping World Series confetti off the streets? He not only was replacing an iconic manager in La Russa, but he also lost three-time MVP Albert Pujols, who left as a free agent for the Los Angeles Angels.
It's like the poor soul who follows Vin Scully in Los Angeles, walking into the broadcast booth with a sore throat and rumpled hair.
"Let me tell you how impressed I am with Mike," Francona said. "I went after the same job, and when I didn't get it I thought they made the right pick. I think very highly of him."
Matheny was never intimidated. He walked into the office, put a few family pictures on the desk and never tried to be a La Russa clone. He was going to be himself, like it or not.
"Obviously, he wasn't afraid of that dynamic," Farrell said. "It certainly didn't deter him. He's a very smart guy without that hands-on experience, and it speaks volumes to the leader he is, despite not taking a traditional path."
Matheny had never even been a coach, let alone a manager in the minor leagues. Yet, he brought the Cardinals within one game of the World Series last year and has them in it this year.
"What Mike brought was a fresh voice, a new perspective that was respectful of the past, respectful of his predecessor, and he combined all of this to create his own fingerprint," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told USA TODAY Sports.
"There were certainly question marks, but when you look at the organization success we've had with him as manager, you could not have asked for more. He follows a Hall of Fame manager, without a rebuilding mode, and kept this group and momentum moving forward."
Farrell, who spent four years as Francona's pitching coach in Boston, departed after the 2010 season to take the Toronto Blue Jays' managerial job. One year later, Francona and the Red Sox parted ways, and Valentine was brought in to erase memories of those fun-lovin' chicken-and-beer days.
When Farrell was brought aboard last October, the team was in ruins, coming off a 93-loss season and ugly discord between players and management.
"I knew John would turn it around because there was an immediate buy-in from the players because they respect him so much," Francona said. "You always knew he would be a star, no matter whether he was the GM, the manager, running the minor leagues or whatever they wanted to do with him."
Now, here the two of them are, on center stage, letting their players bask in the limelight.
"It will be a special World Series because of what these guys have done," Francona said. "It's not about the individuals. It's about the team."
And, oh, how it's a reflection of their managers.