Francona Is Not To Blame For Sox Loss
Wednesday - October 19, 2011
Terry Francona must be the luckiest guy since Ringo Starr was asked to sit in for recording purposes. How else do you explain two titles, a .574 winning percentage and five postseason appearances for a virtual drug addict with marital problems and the leadership skills of George Custer? No doubt we are just days from hearing how he hates puppies and once walked right past a Brownie without once even glancing at her cookies.
That seems to be the story emanating from Yawkey Way. On a team that went 7-20 in the last month of the season and whose big three starters (Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey) posted a combined 2-7 record with a 6.45 earned run average during that time, it was the manager who let everyone down.
All silliness aside, Francona had to go. No matter his level of responsibility, when a team implodes this badly the manager gets the ax. Everyone knows that going in. So it’s no surprise that Francona was quit/fired. What is shocking are the stories surrounding the end of the season, and why no player has stood up to take responsibility for the fall.
Francona’s loss of locker room control had little to do with failed philosophy and nearly everything to do with time. Francona lasted eight years, and that’s pretty good. The expiration date for coaches and managers is less than that of a McClain Stevenson sitcom. (I went old school for this reference, but I could have easily gone the reality TV route or referenced the collective memory of the American voting public.)
Boston succumbed to a culture of entitlement that was allowed to grow unabated until the inevitable happened: The team collapsed because the weight of irresponsibility became too great for the leaderless structure to support.
In an interview on ESPY, David Ortiz, who hit .287 in September with one home run and eight RABI, blew off the suggestion that Beckett, Lester and Lackey failed to support their team, instead drinking beer, ordering takeout and playing video games in the locker room while the team struggled, saying starting pitchers are pretty much on their own between starts, and that the behavior was a nonfactor during their title years in 2004 and 2007. Ortiz then joked that he may have joined them if he wasn’t watching his weight. That’s leadership Red Sox-style play off any responsibility and, when necessary, find a scapegoat. This time they didn’t have the Yankees to blame, so they pounced on the manager, even though no one dared or cared enough to declare all hands on deck.
Not content to take a bullet for the team that had abandoned him, Francona said he didn’t have the support from ownership necessary to effectively control the ball club. Owner John Henry hardly proved otherwise when he gave the team $300 headsets and invited them to have a players-only party on his yacht following complaints about playing a double header after a road trip. The fact that a hurricane was expected in the area seemed of little concern.
So it ends. Francona is out and will likely manage another team next season. General manager Theo Epstein will try to bring a second group of historic chokers an MLB title. Meanwhile, the Sox will be the Sox. The team is overpaid, arrogant and rudderless. It tried to be everything the Yankees aren’t. They succeeded. The Yankees are winners. The Red Sox are done.
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