Terry Francona’s Do or Die Mission
â€œI think Francona should be gone by the end of the month and the pitching coach also. They both suck.â€
Thatâ€™s not me saying it. I intercepted a message on an answering machine from one lifelong Red Sox fan (who lives in Rhode Island) to another lifelong fan. And, no Iâ€™m not talking the Twenty-oh-fours. Lifelong as in they could be friends with Yaz and Williams was their hero.
Sometime ago I broached the idea that it was time for Terry Francona to move on. Granted the premise of that article was to replace him with former Yankees skipper Joe Torre, but I felt that after so many years it was time for some fresh managerial instincts whether it was from Torre or someone else.
Boy, did the venom come out. I would guess the overdramatic comments by some were primarily by the Twenty-oh-fours since they jumped on board the same time Francona did. In fact, one could argue that Francona simply inherited a World Series winning line-up and had Grady Little not displayed such a terrible lapse in judgment the year before, the Red Sox would have broken the curse in 2003.
(And, in full intellectual honesty here, I am somewhat surprised the growing legion of Red Sox haters have not argued that the â€˜04 and â€˜07 World Series wins are a little tainted since at least two players were juiced up. It turns out that now-retired-because-of-another-failed-drug-test Manny Ramirez canâ€™t play very well unless he has a little ice running though his veins. So what does that say about how the two World Series titles were won? But I digress.)
Iâ€™m not indicting Francona or suggesting he should be replaced by the end of the month. But to hear a voice from the heartland calling for his firing tells me that small earthquakes are happening which sometimes can be precursors to the big one. And the big one in this case being Franconaâ€™s forced resignation.
Francona has always been referred to as a playerâ€™s manager. I always envisioned that as someone giving fist bumps, man-hugs and screwing around with the players as â€œone of the guys.â€ Perhaps that works in some situations (like when you inherit a World Series lineup) but when itâ€™s time to establish some discipline and focus, it falls short. I find that akin to a â€œchildâ€™s parent.â€ You know, the Dad thatâ€™s best friends with his kid, pretty lax on the discipline and always seeming to be looking up to his kid rather than the other way around.
Perhaps thatâ€™s at play here, now that for the first time in the Red Sox history two players (Adrian Gonzalez signed a long-term deal earlier this week) are making $20 million a year and neither one was on the team last year or the year beforeâ€¦or ever. Bostonâ€™s golden child is in an epic slump and to Franconaâ€™s credit he benched him. (Hopefully that is a sign making my above point null and void.) However, despite yesterdayâ€™s win, Carl Crawford went hitless lowering his average to .127.
I donâ€™t know how much say Francona has in who is signed and who is let go. (Former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson is 3-0 with an anemic 1.33 ERA for first-place Cleveland.) But it seems to me a good manager should have some insight into whether Carl Crawford would have the same production at Fenway Park as he did at Tropicana Field. Remember the much-ballyhooed arrival of Edgar Renteria? That experiment lasted a year.
The Golden Boys of Fenway are hitting a combined .196. Crawford is one of four players hitting under .200. Last year, this teamâ€™s farm system almost carried them to the playoffs. So far this year, the $20 million puzzle pieces donâ€™t seem to fit. Is it the managerâ€™s piece being forced into a spot that just doesnâ€™t quite go? Francona needs to step up to the plate and figure out how to turn this ship around. Hopefully, he has inched towards the batterâ€™s box by his benching of Crawford. But if this remarkable two game win streak sputters to a stop, look for the Big One to hit Boston in the coming months.