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Friday, September 30, 2011

Big Mistake Making Terry Francona The Fall Guy For The 2011 Red Sox' Epic Failure

If the reports and rumors are true and Terry Francona has managed his last game for the Boston Red Sox, the front office (owners Tom Werner & John Henry along with president Larry Lucchino) and GM Theo Epstein are making a big mistake.

Perhaps, we'll never know the full story. Francona's health in his eight years in Boston has gotten progressively worse but I find it hard to believe he's in that bad shape since he's only 52 and most importantly, he's said to be headed to Chicago to manage the White Sox (who just traded Ozzie Guillen to the Florida Marlins).

Francona is the most successful manager in Red Sox history, capturing two World Series championships (2004, 2007) and making the playoffs in five of his eight seasons at the helm. The fact that the team missed the playoffs the last two seasons meant that someone had to be the fall guy and unfortunately you can't get rid of a bunch of loser players like John Lackey, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett that are under contract.

Tito had options for $4.25 million each in 2012 and 2013 but it looks like those will be lost in the shuffle. This year's disaster of a team was completely dysfunctional and even a player's manager like Francona couldn't get this bunch of ill-fitting pieces to come together or hold on to a nine-game lead in the AL Wild Card in September (the biggest September collapse in MLB history).

Sports are naturally a results based industry and none more so than the job of manager of the Boston Red Sox. It's one of the most scrutinized in sports and when things don't go well, ownership will normally panic and make a reactionary move (which in this case is the wrong one).

On Francona's watch (734-531, .580 winning percentage), the team won at least 86 games in every season including 95+ in five of the seasons. In the playoffs, Boston was 28-17 (.622 winning percentage) including the two titles and a run to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2008. Ironically, that's the last time the Red Sox won a playoff game (in 2008) since they were swept in 2009 by the Angels.

If this is really the end, we should all be thankful for everything that Francona has done for the Red Sox. He immediately changed the history for a team that was a complete joke nationally and worldwide. He likely took years off his life dealing with all the intense media coverage and day-to-day hysteria of the job and at the root of it all, he was a decent man.

Props to you Tito, good luck to the next guy they try to bring in here to change this mess in the dugout and in the clubhouse.

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