May 17, 2010

I’ve been a fan of Red Sox manager Terry Francona ever since he was given the job back in early 2004. After the folksy incompetence of Grady Little (who was in waaaay over his head), Francona was a breath of fresh air. Like most fans, I have had my quibbles with various decisions Francona might make from game to game, but you could never argue his passion and interest in doing the very best job possible. It’s been that passion that has led the Sox to not just one, but two – count ’em, two! – World Series championships in the past six years – no mean feat for a team or manager in Major League Baseball, for sure.

And I’ve always been there for Francona even when others have questioned his use of the bullpen, or sticking with his veterans, when it seemed the wrong thing to do. Keep in mind, managing the Red Sox is one of the toughest jobs in sports. Every move is scrutinized, everyone thinks they could manage the Red Sox better, and the media spotlight is never-ending. Between having to manage the clubhouse and the games in such an environment, it’s an amazing feat just to be able to maintain your health and sanity, and Francona has always been able to strike that delicate balance.

Until this year.

It’s not just that the 2010 team seems unfocused and incapable of playing solid, fundamental baseball on a nightly basis – that’s hard enough to watch in and of itself. More than that, Francona seems – at least to me – a little more disengaged from the game this year. I mean, some of his moves are simply baffling. Last week, in a blow-out game, he pitched set-up man (and future closer) Daniel Bard. Last night, in an obvious sacrifice situation, he let Adran Beltre hit away, costing the Red Sox a game they should have won.

Look, everyone has their time and place (mine, I think, was back in the ’90s), and Terry Francona was the right guy in the right place after the Grady Little A.L. Championship Series meltdown in 2003. But the time has come, I think, for new on-field leadership for the Sox. It’s true that Theo Epstein has done Terry no favors by presenting him with an awkward roster and no-win situations having to find adequate playing time for good soldiers like Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek. But still, there just seems to me a lack of intensity, fundamental baseball, and in-game preparedness in this year’s Red Sox team. And that’s the manager’s fault.

Ultimately, the team’s play will make the decision for the Red Sox front office. And given the fact they look to be no better than a .500 team at best, this is a Red Sox team that will not just miss the playoffs, but cost the Red Sox front office a lot of money in doing so. The roster itself is Theo Epstein’s fault. The team’s lack of performance and intensity is the manager’s. In Boston, there will be very little patience when it comes to either. If the Red Sox falter in the next ten-game stretch against the likes of the Yankees, Twins, Phillies, and Rays, he’ll be gone.

Frankly, I think it’s time to make the switch now. It’s time for Terry Francona to go.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:15 | Comments (0)
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