I know there are a lot of people out there who think Terry Francona carries as much or more blame than the players, Theo Epstein, or the front office do for this season’s epic collapse. I honestly don’t know how to slice the blame pie, and who should get what piece. I do know that Francona, Theo, and the front office never won a single game of the 744 wins Francona managed for Boston. Should we really even need to have this conversation? I mean nobody was ‘blaming’ Francona for the 72 wins Boston posted between May 1st and August 31st this year. I find it odd that at the press conference after game 162 and the interviews in the following 36 hours that Tito looked more tired and worn down than anyone on his roster. Shouldn’t that tell you something?
Terry Francona, came to Boston in the off season between Grady Little (2003) and Reverse the Curse (2004). In 2004 everything went right after game 3 against the Yankees and 86 years of suffering ended. People felt in the depths of their hearts for their loved ones who never lived to see a baseball championship in Boston. Thousands of graves were visited so we could be close to the ones who never got to see the 2004 banner. Many of these folks were the ones who introduced us to the Red Sox, the mesmerizing, green of Fenway, the smells and sounds, the curse, and all things that are unmistakable about our national pastime. Those that came before us and had the passion they couldn’t wait to share with us, to take us to Fenway for the first time, to point out the heroes wearing the home whites, with those red numerals that reflect light at the correct angle. They even explained to us how we should approach the beloved Sox, believe it can be and will be, but look out for the unexpected. It reminds me of the scene from “Field of Dreams” when ‘Shoeless’ Joe shares some wisdom with ‘Moonlight’ Graham, a rookie in the corn field, and says, “he’s not gonna wanna load the bases, so look low and away … but watch out for in your ear.” Be optimistic but don’t get carried away. Well that all changed in 2004 when Terry and ‘The Idiots’ won it all. I would be willing to bet the Sox would have played in Texas today or maybe even hosted the game tonight had this year’s team played with the effort and attitude of the 2004 squad.
So here we are now, 8 years later, winners of 8 consecutive World Series games, and the year known as The Epic Collapse or something to that effect. Terry is leaving town, and we’re not sure who will come in next. I do hope it’s someone who will win and restore order among the 25 players asked to do their job day to day. I hope they’re not worn to the bone from getting lackluster effort out of assets worth tens of millions of dollars per year. I try not to make this about money and I don’t know where else to turn though. Are the playing conditions so tough in Boston that showing up and giving one’s best effort every day is too much to ask? If it is too much, then you’re getting paid too much because at some point on the way to the Bigs you would have played anywhere, anytime, for any reason, and no money because you loved it! You had nothing but the dream of making it to where only very few get too trod. Now you’re there, so show up and play! It’s a game and isn’t that supposed to be fun even if there’s travel, night games, and even fans in other cities cheering against you. How many games would be missed by this squad if it was the 1940’s and every weekend included a double header? Ernie Banks always wanted to play two and this team seemed like weren’t sure they wanted to play even one at times this year.
I have Terry’s enjoyed honest and open approach to the game and the media since he got here. The dozens of interviews and hundreds of press conferences tell me that I do like him and wish his contract was extended. In this age of instant gratification I think we give up on things that are just fine but don’t give them the time fully develop, mature, or come to fruition. Players almost never play their whole career with a single club anymore. Their every move is scrutinized by their own organization while the player being scouted to replace them looks good on paper, in the computer, and the few times they were seen in person. So management makes the move. Or the player has their big year in their ‘contract’ year and signs elsewhere not realizing how good they had it in the lineup they just left or in the city they just represented. So, Terry, what have you done for us lately? I love all the “look yourself in the mirror” stuff the last two days. Give me a break. How about this team, to a man, look themselves in the mirror and tells Terry and management where the problem lies? Lay it on the line; leave it all on the field. This group needs look no further than their clean-up hitter (at times), the strapping lad, Dustin Pedroia, for the right answers and the right way to play the game. This guy thinks he can do anything on a ball field and it doesn’t matter if it’s a road game, cold, wet, a night game or the 10th game in 10 days, and you know what? He can do almost anything on the ball field. Imagine what 25 guys with this mentality could do; oh that’s right we know what they can do. We saw it in 2004 and again in 2007 when that second squad just accepted nothing less than a title. I wonder who managed those clubs.
I for one will miss Francona next season. Unfortunately the last 4 weeks right through today tell me the Red Sox have become largely one of those organizations where the manager is driven out as a result of the passionless group he tries to rally. For some reason this collection of immense talent clearly lacked the passion and spine tingling excitement that comes with lacing them up and coming out of the foxhole on the first base line and battling for one another. Man, I get jacked up just thinking about it. Maybe these guys will find it again for themselves and for the wide eyed excited youngsters that will make their way to Fenway 100th season, led by the hand, with a lesson being taught passed down in every direction they look. Then again, maybe Terry is making the right move as he has so many times over the last 8 seasons.