I've been meaning to find time to write this for a few days. Here goes in enthymematic form:
- The collapse was historic.
- A historic collapse requires blame.
- Blaming is often not a rational process.
- Terry Francona is willing to accept an irrational amount of blame for the Red Sox collapse.
- Terry Francona is a great manager.
This team started the year 3 and 9. They ended the year 7 and 20. For the other 123 games, they played very well. It is easy to blame Francona for those other 39 games. Too easy. I am not too disappointed or shocked by the collapse. Again, this team started 3-9, and had they made the playoffs they would have set a record for overcoming the worst start to a season. To even get close is impressive. If you flipped the Sox record in September with their record in July, then Francona would be celebrated as a gritty manager who kept his team struggling through adversity.
This team couldn't pitch. After Buchholz went down in early August, they were left with two quality pitchers (Lester and Beckett). It September, even those two struggled. In the past I have questioned how long Francona rides his starters. But there is nothing he can do about Lackey's (understandably, given his personal situation) dismal season, Wakefield's increasing age, Dice-K's Dice-k-ness, etc. The manager says who will pitch, when they'll pitch, and sometimes where they should throw it. But he doesn't make the (repeatedly) bad throws.
Put simply, this team didn't have the talent it thought it had. I have written record regarding my skepticism toward this pitching staff and Carl Crawford from last spring (for all those who defended the Crawford signing--how's that remaining $130 million looking now?).
I am very sad to lose Terry Francona. Like Joe Torre, there are questions regarding Francona's "X's and O's" strategy. But what can't be questioned, I think, is his ability to handle the vicious Boston media and fan base. I think the character with which he ended his tenure in Boston speaks volumes. He will be missed. And he will be difficult to replace.
The soul of Boston might be reinvigorated this off-season. Let's face it, we were never accustomed to winning. We didn't always handle it well. And, while the $170 million dollar payroll prohibits us from becoming lovable losers ever again, at least Boston gets to be what it is comfortable being: pissed.