Sunday, October 02, 2011

Terry Francona... the greatest manager in Red Sox history

That's the only way Francona should EVER be referred to by a Red Sox fan.
Yes he inherited a good team that could have won the 2003 pennant had Grady Little not been the manager.

Sometimes, despite what Billy Beane and the producers of Moneyball think, the manager DOES matter.

Sometimes part of a managers job isn't to check up the latest VORP or WAR or whatever algebra is trendy now. Sometimes it is managing the egos, the pressure and the media market.

Little wasn't the guy. He proved that not with the Red Sox but when the Dodgers fell apart under his watch.

Francona learned from his rocky tenure managing the Phillies and became Joe Torre lite in Boston. Doesn't get too high or low. Manages the insane Boston media and a fan base that was literally about to commit mass suicide in the wake of 2003.

And the city was going to burn to the ground when they were down 0-3 to the Yankees with Rivera on the mound. And Francona had the calmness and peace of mind to give Dave Roberts a wink when he came in to pinch run for Millar.

This guy was different.
He didn't bring in Jim Burton instead of Dick Drago in the 9th inning of Game 7 like Darrell Johnson did in 1975.
He didn't bench Bill Lee in favor of Bobby Sprowl and wear Butch Hobson and Carlton Fisk down the stretch like Don Zimmer did in 1978.
He didn't bring Calvin Schraldi into every pressure situation in 1986 like John McNamara did.
He didn't make a series of absolutely bizarre decisions long before he left Pedro in too long like Grady Little did.

He made the right ones.
He pushed Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling.
He out managed Joe Torre BADLY in 2004.

He won 95 games the next season without a reliable 3, 4 or 5 starter nor a decent closer.

He came back from 3-1 AGAIN in 2007, never losing faith in struggling J. D. Drew and having it pay off with his series turning Grand Slam in Game 6 against Cleveland.

And he nearly came back from ANOTHER 3-1 hole against Tampa in 2008.

Yes Joe Cronin won more games as a Red Sox manager, but Cronin never had to manage with the pressure of the 24 hour media.

Cronin never had the burden of the Curse.

And Cronin never won ONE World Series, let alone TWO!

Francona's main job was to manage the clubhouse and the media. And he felt he couldn't do it anymore and he is gone.

The 2011 collapse wasn't Francona's fault. The blame should lie on the front office who assembled this mismatch of players.

But Francona, oozing with class right until the end, took responsibility and blamed nobody but himself.

He will wind up somewhere else. (Baltimore? The White Sox? The Cubs? The Astros?) But he should have been a Red Sox lifer.

I really thought a third pennant would put him in a Hall of Fame discussion. Maybe it will.

But when he returns to Fenway in another uniform, there had better be a 20 minute standing ovation for him.

We wanted one title before we died.
Tito made sure we had two.

I for one will miss our manager.

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1 comment:

  1. pbryantr3:51 PM

    Well written, Sully!

    I've been a Sox fan since I was in high school (this was 1991-ish). Lived with the mediocrity of the 90s teams and also the Tito-led teams. I will genuinely miss Tito and wish him nothing but the best.