Sad, Disappointing Day

There is strong indication that Terry Francona is no longer the Red Sox manager. Based on what I’ve been reading, the Red Sox will announce later today that the decision to part ways was mutual. But the fact is, the Red Sox had a 2-year option on his contract and it was really up to them whether he stayed or not.

It is a sad day because of all Francona did in his 8 years in Boston. First and foremost is to bring 2 World Series Championships to the city, something a long time in the making in case you hadn’t heard. Additionally, Francona seemed skilled at both running a baseball team both from a tactical standpoint and a babysitting standpiont. Boston ain’t an easy place to coach, much like New York, Chicago and Philly, and not any person can take the reigns of a Red Sox team and be successful. The pressure, the omnipresence of the media (TMZ included) makes coaching here difficult and at times probably miserable.

Yet Francona pulled it off. Yes we can all argue with his decision making (like starting Ryan Lavarnway at catcher and batting him 5th on Wednesday), but all in all, he did a very good job and really was quite savvy with the media and insulating his players. He won 744 games in 8 season, posted a .574 winning % and took the Red Sox to the playoffs 5 times.

So off he rides into the arms of the Chicago White Sox and the Red Sox are left looking for a manager.

What is disappointing about Francona’s leaving is what is being said about the 2011 Red Sox. Reports that Francona had “lost” the team and that the players behavior lacked professionalism and was petty.

From John Tomase in today’s Boston Herald: “From pitchers drinking beer during games on their day off (in the clubhouse) to Francona calling a team meeting after a 14-0 victory to address negativity and a lack of cohesion…”

Tomase quoting Francona: “This team I think became challenging at the end. There were some things I was worried about. We were spending too much energy on things that weren’t putting our best foot forward toward winning.”

Wow, Francona nevers calls out a player, let alone the whole team. He must really have been at wits end with this group.

Also from Tomase: “According to multiple sources with knowledge of the meeting, Francona was in part annoyed over complaints about the buses to the ballpark and wanted players to focus their energy more positively.”

This really makes be dislike the current roster, if these things are true.

The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham outlined some more damning comments from Francona in yesterday’s press conference: “There were some things that did concern me. Teams normally, as the season progresses, there’s events that make you care about each other and with this club, it didn’t always happen as much as I wanted it to. And I was frustrated by that.”

Write’s Abraham, “An observer of the team from Feb to Sept, the Red Sox were a collection of talented individuals who didn’t necessarily seem all that concerned with the guy next to them.” Francona detailed that a bit: “Ultimately you don’t need a team that wants to go out to dinner together. But you need a team that wants to protect each other on the field and be fiercely loyal to each other on the field. That‘s what ultimately is really important. I wanted us to handle things on the field a little bit better than we did. At times, we just didn’t get there and it was very difficult.”

Again, from a manager who never called out a player, these words are telling.

It makes me think back to the days of 25 players, 25 cabs back in the 80s. It goes to show how much time is spent on talent evaluation and so little time spent on personalities and leadership, or perhaps gauging just who is a leader. Even the strongest of leaders needs help and if you don’t have enough players drinking the coolaid, things run amock. All of this makes me really upset at the Red Sox players as a whole, or at least those who were self-centered and so childish as to criticize their bus arrangements.

This is the first shoe to drop and if/when those who couldn’t behave professionally are identified, they will be shipped out. Time for a culture change in the Red Sox clubhouse.

Too bad it means the departure of arguably the most successful Red Sox manager ever.