Terry Francona was no longer the right fit for these Red Sox
Terry Francona will not return to the Red Sox in 2012, the team announced Friday. The reason might have less to do with Terry Francona than the Red Sox team that has changed around him.
In Pictures Nailbiting baseball battles for the postseason
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
There will be those who say the expensively assembled team needed a scapegoat after losing a nine-game wildcard lead on the Tampa Bay Rays in the space of a month. And they may well be right. You can't spend like Louis XVI, come away with nothing, and not expect a little revolution. Someone had to lose their head.
Yet in the wake of a collapse that even number-crunching computers thought virtually impossible, there is something else altogether more necessary than a scapegoat at Fenway. And that could be the bigger reason Francona is not coming back.
That is leadership.
There is no doubting that Francona is a great man. And there is little doubting that Francona, in the past, has been a great manager of men. But there are doubts that Francona was a great manager of these men.
Doubts shared, not least, by Terry Francona.
In perhaps the most illustrative comment yet made from inside the Red Sox sunken ship, Francona on Thursday mentioned a team meeting he called on Sept. 6. The Sox (surprisingly) had just beaten the Toronto Blue Jays, 14-0, but Francona was seeing bad signs about the direction the team was headed.
"Teams normally... as the season progresses, there are events that make you care about each other, and this club, it didn't always happen as much as I wanted it to. And I was frustrated by that," he told reporters.
Is this the manager's job? Should Francona have brought pom poms to the dugout? Should he have thrown the Gatorade tub onto the field in anger once in a while? Should he have suplexed John Lackey during calls to the bullpen?
Consider the 2004 World Series-winning team.
The Red Sox had lost the first three games of the American League Championship Series to the New York Yankees. No team in major league history had ever come from 3-0 down to win a best-of-7 postseason series.
First baseman Kevin Millar's response: to taunt the Yankees. "Don't let us win tonight," he chirped, because if they did, the Sox would come back to win the series.
It was cocksure. It was absurd. It was brash.
But it was confident.
And the Red Sox won.