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.
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In Pictures Nailbiting baseball battles for the postseason
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Pitcher Pedro Martinez of the 2004 team once said this of the feared "Curse of the Bambino." "I don’t believe in d*** curses. Wake up the d*** Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the a**."
Cocksure. Absurd. Brash.
This September? Fill-in-the-blank boilerplate. A bunch of mumbled, We've got to play betters, and, We're a better team than thises.
David Ortiz, full of swagger and vinegar in 2004, uttered this team's late-season motto on Sept. 11: "H***, yeah, you've got to panic."
What does all this have to do with Terry Francona?
He was the right man for the Idiots – 2004's band of brothers that needed only a pat on the rump and someone to stop them from bringing kegs into the clubhouse.
He might not have been the right man for the Uninspirables – 2011's fantastic collection of talent that ended up being more a museum piece than a baseball team.
Someone needed to take this team by the stirrups and drag it, kicking and screaming, into the playoffs.
It wouldn't have taken much. September was, by many measures, the worst month in the history of the Red Sox. The most losses in a month, ever. The highest earned-run average for its starters in a calendar month, ever. The most errors in September by any team in Major League Baseball this year.
Even a poor September would have qualified them for the playoffs.
But tail-kicking is not in Francona's toolkit. He is a manager of professionals, and the Sox of September were anything but.
Unable to press the reset button on his high-priced team, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein has to go about looking for leadership by other means.
The free-agent market? Perhaps. But any money he spends there will be openly mocked after the way he opened the checkbook – to build this infamous team – last offseason.
No, the easiest way to hit the reset button on the tone of a team is by starting at the top. Sometimes it is scapegoating. Sometimes it is a sign of something deeper.
There is not doubt that this Red Sox team is a baseball club full of wonderfully talented individuals.
There is no doubt that Terry Francona is an accomplished manager.
That, however, does not mean the two were still the right fit.