Should Terry Francona Get Canned? Absolutely Not!
Peter Gammons recently went on national radio and spoke of a disconnect between Red Sox manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein. The team has been atrocious in the month of September, so naturally people go into C.Y.A mode to try and save their jobs. Predictably the media starts to speculate if Francona is going to get axed. Will Theo get axed? Perhaps both guys will be cut loose?
No doubt the team looks terrible right now and there's an outside chance they will miss the playoffs. Should that happen, or they get bounced early in the playoffs, heads could roll at Yawkey Way. If that happens Terry Francona should be spared. I would let Theo Epstein go. In fact if he really wants to go to Chicago then I'll drive him to Logan Airport myself. On behalf of every Red Sox fan I would thank him for '04 and '07 and wish him luck running the Cubs.
The time for Theo to move on has come. It's inevitable. Remember how he didn't exactly deny the rumors when reporters asked him about Chicago? That shows me his time is done here. Once you've won two titles complacency is bound to kick in. The spotlight is intense so I can't blame him for feeling claustrophobic. The allure of winning a third World Series in a different city is too much to pass up. New challenges need to be met.
Even if the Red Sox hold off the Rays Theo hasn't completed his No.1 priority, which is to set your manager up for success. The only question we have to ask is has the front office set Terry Francona up to win the World Series this year? I don't think so. Let's look back at their off-season acquisitions. To be fair, Adrian Gonzalez has been awesome and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has talent, but too many of their other moves haven't worked out. Long term it looks like the team is saddled with expensive lengthy contracts that will be very difficult to move unless ownership wants to swallow some dead money.
Let's start with right field, which has been an absolute black hole for the team this year. The team paid Mike Cameron $7.25 million this year. What did they get for their money? A .149 average 3 HR, 9 RBI and a .477 OPS. J.D. Drew was on the books for $14 million and as of this writing his numbers are .315/.303/.618 in the critical OBP/SLG/OPS categories. Josh Reddick has played reasonably well (.280 7 HR 28 RBI .784 OPS) for a rookie but that's about it. Darnell McDonald's numbers are down after a good 2010 season. Bottom line is the front office threw away $21.25 million on two aging players and have nothing to show for it.
Everyone already knows John Lackey has been a disaster. No way in hell you can put a positive spin on his record. Two years into the deal and his numbers are 61 starts 26-23, 5.26 ERA, 375 IP, 219 earned runs allowed, 38 HR, 14 wild pitches and a 1.504 WHIP. The team has paid him $33.95 million so far. Talk about flushing money down the drain! Fact is his numbers were trending downward and Theo Epstein still signed him to a big money deal.
Josh Beckett hasn't been a workhorse pitcher for some time now. In the past four years he's made 27, 32, 21 and 29 starts. His innings pitched numbers ever since 2008 have been 174.1, 212.1, 127.2 and 187. His postseason numbers in 2008 and 2009 weren't nearly as good as '07. He has a shown a tendency to fade out in the second half. The front office still signed him to an extension even though the trends on him were troubling.
Bobby Jenks was supposed to be the next closer if Jonathan Papelbon left after this year. How's that worked out? Not so good. The numbers speak for themselves; 19 games, 2-2, 6.32 ERA, 15.2 IP, 22 hits, 12 runs allowed, 13 walks, 3 wild pitches and a 2.234 WHIP. In 2011 he made $6 million and was injured for a good chunk of the year. Was that money well spent? No. Next year he's going to make another $6 million. The fact that Theo Epstein went out and signed Jenks is a clear sign he doesn't quite trust Daniel Bard to close.
Dice K. has been a sunk cost this year and is going to make $10 million in 2012. Erik Bedard has pitched well at times but has also missed time with knee and lat injuries. We knew he had injury problems before but the team still traded for him. Matt Albers hasn't exactly made a big impact. Dan Wheeler has missed time due to forearm tightness. Felix Doubront and Kyle Weiland aren't ready to pitch in the pros just yet.
No doubt the injuries to Kevin Youkilis and Clay Bucholz have hampered the team. That being said, the front office still should have had the foresight to improve the pitching depth and get a more productive bat to replace Youk. He's dealt with injuries three years running now. The number of games hes played in since 2008 are 136, 102 and 120.
In light of the moves I've written about, would it be fair to fire Terry Francona when the front office has given him a lot of underachieving, injury riddled, unproductive players? No.
If the Red Sox implode and want to make changes they should start over with a new front office. Fans shouldn't tolerate the team not living up to their potential, especially considering the resources the team has to win another World Series title.
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