The Pride of the Red Sox…
I am sure that there are Yankee fans rejoicing tonight at the news the Boston Red Sox and manager Terry “Tito” Francona have mutually decided to part way. There is no rejoicing on this Blog. I have a great deal of respect for Tito and he was/is arguably one of the best managers in baseball.
When Joe Girardi was named manager of the Yankees, I was a bit disappointed. Of course, I’ve been a huge fan of Don Mattingly since he came up through the Yankees farm system and he was my favorite choice for manager despite his lack of managerial experience. I liked Girardi the player, but he was never one that I was able to fully embrace. I was concerned about the red flags that he exhibited during his year of managing the Florida Marlins and didn’t think that he’d be able to make the transition to the ‘Bright Lights, Big City’. I was envious of the Red Sox and their manager because he was the standard that I wanted Girardi to achieve. To Joe’s defense, he has but he is still not quite on the same level as Tito.
When the Red Sox first hired Tito, I simply viewed him as a Philadelphia Phillies reject. To me, he hadn’t proven himself as a manager and it was hard for me to take him seriously (kind of reminds me what I felt when the Yankees named Joe Torre as their manager). For years, the Red Sox had brought in guys that I just viewed as the manager of THAT team. None were able to capture my respect and admiration, and that includes Don Zimmer who I didn’t develop respect for until years later as a Yankees coach. But Tito was different. In 2003, the Red Sox lost a heartbreaker in the ALCS, thanks to Aaron Boone’s home run. Yet, the following year, the Sox were back. Even though his team fell down 3 games to none, they stayed calm and persevered toward the AL Championship, and the first World Series Championship since 1918. He was responsible for the end of the phrase “Curse of the Bambino”. He followed up with another World Series Championship in 2007, making him the most successful manager in the modern history of the Red Sox.
When I look at the 2011 Red Sox, it is a team that should have prevailed. They had a superior pitching staff, and the additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford made it a much better team than the 2010 version. But the injuries, most notably, starting with starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and later Kevin Youkilis, were devastating. That’s really beyond the control of the manager. He has to play with the hand he has been dealt. The Red Sox recognized the flaws in the starting rotation, yet the best they could do was former Seattle pitcher Erik Bedard. Nothing against Bedard, but it has been years since he was considered a stopper due to injuries. So, if there is any blame, it has to reside with GM Theo Epstein for failing to make the right move. While Epstein made the unsuccessful Bedard deal, the Detroit Tigers made a deal with the same Mariners team to bring them a starting pitcher (Doug Fister) that is as responsible as any for the Tigers’ late season success. Epstein was clearly outdone by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, and had he made the right move, the Red Sox would be playing Game 1 of the AL play-offs tonight and Tito would still be manager.
If I am Jerry Reinsdorf, I am already on the phone calling Tito’s agent. He is the perfect choice to follow the highly volatile Ozzie Guillen for the Chicago White Sox. Chicago has a sound and supportive ownership group and the team is willing to make the necessary moves for success. I think it would be a great fit, although it would probably be better as a Yankees fan to see Tito in the National League. Another option would be the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s not that I want to see Don Mattingly fired, but I think any change in ownership will also result in a change at the managerial level. Regardless of where Tito goes, some team is going to benefit greatly. If he doesn’t take a managerial job and becomes an ESPN analyst, we still win because we’ll get a first-hand view of his wisdom and insight.
Tito, you were a worthy opponent and a great champion. I wish you nothing but the absolute best in whatever the future holds for you. We look forward to your next adventure!