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How did we get here? How did the best team ever not even qualify for October baseball? How did the team that loaded up in the offseason by signing Carl Crawford and trading for Adrian Gonzalez and was seen as the clear favorite in the American League finish third in its own division? How did team that started this season 8-1 against the rival Yankees through July finished 7.0 games out of New York? A team with a nine-game lead in the wild card race in September experienced one of the worst collapses in sports history. And now the consequences of that painful month are being realized as Terry Francona’s time as Red Sox manager comes to an end.
At 10 a.m. on Friday morning, members of the Red Sox organization gathered together to discuss the future of the team under Francona. It is believed that the meeting included the Sox skipper along with CEO Larry Lucchino, chairman Tom Werner, and owner John Henry. With his contract ending after this season with two option years for 2012 and 2013, this isn’t a firing as much as it is a mutual agreement that the years will not be picked up and Francona will move on from Boston. General manager Theo Epstein, who is also receiving significant criticism, said that ‘nobody blames Tito for what happened in September.” Perhaps his time as the Sox manager has simply run its course.
‘Tito’ took over as manager of the Red Sox appropriately after another collapse of sorts, in 2003 when the Red Sox suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. Now the Sox 7-20 September record appears to be sending Francona out the door. The collapse was unexpected to say the least; the team had a firm grasp over the wild card race and appeared well on their way to a run at another World Series. Instead, September revealed the true nature of the Sox, which according to a veteran on the roster included “zero” chemistry amongst a group of players who had a “me-me-me” attitude towards the game. Francona has always been hailed for his ability to keep a clubhouse together, from the days of Manny Ramirez to last season’s Jacoby Ellsbury injury drama, but things have clearly changed.
Francona will always be looked back on as one of the greatest Red Sox managers ever. Delivering the first Boston championship since 1918, the magic of the 2004 season turned everything around for the city of Boston, with Francona in the middle of it all. In 2007, the Sox again won the World Series, sweeping in both instances to give Francona a perfect 8-0 mark in World Series games as Sox manager. From 2004 to 2011, the Red Sox compiled a 744-552 record (.574 winning percentage). Francona was only the fourth person ever to manage 1000 games for the Red Sox, and won his 1000th game as a Major League manager earlier this year.
Along with the success came the failure for Francona and the Sox to make the postseason with one of the largest payrolls in baseball. In 2006, the Red Sox finished third in the American League East, 11.0 games out of the first place Yankees. Last year, Boston was destroyed by injuries, again finishing in third and 7.0 games behind New York. And now this season, the Red Sox went from being one of the best teams in baseball for the majority of the season to completely losing it in September, finishing a game back of the Rays in the wild card after a chaotic last day of the regular season.
The future for Francona isn’t as unclear as it could be with all the chaos that this month has brought. In the early 90′s, he managed for five years in the Chicago White Sox organization, making him a clear candidate for the open managerial spot in Chicago after Ozzie Guillen left for Miami. The Red Sox would have several options as to who could take over, including bench coach DeMarlo Hale or current ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine.
What do you make of the end of Francona’s time in Boston?