I’m the first one to say fire the manager when things don’t go as planned.
It doesn’t have to be his fault. If the team isn’t responding; if a shakeup is needed; if there are strategic blunders; or if there’s someone better available—all are viable reasons.
There doesn’t even have to be a reason. This is one of the things I never understood about the Billy Beane decision to fire Ken Macha after the 2006 ALCS playoff loss and he was searching for something to feed to his media idolators and claimed it was due to “lack of communication”; Beane didn’t exactly distinguish himself with Macha or Bob Geren when he blamed Geren’s firing on the continued media onslaught that was questioning Geren’s job security. Geren was the one who didn’t communicate with his players—the higher paid ones as well including Brian Fuentes.
Macha didn’t talk to backup catcher Adam Melhuse.
What could he possibly have to say to a fringe major leaguer and backup catcher? “Go warm up the pitcher.” What else is there?
All the GM has to say is, “I felt like making a change.”
End of story. But there always has to be some litany of criticisms to justify it; this is a new phenomenon accompanying the rock star status of some GMs in today’s game.
With the Red Sox, Theo Epstein is a rock star and there’s talk that Terry Francona could be in trouble if they blow their playoff spot.
It’s an easy decision to make if it’s decided that it’s Francona’s fault that John Lackey is one of the worst free agent signings in the history of the sport this side of Carl Pavano and Jason Schmidt. But at least Pavano and Schmidt were hurt; Lackey’s just awful.
Francona is a good man and a good manager. He acquitted himself well managing the Phillies as they were terrible on an annual basis—they had no talent.
He handled the media firestorm of being Michael Jordan’s manager during the basketball legend’s foray into baseball in Double A for the White Sox; he was a bench coach and a front office assistant with some very well-run teams with the Athletics and Indians.
Francona did not get the Red Sox job because of his managerial brilliance nor that experience. They were part of the work experiences that made him a candidate, but not the most enticing aspects of his resume.
These are in no particular order, but Francona got the job because he was willing to take a short-money contract for the opportunity; he would acquiesce to front office edicts in terms of strategy based on stats; he was agreeable to Curt Schilling, whom he’d managed with the Phillies and the Red Sox were desperate to acquire; and he wasn’t Grady Little.
The Red Sox were notoriously adamant about having a manager who wouldn’t ignore orders as Little did.
My question regarding the Red Sox and Little goes back well before the fateful decision to leave Pedro Martinez in the game when he was clearly exhausted in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
Why did it get to that point?
If the Red Sox didn’t trust Little to manage correctly (or the way they wanted) in the biggest game of the year without going off the reservation, they should’ve fired him long before the ALCS.
After dumping Little, the Red Sox spoke to Bobby Valentine while they were searching for a new manager. Valentine refused to criticize Little’s decision saying that he wasn’t in the dugout and didn’t know what he would’ve done in that situation.
That’s not what the Red Sox wanted to hear.
So Francona got the job; the Red Sox got a calm, guiding hand that players want to play for and someone who can navigate the all-but-impossible terrain of managing that team in that town.
Now if they miss the playoffs because of circumstances out of his control, he might be in trouble?
He’ll be out of work for five seconds and will get another job in a good situation or he’ll sit out and wait until a high-profile, big money job opens up.
I can only hope that the Red Sox won’t use the corporate crud they used when they fired Little by saying they simply weren’t renewing Francona’s contract.
And I can’t wait to start writing if they go the road of Beane and provide some incomprehensible and unbelievable bit of spin to the media hordes who think every word is gospel. If they fire him, say what it is: We’re blaming Terry for our own mishaps.
It would be nothing more and nothing less than the search for an undeserving scapegoat; if they do that, they’ll deserve their collective fates.