I can't help it. I keep pondering the events of this last weekend, from the moment when the Sox lost the final game of the season to when the final word came down: Terry Francona was no longer to be the manager of the Red Sox. Of all of the possible outcomes of the awful ending to the Sox' season, this was the most unanticipated and also the most disappointing. Moving forward, though, the real question is Why? Why would who I feel to be the best manager in Red Sox history leave?
I read a bunch of articles, the best of which are the Wheat from the Chaff summarization article from the Joy of Sox (be sure to read the comments on this one), Gordon Edes take on ESPN Boston, and Chad Finn's take from Touching all of the Bases. (For what it's worth, Finn also has an excellent immediate take on the seasons end here.) Here's what I can gather from all this.
The 2011 Red Sox were an entitled mess. As a team, they showed up out of shape, leading to their disastiourously slow start and their running out of gas at the end of the season. Certain individuals (Sounds like Beckett and Youkalis) led the team into a bitter complain-fest, leaving the more responsible members of the team (led by Pedroia and Ellsbury) to soldier along as best they could by themselves. At least one pitcher (sounds like Beckett) was drinking on the days he didn't start. Lackey was an ass throughout the entire season, bookending the worse pitching performance in Red Sox history by first claiming that "everything about my life sucks right now" and ending it with the marketing coup of divorcing his wife who is battling cancer. Wakefield and Ortiz are more concerned with chasing records than the rest of the team. And so on. And so on.
I mention all of this only because it puts Tito's frustration into context. Most accounts state that it was Francona's decision to leave the Sox, although it's hard to tell for certain. It does sound like Francona had the support of Theo, which is no small matter. But it also sounds like the front office became disillusioned with Francona's MO, which was to keep player matters private, never showing up anyone publicly, and turning a relative blind eye to any transgressions as long as they didn't effect the team. (It's important to remember that this is the same manager who allowed his team to do shots of Jack Daniels before games in 2004, and things seemed to work out that year.) He's loyal to his players to a fault (remember Mark Bellhorn?) but when the players started betraying that trust, well, not only did he lose the front office but also in his ability to effectively lead. After all, you can do everything right, but if people are tuning you out, then there's really nothing that you can do - unless there's accountability.
It's this last word that's important. Who will hold the players responsible for the problems that occurred both on and off field in 2011? The answer isn't that simple, mainly because some of the folks responsible can't really be held responsible. To pick the obvious example, there's nothing the Sox can do about John Lackey. His contract is guaranteed. So he sneers and rolls his eye at his manager, the people paying his checks can say something but they don't have a whole lot of weapons because Lackey is getting his 60-something million regardless of what they do. And so, in Finn's best line of his article, he asks "Imagine how the players of today would react to [Dick Williams' hard-assed] approach. John Lackey would have to invent a whole new repertoire of contemptuous sneers just for the manager." There's no accountability, and no way (stomach?) to discipline, and so the Red Sox turn into a NBA team with mediocre players signed to bloated, inescapable contracts. I can't really blame Tito for not wanting to stick around and see how it plays out. But it does make me sad, and I can't think of a manager or coach i've ever felt that way about other than when Marv Levy retired.
Please forgive this rambling post. I'm just not sure what to say other than to express how angry I am. Also, this. I'm sure more will come out over the course of the off-season. And i'll be watching. But for now my trust in this team is sorely dented. It'll take a bit of doing to get me fully back on board. Here's hoping the Sox can pull it off.