Is Canning Francona Really the Answer for the Red Sox?


Aug 9, 2009

Is Canning Francona Really the Answer for the Red Sox? OK. This is getting a little ridiculous.

Terry Francona
is not to blame for Boston's debilitating and embarrassing skid since the All-Star break.

Or is he?

Here are the facts: Boston has been terrible recently. Since July 1, the Sox have gone 15-17. They've batted .246 and slugged .414. They've left an average of more than seven men on base per game and the pitching staff has posted a 4.33 ERA.

We don't even need to talk about the fact that the Yankees' insanely hot streak has made their Boston brethren look even worse. (OK, maybe we do. During that same span, Joe Girardi's club has gone 24-10 and batted .290 with a 4.14 ERA.)

This isn't about the Red Sox having a harder schedule. This isn't about Francona leaving starters in too long or trotting out the wrong relievers. There are a thousand reasons why the Red Sox have tanked over the past five weeks, beginning with:

J.D. Drew.
As everyone saw during Friday night's marathon, Drew has the capability to change a game — for better or worse. Lately, it's been worse. Since the All-Star break, he's batting .210 with zero home runs and five RBIs. When he's not sitting out because of the token hamstring/finger/my-hyperbaric-chamber-broke-so-I-didn't-sleep-well-last-night injury, he's striking out. When one of your alleged big bats isn't getting the job done, it's hard to put runs on the board. (And this criticism is mild, considering it's coming from his last remaining supporter. We're a dying breed.)

Jason Bay. Bay's smart. He knows how to play his cards. He smiles and doesn't say much and makes everyone think he's all-for-one-and-one-for-all — but it's hard to believe he's willing to do what's best for the Sox when they play two marathon extra-inning games in four days against their biggest division rivals and he refuses to come off the bench to pinch hit. Yeah, maybe he does have some kind of strained hamstring injury that's worse than he's letting on. Maybe Francona's the one who won't let him get an at-bat in the most critical situations of the season. But if that's the case, we should see him in the dugout breaking bats and trading obscenities with Josh Beckett because he can't get in the game. He's the team's biggest offensive asset, and he's riding the bench when the Sox need him the most. (Sounds familiar.) Where's the Nomar/Manny treatment?

(We're not even going to discuss the fact that Bay's absence means we must watch Kevin Youkilis play left field.)

Dice-K and Wake. It makes perfect sense to blame Terry Francona for the fact that Daisuke Matsuzaka spent March leading Japan toward salvation and is now on the disabled list as a result. It makes perfect sense to blame Terry Francona for the fact that Tim Wakefield is freaking old and needs a seasonal midseason back break. Moving on.

John Smoltz. Did you know Francona set up a special appointment with the Red Sox board of directors at the end of 2008 and submitted a detailed PowerPoint presentation about how much John Smoltz could help Boston in 2009?

Obviously, now that the Smoltz Experiment has bombed worse than the T.O. Show, we should attack the manager.

So enough is enough. You get the picture. There's one person to blame here, and it sure isn't Francona. All Francona does is make the best of what he's given — and considering two of his outfielders consist of a first baseman and a Double-A rental, it isn't much. He's got a flailing pitching rotation, an exhausted bullpen, and a roster full of frustrated kids and seemingly indifferent veterans, one of whom has spent the past 10 days convincing the free world he didn't commit baseball's biggest sin.

Who's really to blame here? I have an idea.

It's the guy who made J.D. Drew the highest-paid player on Boston's roster. It's the guy who traded Manny Ramirez and replaced him with a guy who is now submitting the world's most convincing J.D. Drew imitation. It's the guy who signed Dice-K, John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli instead of doing what his counterpart in New York City did.

We know who deserves the blame for the tailspin.

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