Imagine if every time you screwed up at work and forgot to use a cover sheet for your TPS reports, the mistakes became headline news on the Internet, and people pointed out how you could do your job better by prefacing the criticism with "Hey moron," "You’re an idiot" and "Jerk."
Welcome to Terry Francona’s world.
He has won more games (565) than any Red Sox manager except Hall of Famer Joe Cronin (1,071). He has averaged 94 wins a season since replacing Grady Little after the 2003 campaign. He led the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years and won two championships in his first four seasons in Boston.
Life hasn’t been all cigars and Dom Perignon for Boston’s skipper the last two seasons. He’s been called every name in the book. Some have called for his job. Others have called for his head. That’s what happens when there isn’t a duck boat parade in two years — the sky doesn’t just fall, it crumbles into dust.
And if you didn’t know better, the reactions around Red Sox Nation might have made the championship drought seem closer to 200 years. This isn’t an accident, coincidence or exaggeration. You see, Red Sox fans aren’t like normal fans. They’re loyal and intelligent (that's not to say others aren't, but Red Sox fans take it to a religious level). On average, they are more knowledgeable and passionate than any fans in the game. But they also can turn rabid. It’s not their fault. It’s a little-known fact, but Red Sox fans age 86 times as quickly as "human" (i.e., regular) fans. Two years without a World Series title for a Red Sox fan is the equivalent of 172 years without one for a human.
It’s understandable to see why some Red Sox fans could be a little upset over the past 365 days. They’ve gone a long time without winning everything.
The natives are restless. They’re starving for a little celebration.
Two consecutive years of misery, heartache, frustration and angst have taken a toll. They need somebody to blame.
Who better than Francona to throw to the wolves?
He didn’t pull the starter soon enough.
He pulled the starter too soon.
He should have never intentionally walked him.
He should have put him on base.
He pinch-hit for the wrong batter.
He never should have pinch-hit in that situation.
What was Francona thinking?
What was he doing?
What’s wrong with him?
It’s like my dad always says when trouble arises: Everything that goes wrong within a family is the man of the house’s fault.
Francona is in charge on the field. He’s the general. Whatever happens ultimately is his responsibility. Good thing he has a thick skin, because that’s what it takes to manage in Boston.
He doesn’t get frazzled.
He doesn’t care about second-guessers.
He doesn’t mind what naysayers think, write or say.
He likes his players, cares about his players, is invested in his players and protects his players.
He understands Moneyball.
He can take the heat.
Francona is a players’ manager. He understands the game from a player’s perspective, and he understands the game from a business perspective.
The Red Sox couldn’t have a better leader. He’s a perfect fit for Boston. His approach is the same whether the team is on a 10-game winning streak or a 10-game losing streak.
He leaves the emotional peaks and valleys to the fans.
With spring training right around the corner, everyone in Red Sox Nation is ready for another season. The anger has subsided. The sadness has faded. And hope has returned.
Francona knows what a tough game baseball can be. He was born into the game and raised by the game. The game is his life. Don’t expect him to change his style, get overconfident or ever take anything for granted.
Nothing is guaranteed.
Look at "Casey at the Bat."
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