When he’s alone or perhaps with friends or family, maybe then Terry Francona can rub his head and think to himself, "When will the injuries come to an end? How are we going to survive this?"
As far as anyone knows, however, it’s business as usual for Francona, who acts openly as if the run of strains and sprains and breaks and tweaks that the Red Sox have endured is just part of the game and should have no bearing on wins and losses.
Therein lies what makes this season, his seventh as Red Sox manager, Francona’s best at the helm.
As the Red Sox enter the All-Star break with a 51-37 record, they have 12 players on the disabled list, including three who were selected to the midsummer classic, the club’s Opening Night starter and the top three hitters in the projected starting lineup when the season began.
Through it all, Francona has kept calm in a clubhouse that has allowed the many minor leaguers and journeymen needed to replace injured players enter that room and perform knowing their results are not do or die.
They’ve returned the favor to the skipper, who has never sensed a single moment of worry.
"There’s no reason for me to fret because our players don’t seem to be," Francona said recently when asked how he has managed in a season unlike any other.
The thing is, the approach was in place long before the injuries came in droves.
When virtually everyone was healthy, Boston was 11-13 after losing three straight in Baltimore, a sweep which drew a visit and a bit of a tongue-lashing from general manager Theo Epstein. While the vultures took a few early trips over the heads of the Sox in the hopes that their 8 ½-game deficit was too much to overcome, Francona was outwardly the same.
Prior to that, Francona had to handle inquiries into the status of Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek, two veterans transitioning into back-up roles. There were new starters at four positions. Throw in the everyday inquiries into what was wrong with David Ortiz and you had plenty of potential early pitfalls, if Francona let any of it get to him.
He hasn’t. And while the manager credits the players for coming together through adversity, it is Francona who created the atmosphere that allowed it all to occur.
Francona has never won the Manager of the Year Award. In his six full seasons with the Sox he has never even finished higher than fourth in the voting. Several of those years he never even received a single vote.
Based on the way he has handled what amounts to a pre-med curriculum, Francona is the front-runner in 2010. And because of his efforts, the Sox are still in the mix.