The Boston Red Sox are not having a good offseason. The Red Sox have fired their manager, Terry Francona, there are rumors that Theo Epstein is going to the Chicago Cubs for money and/or prospects, there has been a series of reports about a clique (including Josh Beckett, John Lester, and John Lackey) drinking beer, playing video games, and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse while the Sox were playing, and the latest splurge of demeaning information came on October 12, when Bob Hohler published a story in the Boston Globe absolutely smearing Terry Francona and the players. The article can be found below:
In this article, Hohler explores why Terry Francona may have lost the clubhouse. Hohler says, “Team sources said Francona, who has acknowledged losing influence with some former team leaders, appeared distracted during the season by issues related to his troubled marriage and to his health.”
Think about that for a second. Terry Francona may not have been able to manage the Red Sox because he was dealing with a bad marriage and health problems. Does this seem like the sort of thing you should know? If Terry Francona is having marital problems, I leave that to him and the walls in his house. If it affected his managerial skills, then it’s the Red Sox job to let him go so that both parties can take care of their separate situations. But I do not want to or need to know that he is having that problem, and it is outrages that this information got out! Furthermore, if Francona is addicted to painkillers why should that be disclosed. Hohler says, “Team sources also expressed concern that Francona’s performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication, which he also vehemently denied. Francona said he has taken pain medicine for many years, particularly after multiple knee surgeries. He said he used painkillers after knee surgery last October and used them during the season to relieve the discomfort of doctors draining blood from his knee at least five times.”
I do not care about Francona’s possible drug addiction, except for the fact that I wish him the best of luck in overcoming any possible demons. If he does have a problem, again, that’s his business and the Red Sox were right to get rid of him. As if that wasn’t enough, the Red Sox source adds insult to injury by saying, “While Francona coped with his marital and health issues, he also worried privately about the safety of his son, Nick, and son-in-law, Michael Rice, both of whom are Marine officers serving in Afghanistan.” Yea, maybe Francona couldn’t win a couple of games because he’s busy thinking about he’s son and son-in-law dying over in Afghanistan! Let’s look at the big picture here, it’s time to forget about baseball when human lives are at stake.
The players don’t get off easy either. As I stated earlier, Hohler discusses the player clique of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey. He also shows how lost the clubhouse was even when they were winning. The Red Sox were leading the division in late August, but that appears to just be an illusion of togetherness. The team was just as dysfunctional and distant from each other, management, and upper management at that time.
Hohler explores saying, “As Hurricane Irene barreled toward Boston in late August, management proposed moving up the Sunday finale of a weekend series against Oakland so the teams could play a day-night doubleheader either Friday, Aug. 26, or Saturday, Aug. 27. The reasoning seemed sound: the teams would avoid a Sunday rain out and the dilemma of finding a mutual makeup date for teams separated by 2,700 miles. But numerous Sox players angrily protested. They returned early that Friday from Texas after a demanding stretch in which they had played 14 of 17 games on the road, with additional stops in Minneapolis, Seattle, and Kansas City. The players accused management of caring more about making money than winning, which marked the first time the team’s top executives sensed serious trouble brewing in the clubhouse.”
While it might be true that ownership cares more about making money than they do their players, the players come off as cry babies about a simple doubleheader. News flash, you get paid to play a sport! It’s not like these guys have to go into consecutive brain surgeries, they just have to go out and have fun playing baseball. By the way, the Red Sox swept that doubleheader. They were so tired that they went out and won both games. Regardless of how bad the players or Terry Francona might look in this article, I still have one question.
Why is this information being leaked? That can not be answered without first figuring out who leaked the information. “Red Sox sources” is all that is given during the article. So someone or someones within the Red Sox organization leaked personal information about their former manager, their players, and the overall clubhouse environment. To figure out who within the organization may have done this, you must read into the article a little bit more. Think again for a moment; Terry Francona, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and the entire clubhouse are brought to the guillotine and slaughtered by this article. Who’s remaining in the Red Sox organization?
There in lies the secret to the source of all this Red Sox information, and it makes perfect sense. The Red Sox’s front office was receiving heat for not resigning Terry Francona, especially when Francona came out and said he didn’t feel ownership had his back during the year. So the people in upper management, consisting of GM Theo Epstein, Chairmen Tom Werner, President and CEO Larry Lucchino, and Principle Owner John Henry, decided to let the public know that Francona shouldn’t have been brought back because of all these problems he has. They then showed the players as being selfish, arrogant, whiny, spoiled brats, just to get the point across for how hard they had to try to get these players to actually work together as a team. Upper management wanted you to feel bad for all the problems they faced when trying to construct a winning team. And you know what, they’re right! I totally agree with what they did, and I feel very bad for what they had to go through. Dealing with all these prima donna players is ridiculous, and having a manager that is clearly distracted didn’t help. But to then go out, and reveal that information to a reporter so that he can tell the world so that you come off as the good guy, is pathetic. The hero does the right thing even when no one is looking. It shouldn’t matter to those guys in the front office what people think of them, as long as they win. If the Red Sox went on to win the World Series next year, and none of this information was leaked out, then everyone would be talking about what a great job ownership did handling Tito and the collapse. They would be revered for completely changing the atmosphere in the clubhouse, and everyone in Boston, including me, would love what they have done for this city. They decided that wasn’t good enough, so they went and released all this sensitive information to the people. If you’re not convinced it was upper management leaking the information, then consider this. Who would even know of such personal information in the Red Sox organization? Even John Henry admitted, “Not that many I would think.”
John Henry apparently heard Mike Felger of 98.5 the Sports Hub ranting about how ownership was smearing Tito, and he took an exception to it. In a spur of the moment interview, John Henry decided to join the Sports Hub’s Felger & Massarotti October 14, to put all of these rumors to rest. I’ve heard this interview, and I can personally say he wasn’t very convincing. Henry was all over the place, and at some points couldn’t even give a coherent response. According to Henry, Red Sox sources leaked the information, not Tom, Larry, or himself. If that is true, that it was just some ant worker who leaked the information, then what kind of state is the front office in? Not only can John Henry not control his baseball team, but now he can’t even control his own employees that work right under him! John states this, but then says, “When it comes to who’s giving person info from the Red Sox, you can’t really go on a witch hunt and start accusing people,”.
So Henry wants us to believe that someone in the Red Sox organization leaked information not named Larry, Tom, or John, and then he wants us to believe that he can’t go out and find the person responsible because it’s not nice to go witch hunting. He owns the team, he can do whatever he wants! He could just get rid of his whole staff if he wanted to and hire any number of unemployed and capable people just to show that revealing information like this is unacceptable! If you still chose to believe that Henry and ownership did not release the information, then consider this. Why didn’t this information come out sooner? If someone wanted to give out sensitive information such as this, why would they wait until a 2 weeks after the season ended and not 2 days? You gain nothing by waiting, so why not just let it all out when they lose the final game of the year to miss the postseason for a 2nd straight year?
Then the last bit of information that seals the deal, is this. Henry said that he and his companies could not possibly be the ones responsible for leaking the information, because the writer of the article, Bob Hohler, has already said that it was a Red Sox source and not the owners. Henry says this in the first 3:30 of his interview on 98.5, which can be heard below.
Monday morning though, the morning show on 98.5 the Sports Hub of Toucher & Rich revisited this idea. It culminated in an email from Toucher & Rich to Hohler, asking if he had indeed stated that the owners of the Red Sox were not his leads. Hohler emailed back saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he has not made any statements since the article was published, and he will leave it a that. That’s it. This one statement via email throws everything that John Henry has been arguing into question. So this leaves 2 possible answers. Either Henry is being fed misinformation, or he’s a liar. I’m gonna go on record saying it was most likely the latter. If Henry’s very first statement during his interview is that Hohler had already stated that the front office was not his lead, and this statement is false, then how much else did Henry say that is not true? Based on everything I have seen, there is virtually no case that the Red Sox’s front office, ownership in-particular, is not responsible for the leaking of personal information about their ex-manager, players, and clubhouse. Through all of this, I agree with ownerships decision to get rid of Terry Francona, and I will most likely agree with any changes they make to the roster. But dragging their players, their ex-manager, into all this sludge, is in the words of John Henry, ” It’s reprehensible.”
What was thought to be World Series favorites, has turned out to be a team of frauds. After missing the postseason for just the 2nd time in 7 years, and with doubts about the heart of their order, Sox General Manager Theo Epstein went out and acquired left-handed slugger Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. Then, in a stunning move, he acquired hot Free Agent commodity Carl Crawford. It looked like the Sox would have a dominant lineup in 2011, and they would have arguably the best pitching staff in the AL with Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, Lackey, Daisuke, Bard, and Papelbon. The team was poised to make the postseason, having a half game lead over the Yankees for the division, and a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card on September 1st. No team in Major League history has ever blown a 9 game lead with just the final month left to play. That was until, this Boston Red Sox team hit the field.
This Boston Red Sox team did the impossible, they whittled away a 9 game lead from September 1st, all the way down to a tie for the Wild Card lead on September 28. On the last game of the year though, it looked like the Sox would make up for everything that happened. The Red Sox entered the 7th inning with a 3-2 lead over the Baltimore Orioles. A rain delay though would force the game to come to a pause. While the Sox watched the Tampa Bay Rays battle the Yankees in their clubhouse, they saw the un-probable happening. Entering the 8th inning, the Yankees had a 7-0 lead over the Rays. Things started going south from here for the Sox. Tampa Bay miraculously pulled the game to within 1, and in the bottom of the 9th inning, with 2 outs and 2 strikes, pinch hitter Dan Johnson pulled a ball down the right field wall, and out of the ballpark. It was a tie game out in Tampa. The Red Sox went back to work just moments before this, and worked their way to the 9th inning. And with 2 outs, and 2 strikes of their own, closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed the game tying RBI double to Mark Reynolds. It was just his 3rd blown save in 34 opportunities this season. The very next batter was Robert Andino. With a 1-1 count, Andino hit a fastball down the middle of the plate on a line into left field. Carl Crawford came rushing in, went to the slide, and the ball hit the very tip of his glove but stayed out. Reynolds scored from 2nd on the play, and the Red Sox, in stunning fashion, had just lost to the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3. Not even 5 minutes later, Evan Longoria would hit a walk off homerun down the left field line, to give his Tampa Bay Rays an 8-7 win, and the Wild Card. Thus ended the greatest collapse in MLB regular season history. This puts the Sox, and their record payroll, in a bit of a bind now.
Ortiz, Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Scutaro, Varitek, Bedard, and Wakefield are all free agents going into this offseason. The big question becomes, who do you keep, and who do you let go? Ortiz, Varitek, and Wakefield all need to be let go. These 3 guys have done great things for the franchise in their time here, but they don’t have anything left to contribute. What it would cost to retain these players just wouldn’t be worth the money, or the years that they most likely will want. I think it also will help give the franchise a new look, and let them start fresh with some younger talent. Drew appears as if he’ll retire, and that’s besides the fact that there is no way the Sox bring him back when they have Ryan Kalish and Josh Redick they can put out in Right. Papelbon, Scutaro, and Bedard I think all have to come back. Papelbon is still an elite closer, and he showed that this year. He came back from a bad 2010 performance, and had just 3 blown saves all year. While he did blow the most important game of the year, he’s one of the only guys you can say that truly helped them get to that point with his consistency. Scutaro is another guy who provided consistent output throughout the season. Also, there is no one who the Sox can really bring in or call up that will replace him. Bedard is a question mark this offseason. He’s very injury prone, and a guy who has to be limited when he pitches. But who can the Sox go out and get to replace him? Roy Oswalt, C.J. Wilson even C.C Sabathia perhaps? While all will be free agents, I really don’t see any of them leaving their current teams. Bedard is a solid starter, and if monitored will produce for the Sox. There is already one person though we all know won’t be returning next season.
Heartbreakingly, Terry Francona has not had his option picked up by Red Sox management. Sad to see Francona go, especially with the way it happened. Sounds like he was tired of this team though, and wanted to go just as much as management wanted to get rid of him. These players let him down, and there needs to be a big change with the environment. According to reports by the likes of Sean McAdams and Dan Shaughnessy, the players weren’t listening to Tito anymore. There were cliques in the clubhouse, players were drinking beer in the middle of games. They flat-out didn’t care, and didn’t want to hear his message anymore. Terry can’t make them care if they don’t want to, and it showed on the field when the going got tough. This team showed their true colors as Francona said in his press conference on Friday. He didn’t like what he saw, and neither did I. You could say it’s his fault because he lost the clubhouse, but the collapse is all about how the players performed down the stretch. It’s all on the players. Epstein made some bad moves in Free Agency, but he also put together a team that was on pace for 100 wins at the beginning of September. And because of the way the players acted in this final month, Terry Francona has to lose his job.
He leaves Boston with a 744-552 record, 2nd most wins among Red Sox managers. He was 28-17 in the postseason, having a .622 winning percentage. That is the 2nd best all time in Major League history, with a minimum of 25 starts. He also became just the 2nd Red Sox manager ever to win 2 World Series. His greatest feat by far, was amounting the greatest comeback in Baseball history, by coming back from a 0-3 deficit in the 2004 ALCS against the rival Yankees. The Sox became the only team in Baseball history to come back down 0-3 to win a series 4-3. That led Boston to its first World Series appearance since 1986, and their first World Series Championship since 1918 after sweeping the best team in the Major Leagues that year, the St. Louis Cardinals. He was the best manager in Red Sox history. I don’t think anybody can really say otherwise. Now the question becomes, who are you going to find that can replace Terry Francona? Big shoes to fill for whoever it is, and they will be expected to take this team to the World Series.