Francona and the Red Sox

I finished reading Francona last week and have been listening and reading to what people are saying about it.  In case you don’t live in Boston, follow the Red Sox, or follow another baseball team, Terry Francona was the manager of the Boston Red Sox from 2004 through the 2011 season.  Quite a long time in baseball years, particularly in Red Sox years.  He managed the team to their first World Series win (2004) in 86 years breaking the infamous curse of Babe Ruth.  And then one a second Series in 2007.  I loved seeing him in the corner of the dugout chewing his tobacco which he pretended was gum or maybe is was sometimes the other way around.  And I felt terrible as the 2011 season imploded in September.  I think we all knew that Francona wouldn’t be back for 2012.

Terry in the dugout.

Terry in the dugout.

So now there is the book, Francona. by Terry and Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe.  Some people don’t like it because they think it completely trashes the owners which makes me wonder if they have actually read the book.  Or maybe they are responding on behalf of the owners.  I had read some of the advanced reviews which said that he was not nice to the owners so I guess I looked for those parts in the book.  (for a nice interview with Terry by Emily Rooney, click here.)

The controversy appears to stem largely from his statement that the owners didn’t like baseball.  Taken out of context, this is a rather silly statement.  Why would you spend millions to own a team if you didn’t like the game?  But if you read the book, you learn that in Francona’s  world, where one lives and breathes baseball from a very young age, the owners are different.  They have other interests, like making money, and bring in fans.  Why else would they bring in a showman like Bobby Valentine after Terry?

There is a delicate balance between the purity of the game and the game as business.  Francona is on one side of that fine line, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino are on the other.  And that is the essence of the the matter.  In the end, Francona and Theo Epstein were on the wrong side from those that paid them.  I don’t think they were surprised.

I love baseball.  I like going to minor league games without all the show of the bigs to distract me.  I guess I’m like Francona in that tiny way.  If you love baseball and want an inside picture, read this book.

Red Sox pitchers and catchers report on the 12th; everyone else on the 15th.  I read that most of the pitchers have already arrived in Florida.  Bobby V. is thankfully gone.  New manager John Farrell is a baseball guy.  Maybe John Lackey will redeem himself.  Maybe we can give the young kids a chance to play and grow.  Maybe the Sox will have a winning year.  Francona is managing the Cleveland Indians and Theo is with the Cubs.  It’s spring time for baseball and anything can happen.


Halfway through the 2011 season

Given the way the season began, the Sox are not in bad shape.  At the halfway point (July 2), they were 47-34.  Since then they have added a win and a loss and gained a game on the Yankees.  As Nick Cafardo said, “The Red Sox are flawed, but many teams would love to have blemishes and still win 47 games.”

Blemishes?  Mike Cameron just never could come back from his surgery last year.  Theo Epstein, when he was releasing Mike, said it was one of his mistakes, a trade that didn’t work out.  And J.D. Drew.  I like the guy.  He’s a pro.  But we can’t count on him as we could in years past.  I see retirement for J.D. at the end of the season.  Carl Crawford.  What to say.  He has a terrific smile, but so far he hasn’t lived up to his promise.  We hope he is just adjusting.  I keep waiting for Darnell McDonald to start hitting.  There are kids waiting in the wings, Darnell.  But the big blemish is John Lackey.  And I think it is an even bigger mistake than Mike Cameron that Theo has to deal with.

The John Lackey situation Just when you think it might be the point of no return for John Lackey, he steps up and turns in a gem in Philadelphia. But Lackey remains in prime position to be the cover boy for Theo Epstein's book of bad signings with his $82.5 million deal. 'It's accurate to say that he had an elbow injury earlier this year and got a shot for that that alleviated some of the symptoms,' Epstein said regarding Lackey. 'And we're going to monitor it closely.' Lackey is sitting on a 6.81 ERA to go along with his 5-7 record.

Bob Ryan writes this morning in the Boston Globe

John Lackey once led the American League in earned run average

John Lackey once won 19 games.

John Lackey once gave up a leadoff double and then retired 27 Oakland A’s in succession, a performance that came in the middle of a stretch in which he threw 30 2/3 scoreless innings.

John Lackey once pitched and won a World Series Game 7.

John Lackey once was deemed worthy of a five-year, $82.5 million contract by the Boston Red Sox, who certainly were not bidding against themselves when they made the offer.

Where has that guy gone?

After yesterday, his ERA is 7.47.  And even if Theo didn’t know this, he could never pitch at Fenway where his ERA is now, get this, 9.17.  I feel a little bad piling on when he was injured and his wife is sick, but baseball – particularly in Boston- is serious business.  We are in a tight race right now and when Lackey is scheduled to pitch, one has to pencil in a loss.  Here is Bob Ryan again

But it’s really not funny. It’s a gigantic hole in the middle of a starting rotation that really needs to get to the All-Star break without something disastrous taking place. No one knows when we’ll next see Clay Buchholz, who is being sent to North Carolina for further examination of his back, and who, according to the manager, won’t be sent out there “until we know he’s not hurting himself.’’

Meanwhile, what do you say in a circumstance such as this, when a guy in whom you have invested an enormous sum of money, and who arrived with the reputation of being both a talented pitcher and a highly competitive one, has presented himself in such a horrendous manner? There really is no way to exaggerate how big a catch Lackey was supposed to be.

Here is what respected Baseball Prospectus had to say on the subject of Lackey’s impending free agency at the conclusion of the 2009 season: “Lackey stands alone as one of the best, a relatively young righty who carries significantly less risk than the other high-upside hurlers.’’


He has become the ultimate Mystery Guest when he takes the mound, especially at Fenway. A 9.17 ERA in his home ballpark speaks rather eloquently.

As recently as two years ago, John Lackey was an honored and respected pitcher. Now his numbers identify him as the worst starter in major league baseball. Baseball Prospectus probably would like a do-over. Theo, too.

But there is lots going well.  Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are back for one.  Nick Cafardo writes

They found a new starter in 6-foot-7-inch Andrew Miller that they’re excited about.

They tested the versatility of Alfredo Aceves and he succeeded in every role he was used in.

Josh Beckett returned to be a dominant pitcher. Jon Lester has continued his development into elite status among lefties. Jonathan Papelbon, who recorded his 16th save last night, has answered the challenge of pitching well in his walk year and Daniel Bard continues to show why he’s ready for the next step in his career – to be a closer. He appears ready if the Sox cut ties with Papelbon after this season.

Adrian Gonzalez is the team and league’s MVP so far. He’s an RBI machine (73), who knocked in the winning runs last night and has come to the American League and conquered.

David is Goliath again Reports of David Ortiz's demise have been greatly exaggerated and Big Papi is in the midst of one of his most productive seasons in a Red Sox uniform, and he's hammering lefties, too. After 80 games, he has a .956 OPS, good for ninth in the AL. Versus lefthanders, Papi has an impressive .992 OPS and a .341 average. The Red Sox recently struggled without Ortiz in the lineup in National League parks, prompting manager Terry Francona to use Ortiz at first base to get him into the lineup in Philadelphia, which landed regular first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in right field for a night.

And the last word goes to David Ortiz

“This team has a chance to do some things,’’ Ortiz said. “When we get our lineup healthy and together and the weather gets nice and hot, we’re going to be fine here. We’re going to put up some runs. It’s going to be fun.’’

Go Sox!  And congratulations to the All Stars:  Beckett, Ortiz, Gonzalez and Ellsbury!

Stick a fork in the Sox

The Sox are done.  Maybe not officially, mathematically , but they are done.  It is almost as if Dustin Pedroia’s surgery took the air out of the last tire.  And I don’t think we can blame Hurricane Earl for the double header loss. I was hoping that they could stay close enough to the Rays and Yankees to take advantage of any collapse, but I don’t think that is to be.

They didn’t have a bad season, just a not so good a season for the Red Sox since they broke the Curse. 

I know that everyone will blame Theo Epstein and management for not making trades, but deep down everyone knows that wouldn’t have been the answer.  No one counted on all the injuries. (It is now reported that Mike Lowell has been playing with injured ribs.)  Epstein is in it for the long term and the young kids, the Navas, McDonalds (even if he isn’t all that young he’s pretty much a rookie), and the guys in Pawtucket, Portland and Lowell are the future.  Of course, in a couple of years if things don’t bounce back, then we can say Theo was wrong.

Here is Peter Abraham on the games that ended the season.

Well that was quite a day for the Red Sox.• First doubleheader sweep since dropping a twinbill to the Yankees on Aug. 18, 2006.

• Fewest runs in a doubleheader since losing 5-1 and 2-1 against Kansas City on July 16, 1976.

• They were 13 of 67 at the plate including 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position.

There will be much written about the season, but this picture kinda says it all.

John Lackey

We can only hope that the Sox stay professional and win a respectable number of the games remaining.  Over .500 would be nice.  But we know for sure that next year’s Sox will look very different. 

Get healthy, guys!  As they used to say in Brooklyn, “Wait until next year!”