How Not To Hit the Panic Button

Did I miss something?  No really, did I miss something in Boston?  Perhaps it was only a misunderstanding but it seems to me if memory serves that the ongoing and consistent success of the franchise after years of frustration was born out of management finally realizing that finding the right front office personnel and scouting people is the key to success for any sports organization.  Ups and downs are going to happen.  The right people ensure that the ups are more frequent.

The ownership of the Boston RedSox were right in unceremoniously dumping Terry Francona as manager and putting him out on the street. They were right in pushing GM wunderkid Theo Epstein out the door with nothing but an “if you really want to go.”  It makes a lot of organizational sense. I mean, Boston did finish last in the AL East this season didn’t they?  That’s simply not acceptable is it?

Oh wait, Boston didn’t finish last.  Not once in the Francona-Epstein years. Sure they had one of the worst Septembers in memory and didn’t make the playoffs but if I read the recent baseball history correctly, Boston had a pretty decent run from 2003-2011. Well perhaps not that good– they only won two World Series titles and were strong contenders each season in the toughest division in baseball.  I mean, most of the other 29 teams can make the same claim can’t they?

Talk about cutting off your own nose to spite your face. What exactly did Terry Francona and Theo Epstein do that was so heinous that any semblance of loyalty or good business sense was thrown completely out the window by Boston ownership?

Certainly the signings of John Lackey and Carl Crawford were ill advised, some might even say disastrous. In the case of Crawford, someone should have noticed that Crawford had a lifetime batting average of .242 in Fenway Park. Odds were that he was going to play half of his games in Fenway. His performance in Fenway was over the course of nine seasons could hardly be considered a blimp on the statistical radar.

John Lackey had an understandable distraction throughout the 2011 season with the serious illness of his wife.  Ownership should have known that such a situation was more than enough pressure and throwing a player already distracted into the wolves den which maybe should have given the Boston press pause. Lackey had never shown anything near the mental toughness needed to play in Boston or New York. Apparently ownership didn’t notice.

Some of the veteran players, David Ortiz especially, put themselves above the team with their massive egos which weren’t covered by their performance, especially in September. A manger has to count on player responsibility. The press loved Ortiz for his Big Papi stature, with performance and leadership overlooked and blame shifted elsewhere. There was little if any criticism towards a completely one-dimensional player who demanded millions yet produced nothing in September.

Terry Francona had so many distractions from prima donna players and indecisive ownership that he had little or no time to actually concern himself with what was going on during the game. Maybe it was the pills, booze, off field distractions which the Boston press has recently “uncovered” about him.

Historically, the best way to cover up an embarrassing mistake is to manufacture dirt on the innocent victim(s). I had never read anything which questioned Francona’s on field managing skills or his offield behavior. In a town where every breath is written about by someone, I find it odd that nothing had ever surfaced before.

Theo Epstein was the man who brought Boston out of their historically dismal showings.  Certainly Epstein made some questionable signings. Certainly the Boston clubhouse had too many players concerned only with their next paycheck.  Epstein had the resources to fix this problem, letting the prima donnas go by eating what has turned out to be some bad contracts. But when the rumors began to fly that Epstein wanted out of Boston, potential suitors formed a line a mile long.

Boston ownership has finally become more despised than the New York Yankees. Looks good on them.  I hope they pay for it long after Francona has landed somewhere he is appreciated and Epstein builds his next dynasty. Boston ownership decided to throw the baby out with the dirty bath water.

0 thoughts on “How Not To Hit the Panic Button”

  1. Your harsh words toward Ortiz’ late-season performance are puzzling. September might have been his least productive month of the season, but his splits of .287 (BA), .396 (OBP), and .372 (SLG) for the month nonetheless made for an OPS of 115. Performance above league average is hardly worthy of the phrase, “produced nothing in September.”

  2. Interesting point, Brendan, though it’s worth noting that Ortiz’s 115 OPS+ for September was significantly below his 154 on the year. And Ortiz’s .287 batting clip on the month is about the same as what another aging slugger, Babe Ruth hit in 1934, .288 which was enough to earn him a ticket out of New York.

  3. Graham,
    Thank you for catching my typo. Yes, I of course meant OPS+ and not OPS in my comment.
    The comparison you draw between Ortiz and Ruth late in their careers is an interesting one – some similarities, but some differences, too. Ruth in 1934 was an aging slugger on the decline. Even as such he had a season that by anyone’s standards but his own would have been considered exceptionally good; yet, his 160 OPS+ was substantially below his career average of 206.
    Ortiz had a very good 2011 season that I think went underappreciated, due in part to all the MVP talk that surrounded his teammates Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury (and to a lesser extent Dustin Pedroia). Note that Ortiz’ 154 OPS+ in 2011 was the fourth best of his career and is above his career average of 136, so while Ortiz might also be an aging slugger, his 2011 season strongly suggests to me that his decline is not yet here. That said, Ortiz’ late-season power outage was undeniable (only one September HR!). Against the backdrop of his team’s 20 losses for the month, the perception that Ortiz underperformed is understandable.
    Again, thanks!

  4. I’d be surprised if Ortiz returns to Boston, but he could have a few more seasons in a place like Tampa Bay, Baltimore, or Texas. It will be interesting to see where this goes…

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