What if Terry Francona had stayed?
There was one thing that Red Sox fans were all in on in early October
2011: Changes had to be made. Big changes. Some six months later, we
know that ownership heard the cries. They made drastic moves. Terry
Francona, the most popular manager in club history, was let go. Their
hearts, Larry Lucchino’s specifically, weren’t exactly broken over the
fact that the most popular GM in club history was fleeing for the Windy
They then traded a guy in Marco Scutaro, who by most accounts seems to
be anti-beer and fried chicken and all for Muscle Milk and garden salad,
for straight cash. They decided not to bring back the most popular
closer in club history, in order to save straight cash.
In essence, the ownership believed that the biggest issue concerning
the worst collapse in baseball history was that the manager had let the
clubhouse get out of control and that there was more value out there on
the open market in the shortstop and closer positions.
But what if Francona had stayed?
Would all the other dominos have fallen the same way?
Francona was a creature of habit and, to a fault, liked HIS guys.
Jose Iglesias would not have sniffed the Red Sox big league roster had
Francona still been here this spring. Back in November, Francona
probably would have made a strong pitch to keep Scutaro and Papelbon.
They may have actually gone after a big name free agent (not that that
is always the cure-all).
But had Francona stayed, there is no way
that the ownership would have allowed him to have any say over who to
bring in and who to dump. There’s no reason to believe that Francona
ever had clout in that department to begin with and after last
September, he would have been on the tightest of leashes.
Hohler piece in the Globe would not have seen the light of day last
fall. Instead it might have been slowly leaked over the course of this
season had the Sox got off to another slow start.
In addition, if Francona had stayed, the roster still would look a
lot different today. Had the ownership decided to back Francona, maybe
the players would have been the ones held accountable for September.
Maybe Youkilis would be gone. Maybe Beckett would be gone. Maybe Ortiz
wouldn’t have gotten that one-year deal.
Had those changes been made instead of the Francona move, would the
Red Sox be better off than they are today? There would not be an ongoing
soap opera being broadcast right now on every Boston media outlet
between the manager and the starting second baseman. That’s for sure.
Who knows who the Sox would have replaced Youkilis, Beckett and Ortiz with? Probably not much.
In the end, however, had Francona stayed, there would still be a giant,
steaming mess at Fenway right now. It just would have looked different.
– Matt Burke is sports editor of Metro Boston. Follow him on Twitter @BurkeMetroBos.
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