By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Shaughnessy’s odd premise

No doubt plenty of jerks get in Terry Francona’s face. But the central premise of Boston Globe reporter/columnist Dan Shaughnessy’s profile of the Red Sox manager today strikes me as odd. Shaughnessy writes:

Despite getting swept in New York last week, the Sox have the best record in the major leagues and a six-game lead in the American League East. They are likely going to the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. They even won a World Series three years ago, and yet Francona — the fourth-year manager who delivered Boston’s first baseball championship in 86 years in 2004 — has an ever-expanding legion of critics. He enjoys none of the public reverence and worship that washes over Bill Belichick in Foxborough.

Really? Maybe my circle is too small, but among people I talk baseball with, Francona is seen as the Sox’ best manager in our lifetime. The only worry I hear is that Tito’s health problems may force him to retire early.

Joe Morgan, also a good manager, was more entertaining, and Dick Williams will be forever revered because of 1967. But Francona’s the man.

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  1. Anonymous

    I had the same reaction. Maybe Dan is trying to manufacture some extra drama?

  2. Anonymous

    I agrre with you, Dan, but I’ve never heard an average fan praise Francona. It’s always criticism. I will admit that I don’t have a wide circle of friends that are Red Sox fans.

  3. Anonymous

    Anon (about 3:40) here.I think one of the reasons Francona was hired was to avoid some of the “Curse of the Bambino” moments from managers that have hurt the Red Sox in key situations. These include the decision to start Galehouse in the 1948 playoff game; the decision to lift Willoughby in the 7th game of the 1975 World Series; the decision NOT to lift Buckner in the 7th game of the 1986 World Series; the decision NOT to lift Pedro Martinez in the 7th game of the 2003 ALCS. You may disagree with Francona, but there has been no “hunch-playing” in his post-season decision-making. This and the lack of injuries were the two biggest factors in the Red Sox wining in 2004 (IMHO). (Note that Williams and Morgan have not had any screwball decisions hung around their necks).

  4. O-FISH-L

    While I would tend to agree with you, it seems like Terry Francona agrees wholeheartedly with Shaugnessy. Wait until the team starts losing, perhaps Francona (if he’s kept) will long for these days.Dan, since Shaugnessy’s piece mentioned both Francona and Theo Epstein, what did you think of this widely reported claim that appeared after the no-hitter, in an AP story and elsewhere?”The final pitch was his 115th, 21 more than his longest outing of the year in the majors or minors. If he had reached 120, even if he had a no-hitter, he would have been taken out, general manager Theo Epstein said.” —I agree with Mike Lowell who reportedly scoffed at the notion. Plus, why is Epstein meddling with the “in-game” management of the team? I know he’s the GM, but I don’t recall such interference in the past. Seems like micromanagement at its worst, particularly when the GM/attorney has never played the game.

  5. paul

    It’s not a representative sample, but if you wander over to the message boards, there’s a vocal and passionate crew of Francona haters — one of them even started a poll asking the likelihood of their least favorite manager getting fired this year! In the circle of fans I know (also not a representative sample), I see frequent frustration with some of his managerial decisions (particularly his habit of sticking with starters for one or two batters too long), but I think most appreciate the job he does in perhaps the toughest place to manage a baseball team.

  6. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Am I the only one who thinks it a bit odd that the manager was on the phone with the general manager in the midst of the no-hit game this weekend? Aren’t mid-game phone calls from upstairs the sort of thing that drove the people who managed for Steinbrenner and Charles O. Finley crazy? How often does Theo ring up the manager during a game? Do the owners do the same thing? Did Grady Little spurn the calls leading to the spin that he wasn’t on the same page with the crew that has turned Fenway Park, once a dignified ball park, into a carnival sideshow? Shouldn’t this phone call business be reported?

  7. Anonymous

    It’s simple. Rank and file Red Sox fans – as opposed to actual baseball fans – are all about the hate and the angst and the self-loathing. The whole point is to get shit-faced on lousy beer, scream “Yankees Suck!” all night, and pretend they could actually manage a baseball team.

  8. O-FISH-L

    Amusedbutinformedobserver, no, you aren’t the only one. See the last paragraph of my post which is two above your own.

  9. mike_b1

    Dan, did you miss a comment of mine from earlier today? Blogger said it went through.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: I’ve posted everything that’s come through.

  11. man who's a sox fan

    I think it’s less about people acknowledging that Francona is “the man”, and more about how no matter how many people like Francona, and no matter how well the Sox do under his guidance…Red Sox fans are just too enamored with the concept that they know more about managing a baseball team than the manager does.This as opposed to the “In Bill We Trust” mindset from the fans about Belichick. Sure there’s Monday-Morning-Quarterbacking, but in general Patriots fans seem a lot more likely to give Bill a pass (pun intended) than Tito.I think it stems from four things: first, before the Patriots became “The Dynasty”, they made it to the Superbowl a lot more recently than the Red Sox made it to the World Series before 2004. Second, the Patriots’ win in 2001 kinda came out of nowhere, and every year since they’ve been strong contenders for another ring (if not winning one) so it’s harder to argue with the results. Third, Belichick’s team ethos is much more team-focused, and suppressing the individual, than the Red Sox. Similarly, the Patriots “control” their interactions with the media MUCH more than the Sox do. Part of this is probably the differences between football and baseball, but it’s a reality. This makes it harder to single out any one person for blame when things go wrong, and presents a “no one gets in to see the Wizard” mentality to the public. It’s hard to second-guess Bill when you barely have enough info to first guess!Fourth, another football vs. baseball issue: baseball looks deceptively simple, but is actually VERY complex. It’s easy for a fan to really have no idea all the things going on behind the scenes. Football looks complex, and the Patriots’ schemes look even more complex (and are consistently regarded as such) than most. Most people don’t look at a football play and think “Any idiot could come up with that!!!” Whereas the average opinion of baseball is “HIT THE GODDAMN BALL!!!” and not much beyond that. :-)P.S. Shaughnessy is ALWAYS trying to stir up drama. That’s his JOB, obnoxious as many seem to find it.

  12. mike_b1

    While Francona does make the occasional in-game mistake, his pregame planning is likely as good as anyone who has ever worn a Red Sox uniform. (Example: Witness his complete dismantling of the otherwise credible Michael Holley last year, in which Holley questioned TF’s bullpen use and Tito took him apart like a sushi chef.) He also clearly outmanaged Joe Torre during the 2004 playoffs, as was laid out in detail in Mind Game.Moreover, he is adept at dealing with the press. In this fishbowl, that’s as important a skill as any.o-fish, Epstein et al have at their hands way more information than, say, The Boss did in the 70s. If Theo were to call down during a game with info, Francona would be foolish not to listen. After all, 1) Theo’s his boss and 2) Why wouldn’t you use all the resources available?Finally, man who’s a Sox fan, Shaughnessy’s job is to enlighten readers, not manufacture drama.

  13. man who's a sox fan

    Finally, man who’s a Sox fan, Shaughnessy’s job is to enlighten readers, not manufacture drama. Au Contrare, Mike. Shaughnessy’s job is to SELL NEWSPAPERS. He does that by creating drama, not by enlightening readers. The latter job falls to people like Gordon Edes and Amalie Benjamin. The CHB is there to be the resident blowhard and stir up the pot so people will buy the paper to read it, and he does it well.

  14. Anonymous

    Dan Shaughnessy may be reacting to the yelling that happens on the loudest sports talk radio station in Boston. I’ve heard some of the hosts dress down Francona-bashers several times. Some fans can’t breathe unless they’re haranguing someone.

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