Every now and again, there will be a change in baseball that shakes the very core of the game. Many may not consider Terry Francona’s departure from the Red Sox one of these changes, but I do. This departure, whether it be mutual, forced, or otherwise, will not only affect the Red Sox from a managerial standpoint, it will affect the entire organization. Like an earthquake centered in New England, the loss of Francona will reverberate not just in Boston, but in entire baseball east. Maybe further.
Let’s start with what seems obvious. Terry Francona was the best manager the Red Sox ever had. For a franchise buried beneath generations of failure, the combination of Theo Epstein and Terry Francona proved to be the savior Red Sox Nation needed. They won two World Series in the last ten years and have been competitive every year. But now comes life after Francona, and maybe life after Epstein.
Sure many will point to the reported disconnect between Francona and Epstein as reason for Epstein to celebrate the loss of his manager and continue on in peace as the Red Sox general manager. Yet, Theo, like Francona, has done just about everything he could do with Boston. He has the opportunity to be challenged elsewhere, to find success in another city buried under years of failure. Epstein may stick around Boston, but the consensus seems to be he’s willing to look elsewhere.
Francona will land somewhere else. He will be allowed to start fresh, to command the respect of a clubhouse from day one rather than fight to win it back on a daily basis, and to utilize his talents as a manager in a way less scrutinized by the front office.
Yes, Francona and Epstein may move on, but will Boston? John Henry’s Yankee-fighting juggernaut is being dismantled. Dirty laundry is being thrown from the windows. Rumors and truth are swirling together like a deadly elixir. The Red Sox are at a fork in the road even if Epstein sticks around. Seasons like this one tend to carry on and follow a team like an unwanted cat. One wrong signing in the offseason, the wrong managerial choice, or even a bad piece of off-field publicity could send this team from perennial competitor to a fight and scratch type club.
The potential falling of the Red Sox could open the door for Toronto and Tampa. Toronto continues to have winning seasons, but also continues to fall short of the play-offs. Tampa Bay has one of the best GM/Manager combinations in all of baseball. They continue to succeed with minimal payroll and should benefit from any hiccup in the Red Sox winning ways.
Boston, as of right now, has only lost Terry Francona. But that loss may be more than anyone could have ever guessed. It could lead to a domino-style destruction of the Red Sox to which we have grown accustomed. Tito gave the Sox everything he had. They rewarded him with respect and titles for so long. But when that faded, he and the organization had little choice but to part ways. Where both parties go from here remains anyone’s guess.