It is absolutely amazing what difference a month can make. One day you can be on cloud nine without a worry in the world. A month later, everything has fallen apart and your world in shambles.
Just ask the Boston Red Sox.
On Sept. 2, the Red Sox had a 9-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card spot, the final spot in the playoffs. With just under a month left to play, the Red Sox had appeared to have it all under control and there was nobody even talking about the possibility of giving away such a large lead. But it happened. It went down as the most epic collapse in baseball history and the Tampa Bay Rays were the beneficiaries of the disastrous September the Red Sox had. The Rays made it to the playoffs and the 7-20 September Red Sox are at home watching them lose to the Texas Rangers.
I’m not a Red Sox fan, but I do feel for them. I am a Dallas Cowboys fan, so I can relate to sky-high expectations, legendary failures and demoralizing finishes to a season. What makes the collapse all the more stunning is the caliber of team that had been put together. Because of offseason acquisitions such as Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Red Sox were nearly the unanimous favorite to win the American League pennant.
Tears are the only thing flooding the field at Fenway these days, not champagne and rowdy players celebrating a championship. As sad as that is for some, it’s not even the worst part. The most unfortunate consequence of the historic debacle is the loss of manager Terry Francona.
It should be noted that Francona and the Red Sox organization did mutually decide to part ways after the disastrous finish. Part of the reason Francona was fine with leaving the organization was what he called his “inability to reach some players.” But even if that is the case, the Red Sox are going to sorely miss Francona.
The reality is Francona did what no Boston Red Sox manager could do for the previous 86 years. He won a World Series. In 2004, his team broke a curse that dated all the way back to 1918, the last time the Red Sox won a world championship. Oh yeah, he did it again three years later in 2007.
If I’m in the Red Sox organization, I fully realize the necessity of a healthy relationship between the manager and players. However, I have a hard time saying good-bye to someone who was the answered prayer to Red Sox fans all over the world. Francona is a good guy who did wonders for the Red Sox organization and the most disappointing thing is that he has now lost his job. He did not lose his job because of his inability to reach the players. I don’t think something in him just magically switched when the calendar hit September. He had been reaching his players just fine before then. The reason he is jobless right now is because of his players’ inability to perform.
You can only put so much blame on a manager when a team of that talent, who is accustomed to winning, goes 7-20 to end the season. Francona was not out there throwing cheese over the plate or striking out. He was doing his job effectively from the dugout, like he had done for years.
I hope to see Francona managing another team in 2012. He has proven he is a winning manager, and many teams would be grateful to have him. As for the Red Sox, not only do they have to live with their legendary failure, they now to have start all over again to find that manager that can repeat Francona’s success. If history repeats itself, don’t expect the Red Sox to hoist a world championship trophy for another 86 years from their previous one. That means I will spend the rest of my life in eager anticipation to see the 2097 Boston Red Sox take the field.