Terry Francona… the greatest manager in Red Sox history

That’s the only way Francona should EVER be referred to by a Red Sox fan.
Yes he inherited a good team that could have won the 2003 pennant had Grady Little not been the manager.

Sometimes, despite what Billy Beane and the producers of Moneyball think, the manager DOES matter.

Sometimes part of a managers job isn’t to check up the latest VORP or WAR or whatever algebra is trendy now. Sometimes it is managing the egos, the pressure and the media market.

Little wasn’t the guy. He proved that not with the Red Sox but when the Dodgers fell apart under his watch.

Francona learned from his rocky tenure managing the Phillies and became Joe Torre lite in Boston. Doesn’t get too high or low. Manages the insane Boston media and a fan base that was literally about to commit mass suicide in the wake of 2003.

And the city was going to burn to the ground when they were down 0-3 to the Yankees with Rivera on the mound. And Francona had the calmness and peace of mind to give Dave Roberts a wink when he came in to pinch run for Millar.

This guy was different.
He didn’t bring in Jim Burton instead of Dick Drago in the 9th inning of Game 7 like Darrell Johnson did in 1975.
He didn’t bench Bill Lee in favor of Bobby Sprowl and wear Butch Hobson and Carlton Fisk down the stretch like Don Zimmer did in 1978.
He didn’t bring Calvin Schraldi into every pressure situation in 1986 like John McNamara did.
He didn’t make a series of absolutely bizarre decisions long before he left Pedro in too long like Grady Little did.

He made the right ones.
He pushed Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling.
He out managed Joe Torre BADLY in 2004.

He won 95 games the next season without a reliable 3, 4 or 5 starter nor a decent closer.

He came back from 3-1 AGAIN in 2007, never losing faith in struggling J. D. Drew and having it pay off with his series turning Grand Slam in Game 6 against Cleveland.

And he nearly came back from ANOTHER 3-1 hole against Tampa in 2008.

Yes Joe Cronin won more games as a Red Sox manager, but Cronin never had to manage with the pressure of the 24 hour media.

Cronin never had the burden of the Curse.

And Cronin never won ONE World Series, let alone TWO!

Francona’s main job was to manage the clubhouse and the media. And he felt he couldn’t do it anymore and he is gone.

The 2011 collapse wasn’t Francona’s fault. The blame should lie on the front office who assembled this mismatch of players.

But Francona, oozing with class right until the end, took responsibility and blamed nobody but himself.

He will wind up somewhere else. (Baltimore? The White Sox? The Cubs? The Astros?) But he should have been a Red Sox lifer.

I really thought a third pennant would put him in a Hall of Fame discussion. Maybe it will.

But when he returns to Fenway in another uniform, there had better be a 20 minute standing ovation for him.

We wanted one title before we died.
Tito made sure we had two.

I for one will miss our manager.

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Gerald Laird… speedster

Over the past 9 seasons Gerald Laird has been a solid defensive catcher, throwing out would be base stealers and giving several teams some depth behind the plate.

He’s never been an offensive power (although he did hit .295 in limited play for the 2006 Rangers) but he has been a valuable catcher.

And he had never appeared in a post season game until the 9th inning of last night’s Phillies – Cardinals game.

And how did he appear?
As a pinch runner for Albert Pujols of course.
Pujols hurt his ankle and in came Laird to run.

I hope he makes another appearance but if he doesn’t, post season history will remember him as a man best used for his speed!

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Look at that! An NL Central team won a playoff game!

When the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, it was the last post season highlight for an NL Central Champion for a while.

The 2007 Cubs were swept by the Diamondbacks.
The 2008 Cubs were swept by the Dodgers.
The 2009 Cardinals were swept by the Dodgers.
The 2010 Reds were swept by the Phillies.

But the 2011 Brewers have put a big fat W on the board! (No offense Prince Fielder.)

Actually the Brewers are the only NL Central team to win a playoff game since 2006… they did so in 2008 as the Wild Card team against the eventual World Champion Phillies.

The AL Central hasn’t fared well either.
Since the Indians took a 3-1 lead on the Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS, the AL Central has lost 13 out of 14 games.

The 2007 Indians lost its last 3 against the Red Sox.
The 2008 White Sox lost to the Rays in 4.
The 2009 and 2010 Twins were swept by the Yankees.
And the 2011 Tigers are down 0-1 to the Yankees.

You want to build up baseball interest in middle America?
Here’s a tip.
Win a few games when they matter.

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