Communication Breakdown?

When discussing Terry Francona’s managing prowess, it’s important to include the Front Office in the whole debate.  There are several questions that need to be asked and answered, at least speculatively on our part.  Here goes:

Q: To what level does Theo Epstein have input about in-game decisions?

A: We suppose almost none.  It would be almost incomprehensibly disrespectful for Epstein to phone in moves.  If he did this, Tito would probably walk off the job, and he’d be right to do so.  I imagine Theo knows that the responsibilities of his field manager are, once the game starts, pretty sacred.

Q: Do Theo and Bill James (et al) discuss hypothetical, situational baseball with Tito prior to games, and give Tito their opinions on who is the best match for a particular situation?

A: Yes, they must.

Q: Does Tito listen?

A: Perhaps, though probably not all the time.  My guess is that if he isn’t listening, he isn’t going to be employed for too long.  His job seens secure, so that would imply that he’s listening at least enough to keep people upstairs, if not the fans, happy.

Q: Does Francona stick with his veterans too long?

A: Yes.  He did this with Millar last year, with Foulke last year, and he’s doing it with Seanez and Tavarez this year.  He never gave up on Millar, even though it was clear he was close to cooked.  He kept pushing Foulke out there last year, despite poor performances.  He’s doing the same with Seanez, Tavarez this year.  And with Coco in the leadoff spot – I can’t imagine that move comes from James and Epstein, it just doesn’t make any sense.  This "faith" is one of his best and worst traits, clearly.  The guys love him, so he gets a great deal from his players, effort-wise.  But it also ends up costing them, from a situational standpoint: Francona often appears locked in to a decision, such is the predictability with which he acts on many occasions.

Q: Are Theo and the front office co-offenders in this "sticking with the vets" policy? 

A: Yes, most definitely yes.  If Tavarez is hurting the Sox that much then Theo should DFA him.  Keeping him on the roster implies he is useful and available.  If he’s of no use to the Sox, then he shouldn’t be on the Sox.  We can blame Francona for sending him out there in a save situation (and we do, and he should never be immunized against such criticism), but we can’t blame him for any specific player being on the roster and available for pitching duties.  Those decisions are made primarly by Epstein & Co.  The roster is limited: we have to expect Francona to deploy pitchers at his disposal.  We can only hope he has the sense to tailor his decisions to specific situations, and not send players out willy-nilly into games.

12 comments… add one
  • It really is amazing how much the Yanks and Sox resemble each other, isn’t it? Change the names and your analysis could work almost as well for Cashman, Torre, and the Yankees.

    Fre June 14, 2006, 1:27 pm
  • Fre, I was thinking the same thing. A manager who has faith in his veterans and keeps on going back to them even though there are are possible better and younger options…Sounds familiar.

    Nick-YF June 14, 2006, 1:39 pm
  • You mean “Steinbrenner and Torre”, don’t you?

    SF June 14, 2006, 1:40 pm
  • I agree with all of the above but I find myself torn at times…both Cashman and Epstein “got” these guys (Farnsworth/Tavarez) and for all the talk of Villone being under used, etc…it strikes me as interesting that Epstein and Cashman don’t take even more of the criticisms of these problems.
    I agree that both Francona and Torre frequently under-utilize the bullpens (and the lineups), and yet, would Villone be better if he pitched more innings or is there something that Torre and Gator see in practice that dissuades them from going to him for longer and more frequent relief appearences?
    The same could be said for Francona’s use of Tavarez. With Timlin out, Tavarez IS SUPPOSSEd to (according to Epstein, implied by the signing of Julian) be able to put in effective set up relief for Papelbon…and Foulke is not much different than Cone was at the end of his career–just a bus crash.
    This isn’t to say that Torre doesn’t over-use Tanyon (shit, if it wasn’t for the season ending injury, it didn’t seem like Cashman was doing anything to get Torre an alternative to Tanyon).

    walein June 14, 2006, 1:53 pm
  • So, SF, how much blame should be directed at the Front Office and not Tito? After all, if they were as happy as most SFs on this site about his decisions, he’d either change them or be fired, right? Aside from being passive observers, is there not a chance that the FO actually approves of what Tito is doing?

    Sam June 14, 2006, 2:09 pm
  • I don’t know, Sam. That’s basically my question too. My take is that Theo has given Tito a couple of bum steer, so he has to be the one to put them to sleep – Terry can’t do that. And I don’t think Theo approves of everything Francona does, but he also can’t just dump him because he makes a few moves that he doesn’t like; the consequences, as Beth has rightfully pointed out, are quite huge. So it is unfair to say that the FO is complicit in Terry’s dunderheaded decisions because Francona has some freedom afforded to him, there’s no way he can be denied that, nor should he be denied that.
    On the other hand, Francona has got to show more savvy in deploying these guys, whether he gets number-heavy reports from Bill James or not. Throwing Tavarez out there was perhaps arguable, but leaving him out there after plunking a guy and giving up a laced double was not. I suppose the front office has a tipping point w/r/t the viability of a manager (not Tito, specifically), a point where they can no longer accept the field general’s mistakes as less signficant than his qualities. Terry’s still got a job, so the FO clearly still thinks his good outweighs his bad. But that doesn’t mean they are blind to the bad, or approve of it.

    SF June 14, 2006, 2:16 pm
  • Francona in the Globe:
    “Manny’s an interesting guy for us,” Francona said. “He’s young, got a great arm. We tried to somewhat pitch him in situations where we’re down a couple just to take a little bit of the heat off him. The other day, he pitched so well. If he can start duplicating that and following up with back-to-back outings, that would be great for our bullpen just because of the stuff he brings.”
    Last night would have been a good start, Tito…

    Paul SF June 14, 2006, 2:51 pm
  • criticizing him is your right, SF, but i think speculation about what the front office does or doesn’t think re tito is totally irrational without any public statements or evidence about how they interact with or feel about tito. anyway, john henry frequently visits SoSH, as does LL…why not send him these questions via those channels instead of making up the answers?

    beth June 14, 2006, 2:54 pm
  • Is there any criticism of Tito in the Boston media these days?

    Sam June 14, 2006, 3:13 pm
  • I don’t know what you expect from this site, Beth. I am trying to open up a discussion, offer my sincere opinions, raise some issues that are pertinent to the current state of the Sox, perhaps the current state of other teams as well, in a rhetorical method that is succinct and literate. I am not a member of SoSH, and attempts to get people there to respond to me have been futile. Writing to John Henry will get me answers of the depth of a kiddie pool, if he even responds to someone like me. This is a fan site for discussion, written by fans of both the Sox and Yanks who try to write cleverly and provocatively.
    It seems like no matter what I write, whether rational or not, you want to take it to task as inappropriate, or in the wrong place. That’s fine – I can take criticism. But I don’t really get what you are looking for, at all.

    SF June 14, 2006, 3:14 pm
  • //I am not a member of SoSH, and attempts to get people there to respond to me have been futile.//
    okay, first of all, this is the answer i was looking for when i asked a sincere question.
    i realize i have been a thorn in your side and at times i have been obnoxious in my responses to your posts. i don’t mean anything personal by it–tenacity and obsessiveness about issues i feel strongly about is part of my nature and i understand your frustration at this point.
    however, i also believe it’s very easy to monday-morning quarterback; it’s very easy to make the kinds of statements like you did in this post about what the front office thinks of tito and have many people begin to take it as fact, when it’s merely speculation. so i guess it’s not so much what i’ve been looking for from you–it’s more what i’ve felt compelled to point out for myself.
    but this is your site and i’m sorry for having been a pain in the ass. the debate has been struck up over at my place and i’ll try not to keep up the harangue over here as much anymore.

    beth June 14, 2006, 7:02 pm
  • I personally find it difficult to speculate about the culpability of Theo beyond tolerating the likes of Tavares and Saenez on the roster given their recent performances. However, putting Tavares into last night’s game was asinine. Tavares has shown repeatedly he cannot respond in crtical situations.
    Normally, I am reluctant to criticize management, but this was inexcusable.

    Tom sf June 14, 2006, 8:27 pm

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