YF asks a reasonable question in a previous comment: am I on the Francona bandwagon? The answer is no. I don’t think the hot streak has cured his flaws, it just doesn’t happen that way. His slow hook helped contribute to the one loss of the streak (leaving Wakefield in on Saturday was a clear mistake, and it was detectable long before the score got to 8-1), and many of the games have been relatively manager-free. That’s all well and good, and Terry seems to do fine when he can get out of the way. So YF put me on the spot, and rightfully so. I offer this reassessment:
Francona clearly has created a reasonably calm atmosphere. He’s a players’ manager, by all accounts, and that may be worth something in a clubhouse with guys in their walk years. They have a lot of pressure on them, and maybe Tito’s manner allows them to deal with the stress of both performance and free agency. So that’s a plus, it seems. And he’s done a good job setting up the lineups recently – moving players in and out of starting spots to get them action, to improve the defensive setup, to match up better. So in that respect he’s doing ok too. He’s improved just as the players’ performance has. But in-game I don’t detect any kind of sea change in ability. I am still scared of his pick for third base coach, Dale Sveum, and I am still scared of the choices he will have to make in pressure cookers in September and maybe October. I can’t exorcise that fear: his performance to date, particularly with regards to moving pitchers around late in ballgames, won’t let me. So I am on the Sox bandwagon, though if you’ll check my posts I was never off, never willing to concede any hope of success, although I did at one point concede the division while simultaneously pointing out how unimportant that division crown might be. I think that theory looks pretty spot-on today, particularly for chicken-little Yankees fans. So perhaps my sky-is-falling attitude regarding Francona may have been a little harsh, but I am still on the skeptical side, waiting for the tactical weaknesses he has to show through.
As for the Red Sox streak, I think that one management figure who deserves the biggest kudos is Theo Epstein. The Garciaparra trade ought to have cemented his place at the top of the “best and brightest” list of young GMs, vaulting him ahead of any supposed regional contenders and maybe even King Beane himself. The trade has worked out beyond anyone’s (I guess you could argue maybe even Theo’s) wildest dreams. But it was done with explicit reasons in mind, and those criteria have been satisfied perfectly, so far.