General Baseball

Terry Terrific?

SF had his “long distance fight pick,” so now I will instigate one of my own: Will SF (and other members of RSN, and you all know who you are) give Terry Francona credit for leading the Sox amazing charge towards the playoffs? You’ve certainly layed into him for what have been perceived as his “mistakes”—his grace period lasted about two weeks. Let it be noted that I find SF a generally harsh critic of managers from all teams (the recent—and I think unwarranted—tirade over Maz is a good example of this).

In the 80s and early 90s, we Yankee fans were forced to sit through some truly dismal managing, culminating with the disastrous tenure of Stump Merrill. Then Buck Showalter arrived, and while there were certainly some decisions that seemed dubious (not to mention his refusal to take off his warmup jacket even on 100 degree August afternoons) we learned a simple but important lesson: you’re never going to agree with everything even the best manager does (sometimes you wonder if his plan is just not accessible to you; sometimes you think he’s just being foolish) but in the end you have to have a little faith and remember that baseball is a human game. With Torre, these lessons have become ingrained. Certainly, he makes some decisions that leave sabermetricians scratching their heads, but after 4 rings and all those wins, we’ve learned to trust him, forgive his faults, and go with the flow, even when the flow ain’t flowin’.

Can any Red Sox manager ever earn this degree of confidence? Will Terry ever get over the hump? Is a WS title the only solution?

11 replies on “Terry Terrific?”

Your last question has kind of a befuddling logic: Torre has your confidence, despite confusing moves, because he won those four titles, as you well admit. So would Torre still be here if he didn’t have titles? Would you tolerate the flow not flowin’ if he had no rings? Would he have your confidence? And why should Francona get ours until his baffling moves lead to titles? Are you holding Sox fans to a standard different than your own?

And as for my “tirade” (perhaps your language is a bit over-the-top on that one), I stand by my “Mazilli sucks” meme. He doesn’t deserve to be managing a big-league team.

I don’t see a double standard. Torre earned our faith before that first season was completed. We saw that he was going to be a steady, competent hand on the till, and after two decades of craziness (from Billy on), I think that’s just what we wanted, and responded to so positively. He came along during a golden age, sure—and not just for the team, but for the entire city—and for many of us he (and Derek) now personify that better time, when the economy was booming, we had not been attacked, and our “dynasty” was incipient and not the looming “evil empire” everyone now assumes it has always been.

It’s a bit of an overstatement to say that ‘Torre earned our faith before that first season was completed,’ YF. The truth is that we didn’t know what he was gonna bring to the club. I doubt if *he* knew that it was gonna be a good fit for him. I mean, if the Braves win even one of three at home, this whole thing could have been different, our (and certainly George’s) view of Torre included. I mean, I love Joe, but let’s not get carried away and say that had he not enjoyed the success that he has, had he not (and I’m sure he’d be the first to admit this) had the key horses (Jeter/Bernie/Paulie/Tino/my god, Mo/the whole gang) to win those rings for us, that we’d be sitting here calling him a great manager, much less maybe the best Yanks skipper ever.

Not sure who the anonymous poster above is, perhaps JCL, but I have similar skepticism: did you really think Joe was the perfect solution 100 games in, that he was going to bring titles? Sounds like a little bit of convenient memory, to me. I am not trying to say Joe isn’t good or that you didn’t like him as a solution; quite the contrary – his success is indisputable, particularly this season. But Francona hasn’t had anything like the time or accomplishments that Torre has had to deem his tenure such a rousing success, and I don’t think you were able to judge Torre the way you do now at the same point in his first year. Sure, in the last month or so Francona’s made some minor adjustments to help the team along, though the players have done most of the work. In the end, he’s simply not yet deserving of the plaudits you seem to be putting me on the spot to deliver. Time will tell if he’s really good, or better yet, a champion. At the moment, I am happy to celebrate the team’s success, but my skepticism about Francona’s decision-making abilities in a pinch remains, and that’s based on watching, nearly in full, about 110 of the 138 games they have played this year. Let’s re-visit this after the regular season, or, hopefully, after we see the Red Sox playoff results.

I’m sorry but this is not revisionist history. Go back and read the tabs. When Joe arrived the papers were in a tizzy: here was a longtime loser—a failed Met, no less—coming to take on the Yankees; an old school hand following Showalter, the brilliant young gun. But that consternation turned around almost immediately—well before the playoffs. Had things come out differently at the end of the year, yes, things might be different, but the fact is they didn’t so the point is moot, or as Joey Trebbiani might say, “moo.”
Moreover, my point was not so much that SF should jump on the Francona bandwagon but simply to demonstrate that his expectations for what any manager can accomplish are so high that even if the Sox were to rejuvenate John McGraw he would still be unsatisfied. As it is, the Sox have been in 2nd place—and for the most part have had the 2nd best record in the AL—all year, despite a rash of injuries and some weak pitching over which he had little control. And they’re headed for the playoffs. All this, and still SF is looking for the ax.

Give it a rest. I was fed up a few weeks ago, and on August 5th I rashly asked for the Sox to start over (just a week after calling for Theo NOT to fire Francona, despite his failures at that point, so you can see what the Red Sox do to one’s emotions), and that was a mistake, clearly. Things turned around, and Francona deserves at least some credit for that – see my next thread for my praise, which it increasingly appears that you didn’t spend time reading. But, to be explicitly clear (and if this next statement isn’t clear enough, then there’s nothing I really can do) – I don’t have high expectations for his abilities in a pressure cooker late inning pinch in the playoffs. Nothing he has done this year shows that he will consistently make a smart decision in such a situation. I hope he proves me TOTALLY WRONG.
And don’t put words in my mouth – I think I’d be ok with it if John McGraw could be resurrected and convinced to manage in modern-day Boston.

And let’s just say that YF’s curiously and conveniently rosy memory is going to be hard to disprove – unless we want to subscribe to Lexis/Nexis or pay gobs for articles from the Times’ archives. We’ll take his word for it that Joe was giving everyone here the warm championship fuzzies just 4 months into his tenure, but color this poster skeptical that an entire, collective New York knew they lucked out.

So a quick archival search of the Times’ 1996 trove yields a total of three articles of nearly 900 that allude, in a headline, to the coaching change. The articles cost moolah, so I didn’t get into the meat of them (admittedly not the best methodology), but the abstracts and ledes are telling. One, by Jack Curry, says explicitly “Torre pushing all the right buttons”. Another, by Murray Chass, says the MVP for the Yankees is the Boss(!), another by Jack Curry demands that Steinbrenner reward his coaches. So I guess YF’s claim that the ENTIRE Yankees nation knew what they had in Torre is right on. The 3% rule applies: if 1 of 33 people write about it, we all must believe it. I am convinced.
My biggest quibble is that where you take me to task for my position on Francona, and taking me to task for things I have written is fair, it is, at least, MY OWN position. You seem to speak for ALL of Yankeedom with an authority that isn’t really yours to claim.

Sorry, that was me above with the accidentally anonymous comment. My only point was had a kid named Jeff not helped Jeter with a ding to tie game 1 against the O’s, and had I think it was either Zim or Mel not told Paulie to shift a little to his right before Polonia hits that liner that would have won Game 5 of the WS for the Braves but which instead Paulie just gets to to end the game, little things like that, the Yanks likely wouldn’t have been the “team of destiny” in ’96. Very thin line, in other words. Then SAlomar takes Mo deep in ’97, two seasons, no rings, and our view of Joe is certainly different. He may not even see 1998, given George’s propensity for radical fixes. And yes, it didn’t work out that way, but it isn’t a moot point to make given the context of this thread and when YF looks back on that first amazing year basically saying, “We could just tell Joe was the one to lead us to the promised land….” I prefer to look back and say that Torre deserves our (and the players’) respect because of his record, because of what the team has actually achieved under his stewardship. I mean, come on, YF–we had no idea this (now stalled) run was gonna happen before it happened, and had it not happened, especially given Joe’s previous record as a big league skipper, NYC would have pounced on him before anyone else.

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