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.