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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Terry Francona Deserved Better

I will not argue with anyone who says that the Red Sox made the right move by parting ways with former manager Terry Francona following the nightmarish end to the 2011 regular season. However, with allegations surrounding his departure starting to come out in the media, I have begun to bristle at the way the team's management is stabbing him in the back and setting him up as a punching bag for all of Red Sox Nation. Classy organizations take the high road when severing professional relationships with staff and players, and what is happening in the case of Francona has been anything but.

Boston "front office sources" are being quoted throughout the media this week, alleging that various aspects of Francona's personal life were possibly connected to the downfall of the Red Sox. Of course nobody, including the unnamed sources, have officially gone on record to pinpoint anything specific, but that hasn't stopped thinly veiled references indicating that Francona may have been impacted by a pain killer addiction and marital problems with his wife of more than 30 years. Francona did not taking any parting shots at the Red Sox when he left, and there is little reason why he should not be afforded the same respect.

The tidbits of embarrassing information being leaked by the Red Sox really have no bearing on how the Red Sox finished the season. A troubled marriage did not cause Boston starting pitchers to have an ERA over 7.00 in the final month. Any issue with medication did not compel players to abandon proper conditioning, and decide to play video games and eat buckets of fried chicken when they should have been sitting with their teammates on the field. Besmirching Francona is just a way to take the attention off the players and other team employees who will be in Boston next year, but deserve a lot more of the blame than the former manager is getting.

Francona should be judged by how he handled his job duties, not by what may or may not have been happening with him off the field. If he could no longer handle the players or make appropriate managing decisions, then those are the criteria to judge him on when determining his fate.

What is truly alarming is that if the Red Sox did believe that Francona was battling an addiction, or was not in a good mental or physical state during the season, why didn't they do anything about it at that time? This is a two-pronged question. Any conscientious employer would step in if they felt their employee was in health-related danger. Conversely, if Francona was supposedly so impacted by addiction or personal problems that it was affecting team play , why would the team let him finish out the season as manager?

Regardless of where they truth may lie, the actions of the Red Sox front office are abhorrent. There is no need to drag Francona’s good name through the mud. I cannot recall a single incident during his tenure in Boston where a player, front office personnel, or a member of the media had anything negative to say about Francona. It makes the timing of these recent volleys all the more lamentable.

Francona deserved better. No matter how the team finished 2011, Francona still won an average of 93 games over his eight seasons in Boston, including two World Series for a franchise that had labored for 86 years under the burden of a media and fan-driven curse. He may no longer have been the right fit for the Red Sox, but he earned the right to ride off into the sunset with his dignity and legacy intact. By insisting on having the final word, the Red Sox have ensured that this will not happen.


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