Tag:Theo Epstein
Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:15 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 5:42 pm

True to himself, Francona moves on from Sox

As the season collapsed around him, Terry Francona kept his cool.

In fact, as the greatest collapse ever played out, Francona seemed to be at peace. He wasn't accepting failure, but he seemed fully accepting of what that failure could mean for him.

General manager Theo Epstein could be heard in the stands openly questioning some of his manager's in-game moves, according to sources. But Francona never was heard complaining that Epstein handed him a flawed roster.

Francona wasn't comfortable with his team, although the extent of his discomfort didn't come out until the season was over. But he was always comfortable with himself.

He'll walk away from Boston now, with the team announcing Friday that it has declined his two-year option for 2012-13. But he'll walk away at peace.

"I've got to be true to myself, and what I believe in," Francona said the other day.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Francona said he had told ownership that "they may need a different voice to lead the team."

The breakup is no great surprise. Collapses take their toll, and even if Epstein was being honest Thursday when he said the organization wasn't "blaming" Francona, it's the losing that led to this.

Maybe it's even the right thing for the Red Sox, as good a manager as Francona has been and as much as he has won. Maybe the players had become too comfortable with his style.

"If I come in and overthrow the [postgame food] spread, that's not me," he said. "I don't want [the players] to know I'm going through it with them."

It worked, like no Red Sox manager's style had worked in years. Francona won two World Series in Boston, and years from now that will dominate his legacy, much more than this year's collapse.

It didn't work this year, though. Issues with the starting pitching were much more to blame for the collapse than issues in the clubhouse, but Francona admitted at a press conference Thursday that those clubhouse issues existed.

We'll never know how much a different manager could have done to change things. We'll never know if a more disciplined clubhouse would have led to more wins.

We do know that Francona wasn't comfortable with his final Red Sox team. We also know that right to the end, he was comfortable with himself.

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 26, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:00 pm

Check that -- Red Sox are a soap opera

I won't pretend to know what's going on in John Lackey's marriage, or in his obviously troubled mind.

But I will say this: Theo Epstein was wrong.

The Red Sox general manager insisted last week that his team is not a "soap opera." He was wrong.

The Red Sox most definitely are a soap opera, an increasingly bizarre soap opera, playing out alongside a bizarre wild-card race.

How does one affect the other?

That's just one more thing we don't know, and can't know.

We know that last week, a Yankee fan bragged on Facebook about serving Red Sox pitcher Erik Bedard with papers in a child support case, just hours before Bedard started a game against the Orioles.

We know that Sunday, Lackey said he received a text message just 30 minutes before taking the mound against the Yankees. The text was apparently related to a report that Lackey has filed for divorce from his wife Krista, who has been battling breast cancer.

The Lackey report showed up on TMZ.com, a website that normally deals with celebrity gossip -- and soap operas.

It made for a strange scene in the Red Sox clubhouse Sunday night, where most of the team was exhaling after a win that may have saved the Sox' season, while Lackey was steaming.

"Let's be honest one time," he snarled, in a question about three first-inning runs.

The honest truth about his pitching is that Lackey was good Sunday night, much better than he has been, good enough to help the Red Sox save their season.

The honest truth about Lackey's other issues is -- how do we know?

It sounds bad. Of course it does. And so many of us are inclined to believe it's bad, either because we find Lackey unnecessarily confrontational, or because we're mad about how bad he has been on the mound.

He's not exactly a sympathetic character, and wasn't, even before TMZ got involved.

How does one affect the other? Do his personal problems have anything to do with his pitching problems?

It can happen. I know that. I know that in years on the baseball beat, I've seen more than one player have a poor season that coincided with personal off-field issues.

In most of those cases, we never knew the full story, and didn't report the little that we did know. It wasn't done, and it still isn't done by most of the sports media.

We don't know the full story about John Lackey, not yet and maybe not ever. But in today's world, it does get reported, and in this world, Lackey and his team end up dealing with it.

The Red Sox have dealt with plenty in this strange month, from Bedard to Lackey to the report of a front-office "disconnect" that brought on Epstein's emphatic denial last week.

From all indications, he was right about the front office and manager Terry Francona. There doesn't seem to be a disconnect.

He was wrong about the soap opera.

This is a soap opera, and the next episode will play out Monday night in Baltimore.

Posted on: September 23, 2011 6:19 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 7:17 pm

Theo: Red Sox aren't a 'soap opera'

NEW YORK -- There's no way the Red Sox should be in this spot.

There's no way they should need to fight this hard to hold off the flawed Rays and the even-more-flawed Angels. There's no way Theo Epstein should be sitting in the Yankee Stadium dugout, denying that he has a "disconnect" with Terry Francona.

"This is not a soap opera," the Red Sox general manager said Friday afternoon, before the scheduled game against the Yankees was rained out.

No, it's not a soap opera. Closer to a disaster movie, if the Red Sox don't hold onto what was a two-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League wild-card race, heading into the Rays' Friday night home game against the Blue Jays.

And no, the manager isn't the problem. It's hard to believe Francona would lose his job even if the Red Sox miss the playoffs, and harder to explain why he should.

If there's blame to be handed out here, more of it goes to Epstein, the general manager who spent tons of money and yet wasn't able to give his manager enough options for the starting rotation (and no, he shouldn't lose his job, either).

The rotation is the real issue here. The issue is that in a situation where one loss could mean an embarrassing failure, Francona feels he has little choice but to start John Lackey (major-league worst 6.49 ERA) on Sunday against the Yankees (in what will now be a split doubleheader).

"I need to always do what I think is correct, and I feel like that's the right thing to do," Francona said. "I listened to a lot of opinions, and this is how I feel."

Francona basically brushed off talk of any problems with Epstein, which Peter Gammons raised in a Thursday interview on the Dan Patrick show. Epstein said that he and Francona shared a laugh about the report, which suggested that Francona's job could be in jeopardy if the Red Sox miss the playoffs.

"We didn't need to dig any deeper," Epstein said.

The GM pointed out that he still spends plenty of time with his manager, which seems by all accounts to be true. Epstein refused to absolutely commit to picking up the two-year option on Francona's contract, but it still seems extremely likely that the Red Sox will do just that once this season ends (and however it ends).

The bigger issue that both Epstein and Francona face right now is finding a way to get their wounded team into the playoffs. As Epstein pointed out, the Red Sox haven't won back-to-back games this month.

If you go back to Aug. 30, the start of the last Red Sox series against the Yankees, Boston is just 6-17 -- and 1-17 in games in which the Red Sox have scored fewer than nine runs.

But both Francona and Epstein worked hard to counter the notion that the Red Sox are in a downward spiral that can't be stopped, and several Red Sox players repeated the mantra that they're still the team in front, and not the team that's behind.

"I don't think there's a sense of doom or inevitability," Epstein said. "This isn't inevitable."

He's right. It's not inevitable.

But it's still stunning, and it's still inexcusable.

"It's on us," Epstein agreed. "We don't have any excuses. It's time to step up, and show what we're made of. Fortunately, in a sense, we can play one week of good baseball [and make the playoffs]. It's up to us to do it."

It's quite a story, no matter how it ends.

But no, it's not a soap opera.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 8, 2009 1:31 am
Edited on: August 8, 2009 1:39 am

Great game, but what about the Red Sox?

NEW YORK -- We'll be talking about this game for years, no doubt.

But will the Red Sox be talking about this week for months?

It sure feels that way now, and while it's always dangerous to judge a team too harshly in early August, it's easy to say that this Sox season is seriously trending the wrong way. And when you get past what a great night for baseball (and not just for the Yankees) that this was in the Bronx, you start thinking about what a bad loss this was for Boston.

"Pretty wild game," Dustin Pedroia said, after Alex Rodriguez's 15th-inning home run gave the Yankees a 2-0 win. "I can't believe both of our offenses didn't score for that long."

Then, after a pause, Pedroia added: "This is a big win for them."

If it's a big win for the Yankees, then by definition it's a bad loss for the Red Sox. Another bad loss, in what is becoming an awful week.

They lost two games at Tampa Bay, giving the Rays (and the Rangers) life in the American League wild-card race. They've lost two more games in New York, allowing the Yankees to extend their division lead to a season-high 4 1/2 games -- with rookie Clay Buchholz set to face CC Sabathia on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Rangers are now just one game back in the wild-card standings.

In exactly three weeks, the Red Sox have lost 7 1/2 games in the standings to the Yankees. The Red Sox haven't won a series from any team but the last-place Orioles since the All-Star break, and haven't won a series from an American League team with a winning record since they swept the Yankees at Fenway the second week of June.

It's not just the losses on the field, either.

This week, the Red Sox had to call an end to the John Smoltz experience, had to play without left fielder Jason Bay and had to hold their breath while they wait for another diagnosis on shortstop Jed Lowrie's left wrist. They finished Friday night's game with Chris Woodward (acquired earlier in the day from Seattle) at shortstop and 23-year-old Junichi Tazawa, signed out of the Japanese industrial league, making his major-league debut on the mound.

And in what's becoming a daily ritual, manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein planned to talk afterwards about whether the Red Sox need to make yet more roster moves to get yet more healthy, fresh and possibly successful pitchers.

The Red Sox, who at one time this season seemed to have the best pitching depth in baseball, have on several days this week seemed not to have enough depth to get through the game that night.

As Epstein said Friday afternoon: "A lot of things are going wrong."

Epstein also called this "a critical juncture" and "a challenging time."

"We're certainly day-to-day," he said.

We know better than to count them out. We know better than to say they're done, or even that they're in serious trouble.

We also know that right now, "critical" and "challenging" aren't too dire descriptions to use for the Red Sox.

For everyone else, Yankees and neutral fans alike, the word we're using most to describe this night is "great."

Great game. Great atmosphere. Great pitching. Great plays.

Great to watch, as long as you don't care about the Boston Red Sox.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com