I suspect this will be a minority position, but I think this probably best for all involved. Francona has, on balance, done a good job in Boston. And I don’t think he’s committed a clearly firable offense, such as screwing up an elimination game a la Little 2003 or Showalter 1995 or running his lineup into the ground up to and including a third baseman who couldn’t throw like Zimmer 78. But:
- It’s very rare for a manager to do work comparable to his best in the second decade of his tenure. Maybe Francona is a truly cream of the elite manager like Weaver or Cox or McGraw, but it’s much more likely that he’s a more typical good manager whose effectiveness attenuates severely over time.
- Keeping Francona will probably keep more emphasis on this year’s debacle than is helpful in an intense media market.
- Because flops like this are by definition rare, there’s no way of clearly judging based on past instances. But, still, what anecdotal evidence there is isn’t encouraging. The Sox regressed under Zimmer, although since he was a bad manager who enjoyed very little success I’m not sure what this proves. Mauch did a very good job with three other teams but never had a year in Philadelphia as good as 1964 again. The Cubs underachieved under Durocher, once a great manager, after 1969. In retrospect I think most Mets fans would agree with me that Randolph should have been fired after 2007, although I think overall he did a decent job — the team certainly started in 2008 as if he had lost the clubhouse. I wouldn’t say this proves it would be better for Francona should move on, but I don’t think it’s meaningless either.
- I don’t know if I would say that it’s Francona’s fault that the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs. exactly. But it’s hard to say that he’s done a great job over the last three years either. What I said about Friedman doing more with far less than Epstien also applies vis a vis Maddon and Tito. You can whine about injuries all you want, but it doesn’t explain why the Red Sox had a worse September than the Astros or Mariners or Pirates.
Francona has had a very successful tenure, and I can understand Sox fans not wanting his tenure to end on this note. But I think it’s probably for the best (and the reports seem to imply that Francona agrees.)