Sunday, August 19, 2012
Who can rescue the Red Sox? Terry Francona ... Yes, Terry Francona
By now, I think we all can agree the Bobby Valentine experiment in Boston has pretty much reached the end of its shelf life. Even from the very start, the fact he wasn't the unanimous choice of the Red Sox braintrust should have been a major red flag, but once the Sox went all in on Valentine, there was no turning back.
Much of what has gone down has been pretty predictable. Bobby V comes in, says what he wants, does what he wants, tweaks veterans, forces trade of popular veteran (Kevin Youkilis), makes spectacle of himself in background of video shoot, rinse, repeat.
All of that probably would have been acceptable if the results were good. One of my favorite lines in these types of situations was once uttered by one of my favorite people in professional sports, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who liked to say, "When you win, you're a genius. When you lose, you're a moron."
It's that simple, really. The won-loss record is the difference between Bobby Valentine being goofy and eccentric, and just being a train wreck. So here we are.
It would be in the best interest of all involved for Valentine and the Sox to go their separate ways after the season. He already received the kiss of death -- I mean, the vote of confidence -- from management, so he's got that going for him. He's a proud man, firmly entrenched in his methods, who would probably find it very easy to go back and sit in his old chair at ESPN.
Which brings us to who I believe would be the perfect replacement for Valentine ... the guy he replaced, Terry Francona. Yeah, that Terry Francona, who's now sitting in that seat at ESPN, at this moment gushing over the Little League World Series.
I came up with that idea (I'll take credit for it since I haven't heard anyone else say it) this past Friday, in my recurring guest spot on All Around Sports, hosted by John Ingoldsby on voiceamerica.com. Shameless plug alert: Listen to the show on this link, at about the 44-minute mark:
We were talking about the Red Sox and how the Valentine tenure would likely end, and I blurted out, "Don't be surprised if Terry Francona comes back to manage the Red Sox again."
Now, I'm not even sure I totally believed that when I said it, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Sure, last season ended badly. But if there's anyone who has gravitas in the Red Sox clubhouse, it's Francona. It was just a couple of weeks ago when he, as a member of the ESPN crew covering the Sox-Yankees Sunday night game in New York, walked into the visiting clubhouse and held court with a group of his former players -- which shows he still has plenty of allies on that team, and he enjoys their company and didn't feel awkward about letting that be known.
Let's face it, the guy did win two World Series with that team. It's not as if he became an idiot overnight. I don't think Red Sox Nation would have any problem reembracing the man who helped orchestrate the end of The Curse. As long as it means the end of this new one -- with fried chicken and beer off limits, naturally.
And it's not as if there isn't precedent for a move like this. During the Bronx Zoo years in the 1970s and '80s, George Steinbrenner fired and re-hired Billy Martin as manager of the Yankees five times officially (and about 100 times unofficially). That club was probably the most dysfunctional team in the history of pro sports, but it won, and in the end, as we've duly noted, that's all that matters.
Now I have no idea if Francona would be interested in coming back, or if Red Sox management would entertain the idea of him coming back. But he did have a reaction to the mess that has engulfed his old team, and he began by telling USA Today he tries "to be a little careful."
Said Francona: "During my eight years there, we never really had a whole lot of drama outside the clubhouse. That's their business, not my business ... the idea is to keep it in-house. You can deal with it and it goes away. When it goes public, everybody puts their spin on it even when they don't know what they're talking about and it becomes a national story ... The better teams handle it and move on."
The Red Sox clearly need to move on. So make the trade -- Valentine back to ESPN and Francona back to Boston.
Weirder things have happened.