As Red Sox Nation pulled into "Stage 5 of Grief" (acceptance) – Terry Francona and Theo Espstein opened up like they were guests on Dr. Phil. Francona - cast in the role of the neglectful parent - won't be coming back. He packed his boxes and has parted ways with the Red Sox.
We've now been told the Red Sox were out of shape, there was clubhouse turmoil, John Lackey’s “rehabilitation” is a “big priority” and the team “failed.” Every time I see Matt Albers pitch I realize I have the body of a major-leaguer. Turmoil. Try my family room Wednesday night about midnight. Lackey needs to be removed – not rehabilitated. "Failed" doesn't even begin to describe it. The Red Sox’ 2011 GPA was equal to John Blutarsky’s: “zero point zero.”
Looking for someone to blame – just visit www.redsox.com and hit the “roster” link. The Sox didn’t just mail it in – they called Fed Ex to make sure the end arrived on time. There were a few exceptions – Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon, most of Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. Tito's departure is only a fraction of the solution.
I'm not a “good they got rid of Tito” guy as much as I am a “Let’s shake up this whole deal and try something completely different” guy. Even if they get a new GM, nothing would shake things up more than Player-Manager Dustin Pedroia. Crazy? Maybe. Not gonna happen? Probably. No way? So what.
Player-managers are not new – Pete Rose, Joe Cronin, Lou Boudreau and Frank Robinson come to mind. And the way things were going in St. Pete the other night, Joe Girardi probably would have had to catch in the 13th. In this sophisticated era of “Moneyball,” individual massage therapists and $142 million guaranteed contracts for left fielders who can’t catch – the thought of a player-manager sounds primitive and absurd. It's about as unimaginable as Boston blowing a 9-game lead in the same month as the team that used to play in Boston blew an 8½-game lead.
As Red Sox fans across the continent vented about 2011 and offered solutions for 2012 – one positive sentiment was universal – Pedroia never quit. He was seemingly the only player not up for a contract who played the way fans wish everyone played. He's the "Charlie Hustle" of this broken-down Red Sox Machine – minus the criminal record and baseball banishment.
Pedroia's uniform is dirty when it comes out of the washing machine. He has at least three nicknames. He looks like he’s 15 with his cap on while clean-shaven and 50 when it’s off and he isn’t. Pedroia's work ethic makes Cal Ripken look lazy. He's so old school he should be in the Ivy League. He jumps before every pitch – while Carl Crawford barely moved all season. And his home run Wednesday gave the Red Sox their final lead of 2011. He's the Anti-Drew.
(Of course, the Sports Illustrated curse did not spare the Red Sox. The day I got my issue with “The Laser Show/Muddy Chicken/Dusty Two Sacks” on the cover (Aug. 12) – the Red Sox were 73-44 and led the AL East by 2 games.)
The Red Sox needed leadership down the stretch, not coaching. Youth and inexperience would be a concern with Pedroia. But in 2002, the Red Sox handed the keys to the entire organization to a 28-year-old GM who never even played the game. He did pretty good for a few years. Well guess who turned 28 last month? You got it. Muddy Chicken? How about King Rooster (with apologies to Rick Burleson.)
Just seeing Pedroia’s reaction when Lackey shoots him a goofy stare during a pitching change would be worth be worth the move. So what if Pedroia can't handle the pitching staff. Neither could Francona.
Bench coach? Now batting, No. 14 ... Jim Rice. Pitching coach? That’s even easier - look no further than Jim Ed's NESN studio counterpart and fellow Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. Salad and cheese 7 days a week. (Both Doc Rivers and Pat Riley spent time in the broadcast booth before becoming coaches. They turned out OK.) At least Eck has a pulse, as opposed to Curt Young.
If fans want a “lead-by-example” boss, Pedroia's their guy. You want spark? Pedroia carries about 100,000 volts The only downside - Who will play second after Pedroia gets ejected for arguing calls every other night? The cerebral coddling of Francona gave us two World Series rings, but eight years of paper dominance. Less than three months after V-E Day, the British voted Winston Churchill out of office. The Red Sox haven't won a playoff game in three years. Tito's time had expired.
Theo's “silver lining” in this year’s collapse may be a chance to hire a manager who is bold, not just bald.
He's already there at second base.
Why did 2011 happen? What's next after Francona? What would you do to fix the Red Sox? Tell us your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to follow us on twitter @realOBF. Thanks for reading. Pass the clicker.
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