The “blame Theo” chorus kind of died down this week as the shock of the Red Sox actual collapse seemed to overtake the rancor of the collapse-in-progress. But Curt Schilling was asked about it again today and he said that, if you have to blame someone here, it’s better to blame Theo Epstein than Terry Francona (though he does note that the players own this thing too):
“I think more of it’s on [general manager] Theo [Epstein] than on Tito, anyway,” Schilling said. “I would tell you that the environment around what they’re doing now, the guy managing this team is the only guy that could keep them together. I would argue that with another manager in this position right now, you’d have some in-fighting, big-time in-fighting going on given what they’re going through.”
Schilling’s defense of Francona isn’t really rhetorical here, as I’ve seen a lot of people around the web and on Twitter starting to ask if Terry Francona really shouldn’t be getting tons of blame for this collapse and whether it should cost him his job.
I haven’t thought too terribly hard about it, but yeah, there have been some instances of Tito-panic lately. The bullpen usage has been a bit odd. Batting Jed Lowrie cleanup in tonight’s game (really). Not the acts of a man whose hand is steady on the rudder, so I get why he’s drawing fire.
But can you really blame Francona for a collapse that has, more than any collapse I can recall, been a total team effort? Offense, defense, pitching, you name it, it’s been terrible. Francona can’t make the pitches that Josh Beckett and Jon Lester haven’t been making. He can’t throw out Vlad Guerrero at second base.
Which isn’t to offer a full-throated defense either. I guess I’m just asking the question of people who have been following the Red Sox demise on a day-in, day-out basis. To what extent is this a Terry Francona failure? And if it is, is it enough in your mind to cancel out all of the good stuff he’s done over the years? Because, really, I consider him one of the better managers in the game. What has he done to make me wrong about that?