Is Terry Francona to blame for this mess?

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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?

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.