Terry Francona

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?

Study: West teams at a disadvantage due to jet lag

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JULY 14:  A Delta airlines plane is seen as it comes in for a landing at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on July 14, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Delta Air Lines Inc. reported that their second quarter earnings rose a better-than-expected 4.1%, and also announced that they decided to reduce its United States to Britian capacity on its winter schedule because of foreign currency issues and the economic uncertainty from Brexit.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Every year, when the schedules are released, we often hear about the teams that have it worst. Almost always, those teams are West teams. According to MLB.com, teams in the West division of their respective leagues had the top eight most travel-heavy schedules in 2016. The full list:

Team League Division Miles
Mariners AL West 47,704
Angels AL West 44,945
Athletics AL West 42,119
Rangers AL West 41,128
Dodgers NL West 40,294
Giants NL West 39,341
Astros AL West 38,553
Padres NL West 37,363
Rays AL East 36,916
Red Sox AL East 36,896
D-Backs NL West 35,312
Yankees AL East 35,252
Marlins NL East 35,226
Rockies NL West 33,287
Blue Jays AL East 32,895
Orioles AL East 32,322
Braves NL East 29,236
Royals AL Central 29,077
Twins AL Central 28,948
Phillies NL East 28,351
Mets NL East 26,832
White Sox AL Central 26,538
Cardinals NL Central 26,451
Pirates NL Central 26,134
Brewers NL Central 25,620
Tigers AL Central 25,450
Indians AL Central 25,176
Reds NL Central 25,108
Nationals NL East 24,664
Cubs NL Central 24,271

The averages by division:

  • AL East: 34,856 miles
  • AL Central: 25,176
  • AL West: 42,890
  • NL East: 28,862
  • NL Central: 25,517
  • NL West: 37,119

The maps aren’t up for 2017 yet, but rest assured that West teams will once again have it worst. It’s easy to see why, taking a look at the map on MLB.com. If you draw a line to split Texas in half and go straight up through North Dakota, there are only eight teams to the left of that line, leaving the other 23 condensed on the right side. When West teams aren’t playing intra-division games, they are traveling. That’s often not the case for East and Central teams. The Phillies and Pirates, for example, don’t even have to leave the state to play each other.

As Gizmodo points out, a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a link between jet lag and performance. Sleep scientist Ravi Allada of Northwestern University analyzed 4,919 games, finding that teams that traveled East performed worse than those that traveled West. Allada and his colleagues adjusted for home field advantage and park effects.

Specifically, teams that traveled from the West to the East lost more often than East teams traveling West. They gave up more runs and scored less runs. They hit for a lower batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They gave up more home runs, accounting for most of the decline in run prevention.

There was a peculiar finding. Allada found that jet lagged home teams performed worse than jet lagged visiting teams. He hypothesizes that “teams may be more cognizant of their schedules when traveling away, thus mitigating jet lag effects,” he told Gizmodo.

The Braves ask Cobb County for $14 million more

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The Braves’ new ballpark in Cobb County Georgia is the gift that keeps on taking.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have asked Cobb County for $14 million for roads, walkways and other pedestrian improvements around the stadium the team has already paid for but which it says the county is responsible. The county says it’s not responsible for them and that it has already paid nearly $70 million for transportation improvements around the ballpark, including on privately-owned property in the mixed-use development.

The reason this isn’t settled: at the time the deal between the county and the team was struck, there was a provision for the county to pay for $14 million for certain improvements. The Braves, this past September, told the county that it wants to be reimbursed for these projects under that provision and that the $70 million the county has already spent shouldn’t count. For reasons, I guess. It’s a bit complicated, but the AJC story lays it out pretty well. The upshot seems to be “why didn’t the Braves say they wanted the county to pay for these things long ago?”

The answer to that question, I suspect, is “because the Braves have been treated as entitled corporate welfare recipients since this deal was announced and they have learned that they can get away with almost anything.”