There was a lot of uncertainty as the day went on — first he was out, then things got quiet — but now it’s official: Terry Francona is out as the manager of the Boston Red Sox. According to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, the team will not exercise its two-year, $8.75 million option on Francona’s contract. Instead, he’ll get a $750,000 buyout and will be free to pursue a job elsewhere.
The strong sense of this is that it was a mutual decision, with Francona voicing displeasure — or at least some fatigue — at the state of the current Boston Red Sox team. There were challenges in the clubhouse this year, he said yesterday, and with two straight years of missing the playoffs, the external pressure has been ratcheted up as well. Frankly, it’s probably just not that fun anymore.
I would bet my first born that Francona will be at some TV desk doing commentary during the playoffs in the month of October, and that his name will be the first one mentioned for every managerial opening there is for the foreseeable future.
The Red Sox have some tough decisions to make in advance of the World Series next week; namely, what to do with some of their hottest-hitting players once the series shifts to a National League park — and National League rules. During a press conference on Saturday, manager Alex Cora said he’d be open to the idea of starting All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts at second base when the club’s regular DH, J.D. Martinez, is forced to play the outfield during away games.
The Red Sox carry home field advantage through the Fall Classic, so Games 1 and 2 will be played at Fenway Park — as well as Games 6 and 7, should those become necessary. Depending on the outcome of NLCS Game 7 later tonight, World Series Games 3 through 5 will be played at Dodger Stadium or Miller Park. That’s when Betts might take over the keystone from Ian Kinsler and Brock Holt, both of whom have shared second base duties over the course of the 2018 postseason.
The idea isn’t without merit. Betts and Martinez comprise two of the team’s top talents at the plate and, should the Red Sox need to stave off elimination in Games 4 and 5, sitting either of them doesn’t make sense. The 26-year-old Betts led the team with a staggering .346/.438/.640 batting line, 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and career-best 10.4 fWAR over 614 PA, while Martinez posted some career totals of his own, slashing .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs, a 1.031 OPS, and 5.9 fWAR in 649 PA. This wouldn’t be the first time Betts has taken reps at second, either, as he’s logged 15 games at the position over the course of his five-year career, most recently during a 4-1 win over the Yankees in August.
Whether or not Betts is considered a lock for all three games is another question, one to which Cora didn’t give a definite answer. “I don’t know, man,” the skipper told reporters Saturday. “[Betts] already played second during the regular season, so there’s always a chance, I guess.” He later added that while Betts would be taking ground balls at second, it’s part of the routine he’s maintained all year — so nothing should be read into it until a clear decision has been announced.