When Terry Francona was playing for the Montreal Expos early in his career he believed the tactics of Dick Williams, the team’s manager, were exceedingly harsh and disrespectful toward players. Francona decided he would not use Williams’ drill sergeant methods if he ever managed.
After a somewhat lackluster managerial stint with the Philadelphia Phillies, Francona was named manager of the Boston Red Sox for the 2004 season. That year with the Red Sox Francona helped bring Boston its first World Series victory since 1918, and he quickly brought them another one in 2007. Francona’s relaxed attitude toward his players included such strategies as discussing team problems during the card games he held on a daily basis with his team and taking hits from the press and management on issues surrounding certain players even when he knew those players were at fault. After many years of success with these methods, things started to fall apart during the 2011 season. The press and fans blamed the team’s year end collapse on players eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games. Francona is not proud of the liberties some of the members of his team took with his players’ manager approach, but he insists in Francona: The Red Sox Years, by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy, that other problems led to the collapse of the 2011 Red Sox
For most baseball fans the incidents in Francona: The Red Sox Years will be familiar from the amount of coverage they received on Sportscenter. Still, it’s interesting to get Francona’s take on the fiascos that blemished his otherwise remarkable tenure with the Red Sox. Also, like Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, this is a story of a so-called old school manager working with the statistical analysis of baseball known as Sabermetrics. Francona works with his general manager, Theo Epstein, to strike a balance between letting computers print out the lineup card and keeping his players’ egos in mind. He doesn’t embrace Sabermetrics to the degree of the Oakland A’s Billy Beane but does see its place in helping a team win. Finally, as a Cubs fan I enjoyed learning more about Theo Epstein, who is now the Cubs’ general manager. I came to the conclusion that with Epstein in charge that perhaps it just might be slightly possible that The Cubs are headed in the right direction. But I don’t want to get too optimistic.