Has anyone but me noticed that, since the Red Sox cut their ties with Terry Francona after the 2011 season, they have finished either first or last in the American League Eastern Division every year? Not once have they finished in second, third or fourth, they either win it all or finish in last place.
From 2011 to 2012, they changed managers and went from third to last. (They replaced Terry Francona, whose team was 90-72 and lost the playoffs on the last day of the season, for Bobby Valentine. ) From 2012 to 2013, they changed managers and went from last to first and won the World Series. From 2013 to 2014, with the same manager, they went from first to last. From 2015 to 2016, with the same manager, they went from last to first. From 2016 to 2017, with the same manager, they finished first for the second year in a row, but fired the manager.
How can a team that wins its division half the time, be the worst team in the division the other half? There are personnel changes that affect a team’s performance from year to year. The retirement of David Ortiz was a good example. After it seemed he carried the Red Sox on his back for the division title in 2016, everyone wondered what would happen to the Red Sox without him.
Major personnel moves obviously impact a team’s ability to compete. For example, the Red Sox acquired pitching Ace Chris Sale for the 2017 season and he won 17 and lost 8 while Drew Pomeranz, another starting pitcher in his first full year for the Sox won 17 and lost 6. Surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle would say, the 2017 Red Sox won the division again with the same record, despite the loss of Ortiz and the additions of the two left handed pitchers.
Terry Francona spent eight year as the Red Sox Manager. He won 744 games and lost 552, a .574 won loss percentage, went to the Playoffs five times and won two World Series and never finished lower than third. Bobby Valentine, who, despite his title of Manager, never really managed the team, won just 69 and lost 93 in 2012.
John Farrell replaced Valentine in 2013 and won it all. Farrell managed five years, went to the playoffs three times and won one World Series but finished last the other two years. In 2014, Farrell achieved the seemingly impossible, he took a World Championship team and made a last place team out of it. In 2015, he repeated as the worst team in the American League East and the following year, 2016, achieved the seemingly impossible again, he took a last place team to the division title.
In 2017, after being last two years in a row in 2014 and 2015, he won his second division title in a row and got fired.
In 2012, the Sox hired Valentine, who hadn’t managed in the big leagues sine 2002 when he led the New York Mets to a last place finish with a 75-86 record. In 2013, they hired John Farrell, who had managed the Toronto Blue Jays for two years and took them from a 85-77 record the year before he came to an 81-81 record and a fourth place finish his first year and a 73-89 record and another fourth place finish his second year. The only thing that kept the Jays out of last place in 2012 were Bobby Valentine’s Sox, who won only 69 to claim the cellar.
And while we’re on the subject of new managers, did anyone notice that the ‘Manager That Got Away’, Tory Lovullo, took the Arizona Diamondbacks from a 69-93 finish in 2016, before he came, to 93-69 and a trip to the Playoffs in his first year.
Now, we have Alex Cora, straight out of the World Series where he was a Bench Coach for the World Champion Astros, but who has never managed at the Major League Level and whose only Coaching experience at that level was his one year with the Astros. Like Farrell, he has a history with the Red Sox, having been a member of the 2007 World Championship team.
What did the geniuses at the top of the Red Sox organization do shortly after hiring a Manager with no managerial experience? They hired a Hall of Fame Manager, Tony LaRussa, to serve, supposedly, as an Assistant to Dave Dombrowski. In response to the inevitable questions about whether LaRussa was hired to help the inexperienced Cora, and who could help thinking that, given the timing, the Front Office denied any connection.
Apparently no one ever told John Henry and his Ownership team that, in this day and age, it’s the perception that counts and hiring LaRussa certainly created that perception. Isn’t it also surprising that, after 117 years in business, the Sox hired their first minority Manager while they are scrambling to rename Yawkey Way after the clamor about the racism of the Yawkey family?
Maybe that’s why your teams vacillate between first and last Mr. Henry. All form and no substance. If you had fired Farrell when he was giving you last place teams, you might not be in the position you are in now. Instead, you took the credit for not letting him go because of his medical problems and paid the price.
Terry Francona has made a Playoff team of the Indians, Tory Lovullo has done the same with the Diamondbacks and you have had Bobby Valentine, John Farrell and now Alex Cora. I hope he works out for you. It would be a shame for the team with the third highest pay roll in baseball to finish last again next year.