Time for Terry to Go?

The Boston Red Sox are ready to start making changes. Following one of the biggest collapses in recent memory, Manager Terry Francona was the first casualty of a potential front office purge. Some of Francona’s comments on the situation seemed to indicate that he had lost the clubhouse during the collapse. If Francona had already lost the team, how could the Red Sox put their faith in him to regain the clubhouse going forward? Thankfully, this isn’t the first time a team has squandered a large lead with their playoff hopes on the line. Looking back at some of baseball’s more recent collapses, we can get a better idea of how teams deal with their managers in similar situations.

1995 California Angels

What happened: Two separate late-season nine game losing streaks dropped the Angels out of first place just as the season was coming to a close. The Angels rebounded to win their last five games, only to lose a one game playoff to the Seattle Mariners.

And their manager: Marcel Lachemann kept his job following the collapse, but was fired the next season; after posting a 52-59 record.

2007 New York Mets

What happened: The Mets lost 12 of their last 17 games and failed to qualify for the playoffs after holding a a seven game lead on September 12th.

And their manager: Willie Randolph also kept his job following the Mets’ choke. That didn’t last long, however, as he was fired on June 17th the following season.

2008 New York Mets

What happened: The Mets went 7-10 down the stretch and failed to make the post-season after their second consecutive September swoon.

And their manager: Following the dismissal of Randolph in June, the Mets promoted Jerry Manuel. Despite the Mets’ failures down the stretch, Manuel signed a two-year deal to remain with the Mets. In those two seasons, Manuel led the Mets to two consecutive fourth place finishes in the division. He was fired following the 2010 season.

2009 Detroit Tigers

What happened: The Tigers held a seven game lead on September 7th; only to blow it to the surging Twins — who won 16 of their last 20 games.

And their manager: Jim Leyland took ownership of the collapse and kept his job. After leading the Tigers to an 81-81 record the following season, Leyland’s Tigers are currently one win away from another ALCS appearance.

2010 San Diego Padres

What happened: The surprise team of 2010 couldn’t keep the magic going down the stretch. A ten-game losing streak eventually knocked them out of first place; allowing the division rival San Francisco Giants to win the World Series.

And their manager: Despite the collapse, Bud Black was named the 2010 Manager of the Year. This season, the Padres weren’t as fortunate; finishing fifth in the NL West.

2011 Atlanta Braves

What happened: The Braves suffered a late-season meltdown that rivaled the Red Sox’s collapse.

And their manager: Fredi Gonzalez is still the manager…for now.

Looking at some of the more recent baseball collapses, it’s easy to see why the Red Sox decided to make a change. While many managers kept their jobs following September failures, their teams failed to respond in the following seasons. The jury is still out on Black and Gonzalez, but Jim Leyland is the only manager on this list that has led his team back to the post-season following an epic collapse. Francona may be the more successful than any manager on this list — and it’s possible he could’ve been the exception to the rule — but it looks like once a manager loses control of the clubhouse, it’s incredibly tough to get it back.

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

17 Responses to “Time for Terry to Go?”

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  1. Jason says:

    Is Francona more successful than Jim Leyland? Leyland has taken three different teams to the playoffs and won the WS with an expansion team if I am remembering correctly. Not a bad record.

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    • Jason says:

      Out of curiousity, I looked both of their managerial records up:

      Leyland: http://www.baseball-reference.com/managers/leylaji99.shtml

      Francona: http://www.baseball-reference.com/managers/francte01.shtml

      Tough to call one better than the other. Francona has a winning record, while Leyland is just under .500. However, Francona never managed to get the Phillies to play .500 ball, while Leyland had winning seasons with all of the teams he has managed except for his one year stint in Colorado.

      Francona’s success was all had in the toughest division in baseball which is a plus for him. On the other hand, Francona missed the playoffs 3 out of 8 years despite being favored for a playoff spot in all of those years. Aside from those Pittsburgh teams of the early 90’s that Leyland was very successful with, he has never been given a clear favorite. He has still been pretty successful with a bunch of teams however.

      Leyland won a lot of games this year despite insisting on batting his best hitters at the bottom of his lineup (+ 1 for intentionally handicapping himself and still winning).

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      • Drew says:

        I don’t give Francona a whole lot of credit for doing well in the toughest division in basball. The massive resources of his former team is one of the two obvious reasons the division is considered so tough. I’d say it’s the toughest division in baseball if you are not the Yankees or Red Sox. So Francona was almost competing solely against the Yankees, and with the Rays to a lesser degree, and then likewise with Toronto and Baltimore. In the spirit of using arbitrary multipliers, I’d guess he was really only competing with 2.7-3.0 teams at most. That’s equivalent to competing in the AL West.

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      • Jason says:

        That’s a good point Drew. He hasn’t done well competing against his one team then, as the Yankees win the East almost every year.

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    • JDA says:

      Managerial records? whaaaat are you guys doing?

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  2. baycomuter says:

    Going back further, Leo Durocher, who brought the Cubs back from oblivion in 1967-69, was never the same manager after the ’69 collapse and was fired in midseason in 1972.

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  3. Slartibartfast says:

    Forget for a second all managerial decisions within the game….

    Tito is a fantastic manager of people and figurehead for a team. Likely as good or better than anyone else they will find. It’s really, really unfortunate that he had to leave under these terms. He should’ve left after a long and celebrated career as the Sox’s Skipper. As it is, he will go down in history as the Manager that broke the curse, and lead the Sox to two championships in 8 years. My only hope is that Pedroia doesn’t kill himself, and can find a new cribbage partner.

    Now, onto the practical.

    This had to happen. When you have a monumental collapse, and this was most certainly that, something needs to change. The manager is almost always the best and easiest target. They’ll surely be able to find someone who can manage the game as well as Tito did – he was an above average string puller from the dugout (if you ask me – some may disagree), and there is no shortage of bench, pitching, hitting, etc coaches who can easily make strong in-game decisions.

    So in the end, the sox lost their emotional leader, but it was likely for the best, since most accounts trickling out claim he had lost some of his magic with the players. Still, it’s a sad day for Sox nation, hate em or love em.

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  4. Richie says:

    Yeah, you ought to fire the manager after such a collapse. It doesn’t work when you tell the employees they’re liable for the results, but their boss isn’t. Unless you are able to ship out or fire every last one of those employees.

    And especially so for baseball managers. If they have no impact on warding off disaster, they then are getting really, really overpaid.

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  5. GiantHusker says:

    I don’t know whether Francona should have been fired or not, though the horrible record of teams who kept the same manager after a collapse might indicate something, even though it is a very small sample size.
    What does bother me is that he was apparently fired because he “lost the clubhouse.” I’m not even sure what that means, but it sounds a lot like “team chemistry”–something that is at best a result rather than a cause of good or poor performance and more likely a fiction made up after the fact.

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  6. Mr Punch says:

    The oddity of Francona’s situation was that the high-priced team he had to work with was extraordinarily difficult to manage. It’s not really his fault that the Sox got basically zero production from a $45 million investment in corner outfielders; yes, they led the majors in runs, but he couldn’t sit those guys down, and the lineup wastoo top-heavy and too lefthanded to afford much flexibility. On the pitching side, he in effect lost three-fifths of his rotation, and the two big horses didn’t come through in varying degrees, so he didn’t have a pitcher in the top 50 in IP. OF COURSE the bullpen burned out.

    And he got no help from the front office. It’s not that hard to find a pretty decent RHH who can play left in Fenway — wasn’t going to happen. When the pitching staff was going south, it might have been possible to bring in a journeyman innings-eater (or two), instead of more injured guys who couldn’t get out of the fourth. (BTW, I wonder if the latter issue wasn’t a result of pitching analysis that emphasizes rates over counting stats — 9K/9 innings is great if the guy can actually pitch nine, but worth nothing if the starter’s out in the third.)

    Did Terry have to go? Well, yes, I guess. He lost the team, and probably wasn’t going to be able to get it back. But I certainly think he should be regarded as a viable candidate for other managerial jobs.

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  7. Real Sox Fan says:

    francona is probably the most overrated underachieving mgr ever, 180 million dollar payroll & the guy miss’s the playoffs every other year. He’s always been horrible & it took a collapse like no other 4 u ppl 2 catch on. Theo is even worse. Anybody can habittually overspend 4 below average players. 4get drew & lackey, Mike Cameron (lifetime 250 hitter) in his prime was a really good cf but are u kidding giving him 10+ mill. lol hey theo, UR FIRED !!!

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    • Joey B says:

      Sure, Theo and Tito are both horrible. One can’t supply good players, and one can’t manage the bad players he got stuck with.

      If it wasn’t for the fact that we have more WSC than anyone else this century, I’d be really upset.

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  8. Real Sox Fan says:

    And jim leyland is still relevant 4 a reason, lets c if francona is still around at leylands age. I dont care what the lifetime mgr records are. Francona will never b half as good as leyland , oh yea ive never lived anywhere but mass & ive watched 150 sox games a year & im 31. Do urself a favor, never mention leyland & francona in the same breath 2 a knowledgeable baseball fan unless u want ur input 2 b interpreted as anything but dumb.

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  9. JG says:

    Also another thing that worked in Leyland’s favor was that the Tigers didn’t really “collapse” over the final month like the Red Sox did. The Twins just happened to play .800 ball and blast into the playoffs.

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  10. Real Sox Fan says:

    Ha , Eric is sad :( Internet wise guy or sumthin ? Franconas kid mayb. Good job pal

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  11. morningstar88 says:

    Another collapse, this one barely averted:

    2008 Milwaukee Brewers

    What happened: The Brewers were up in the race for the wild card by 5.5 games on September 1, and had won 7 of their last 9. But early September was brutal to the Brewers, winning 3 of their 14 games from September 1 to September 14. Making a move without recent precedent, the Brewers replaced manager Ned Yost with interim skipper Dale Sveum. They went 7-5 the rest of the way, needing every last win, and CC Sabathia starts on 3 days rest, to hold off the Mets for the wild card spot. They lost in the first round to the Phillies.

    And their manager(s): Yost, fired in September, became manager of the Royals in May 2010. Sveum was replaced as manager, but stayed on as the Brewers hitting coach.

    Should we be talking about other averted near-collapses? From an execution standpoint, is a near-collapse as bad as a collapse? Were near-collapse managers more or less successful in succeeding years?

    (Without any substantiation, I’m guessing that teams would tend to revert toward the mean, suggesting that managers that stayed on were less successful in succeeding years.)

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