The worst collapse in baseball history has opened the door wide open for the Red Sox to dump manager Terry Francona.
Francona, affectionately known as Tito, was unable to motivate his players to finish September strong and allowed his team to finish off the season with a horrendous 7-20 record -- causing the Red Sox to lose the Wild Card on the last day to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Francona's beloved by most Sox fans for leading the team to two World Series titles within the last decade, but the magic is gone and now it's time for Francona to seek employment elsewhere.
Once upon a time Francona made positive history when he led the Red Sox out of a three game hole in the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. There was something special about those Red Sox -- you knew the team would be working hard and having fun doing it.
But the lifeless, listless performance by the team in the month of September suggests Francona just might not have it anymore, at least not for this Boston team. Perhaps Francona could benefit from a year off or a change of scenery to get those creative juices flowing again.
Some Red Sox players have already come to the defense of Francona, including the team's biggest off-season acquisition.
It's not Tito's fault, Adrian Gonzalez told the Boston Herald. He's not on the field playing. You can't blame the manager who has kept an even keel the whole time. That's what he's supposed to do. He did his job, and us as players just didn't get it done.
But he didn't do his job.
In a season in which 33 out of 45 ESPN experts picked the Red Sox to win the World Series and all 45 picked them to win the AL East -- Francona failed across the board.
He managed to take one of the most talented teams in baseball and led them to an early off-season. Injuries to pitchers, like Clay Buchholz, sure didn't help, but there's no one that can convince this writer that those injuries wash away the blame.
The Red Sox, namely Theo Epstein, have 10 days to decide whether to pick up Francona's two-year option or let him go elsewhere. Is there any way that Epstein can truly rationalize keeping Francona when this epic collapse will still be seared into the minds of all Red Sox fans?
It shouldn't have been this way,'' general manager Theo Epstein told the Boston Globe after the game. Seven and 20 in September. If we go 9-18, we were where we want to go [playoffs]. That's a third of our games. The worst teams in baseball win a third of their games. There are no excuses.'
Sports are an ugly business that is largely based on what have you done for me lately. It doesn't take long after a championship for fans to demand more and then the pressure starts to build. And when you miss the playoffs two years in a row for such a high-priced team like the Red Sox -- the pressure is going to build and eventually you have to move on.
Take former Yankees manager Joe Torre as an example. Torre, one of the greatest managers in Yankees history, led the team to four World Series titles but after a slump Torre was gently forced out.
Now the Yankees did offer Torre a contract -- an insulting one according to Torre -- and gently implied to Torre he might be better suited to seek employment elsewhere.
The Red Sox could do the same to win the PR battle. Decline Francona's option, offer him a lowball contract, and if he rejects it then you let him walk. A win-win for the Red Sox.
But one thing is abundantly clear based on this epic, historic collapse -- Terry Francona needs to go.