These are things that Theo has said: he wants to keep Papi and Paps and fix Lackey and Crawford. And he doesn’t blame Tito for the fact that we have suffered the completely devastating indignity of being the first team ever in the history of Major League Baseball to be eliminated from the playoffs after having held a nine-game lead in September. He blames himself and a lack of chemistry and conditioning.
Apparently, Tito was concerned as early as the first week or so of September, so he called a team meeting to get everyone back on track. Since Tito’s assumption of the managerial role for us, these meetings have been gold. They’ve been a surefire way of airing grievances, getting things out of your system, identifying best and worst practices, and going from there to ensure a long-term strategy for success for the rest of the season, whether we had four months or four weeks left to play. Theo even came in to address the team; whether it was appropriate for him as general manager to do isn’t the point. The point is that desperation apparently was realized early, and everyone wanted to do what they could to fix it.
According to Theo, some players were better conditioned than others, and this inconsistency manifested itself on the field. Regarding the chemistry issue, during the seasons when we went the deepest into the postseason (that would be 2003, 2004, and 2007), the team was apparently tighter, more familial, and more brotherly than it was this year. There wasn’t as much back-having and protection-securing in the field. Was it a problem when Lackey got visibly annoyed in public when a play wasn’t made behind him? Did Crawford’s handling of his gigantic slump affect the team behind closed doors? Was the clubhouse annoyed when Papi went after that scorekeeper for one RBI? Has Paps been going on and on about the fact that he wants a raise? Are all of the reports of prima donna behavior, like drinking beer between starts, true? And was it really Beckett of all people? I don’t know, and there’s no way anyone outside the room would know. What I do know is that these issues probably weren’t the only incidence of their type over the course of a 162-game season and that, when you’re spending that much time on planes, clubhouses, dugouts, and other tight spaces for that amount of time, brothers tend to get on each others’ nerves. However, at the end of the day, brothers are still supposed to be brothers, and they’re still supposed to act like brothers. It’s a problem when they don’t.
Now here’s what Theo didn’t say, and this is huge. Of all the outcomes of this complete and total fail of a season, I never thought that this would be one of them. We had to find out from Ken Rosenthal on FOXSports.com that this may have been Tito’s last season as our manager. It turns out that he was right. It was a mutual thing; Tito doesn’t want to continue managing the team, and the team doesn’t want to pick up his option for next season either.
What can I say? He is, without question, one of the best managers this club has ever had in its long and illustrious history. We failed to win a World Series in eighty-six years because we were cursed and because we were managed badly. All of a sudden, Tito came in and we won two in less than five years, our first in his first season with us. And in both of them, he brought us back from the brink of elimination. He’s the first manager in history to win his first six World Series contests.
But it’s not just about that. It’s also his ability to be a good manager and to mediate forces in the clubhouse. He has a calming effect on even the most flamboyant personalities, and he handles the environment with a degree of respect, fairness, humor, and adaptation that is a truly rare combination indeed.
We didn’t make the playoffs in 2010 because of injuries. We didn’t make the playoffs this year for reasons completely different that are highly speculative and have yet to be determined definitively. It’s completely unclear, as Theo said, that our collapse this September was Tito’s fault. He managed Michael Jordan to Manny Ramirez to everyone in between; I have implicit faith in his ability to maintain a positive and constructive clubhouse dynamic, and I have no reason to believe that the collapse occurred because he failed to do what was necessary. According to Tito, he did what was necessary; he was the one who reached out and called that meeting. It just wasn’t working. He wasn’t able to get through to these guys like he was able to get through to teams past. It’s not like he wasn’t trying. It’s just like the conditioning issue: you can tell a guy fifty times an hour to get himself into the weight room and work out, but at the end of the day, he’s the one who decides whether he gets himself into the weight room. There is only so much that a manager can do to stem the tide of slackening conditioning regimens and negative evolution of clubhouse chemistry.
Obviously we weren’t going to hear about any of this, or the fact that he felt that support was lacking from ownership, until now. Regarding that last point, you can either believe that or interpret it to mean that it wasn’t a mutual decision and that it was the team who decided that it didn’t have enough support from Tito. Maybe Tito wasn’t enough of a numbers or data man, and that didn’t satisfy the brass. It’s not like anyone was going to start letting these things slip into the media in the middle of the season, and it’s not like we’ll know the whole truth of it, either. According to Jerry Remy, for those on the inside, it was pretty easy to see where this was going.
Since 2011 is Tito’s last season with us, it’s extremely unfortunate that that’s how he’ll go out. He’ll finish with a record in Boston of 744 and 552. That’s a winning percentage of .574. He broke the Curse of the Bambino and led us to two World Series championships in which we were all but finished before we got there but, once we did, dominated completely. He’s been serious, and he’s been funny. He’s been human, and he’s been superhuman. He essentially made us the team of the decade, and he did so with a level of class and understanding of the game that this town hasn’t seen in a long time. For every managerial mistake he’s made, I’ve seen at least five manifestations of remarkable managerial acumen that everyone who’s ever won Manager of the Year would be hard-pressed to exhibit. Speaking of which, I don’t care what anyone says; Tito was the 2010 American League Manager of the Year in my book.
So here’s to you, Tito. You gave us your all, all the time. That’s not easy here, and we appreciate everything you’ve done to make this team a success. And we hope you’ve had as much of a complete and total blast here as we have with you at the helm. You acquired our instinctive faith, trust, and support, and we’re glad we were able to benefit from your talent. Tito, it’s been most phenomenal. And you will most certainly be missed.
All rumors point to the Other Sox. Incidentally, this is something I better not hear anyone say: Tito intends to take a job with the Cubs and, oh, look, a few weeks later, so does Theo. And I don’t even want to think about what it’s going to be like seeing him in the visitor’s dugout at Fenway or the home dugout somewhere else.