The historic collapse of the Boston Red Sox in 2011 precipitated the departure of manager Terry Francona. Now, General Manager Theo Epstein may leave Fenway for the same position within the Cubs organization. Yankee fans are smirking at the situation in Boston. The reason being: the Red Sox finally joined the Dark Side and are more like the Yankees than any proud “Sawx” fan will admit.
The Red Sox are now a team with an all-or-nothing attitude. It has been that way since Epstein took over truthfully. The expectation is win the World Series or bust. Fenway Park might as well be moved to the Bronx. Since the Yankees annual payroll reached, surpassed, and fluctuated around the $200 million mark, much criticism came their way. Granted, the win it all mentality was self-imposed. The late George Steinbrenner settled for nothing less than a Championship. The Red Sox are now in the same position.
Favored to win the American League in 2011, the collapse is embarrassing for the Red Sox organization. Depressing for the Red Sox Nation. Yet, from the perspective of a New Yorker, it would appear that Red Sox expectations have come full circle. They have become what they despised. The World Series Championship or bust mentality has taken hold.
The problem with this culture is good managers like Francona, whether they leave on their own or not, become the fall guy. In the case of the 2011 Red Sox, the players failed themselves and the organization, not Francona. Theo Epstein may leave, again on his own, but look at what the Francona-Epstein combination achieved. Two championships; the defeat of the hated Yankees in 2004; names like Youkilis, Ortiz, and Schilling became household utterances (Schilling was great prior to his Boston years, but he became legend with the “bloody sock.”) The most important result: the Red Sox became relevant again. The rivalry between New York and Boston was fully renewed. Fan excitement returned. The American League East became the show piece for Major League Baseball.
Terry Francona will undoubtedly manage another Major League team. Where and when remains to be seen. Theo Epstein may stay in Boston, may go to the Cubs. Who knows. Maybe it is time for all involved to move past the all-or-nothing mentality in both cities. Maybe it’s not. The legacy of Terry Francona in Boston is, and should remain one, of success. Regardless of Francona and Epstein’s future career moves, the Boston Red Sox organization and fans can no longer view the Yankees as something evil or so radically different. Their organizational, and fan cultures make both teams the same. Whether any fan will admit it or not.