Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, left, speaks as team general manager Theo Epstein listens during a baseball news conference at Fenway Park in Boston, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. Epstein said he won't make a scapegoat of skipper Terry Francona after the team's unprecedented September collapse.

Well we all know the story so I will refrain from a total rehash of it here.  But before we get into Terry Francona, Red Sox fans of all ages and ahem, hat colors, need to realize something.

The New York Yankees did not owe the Boston Red Sox anything.  Joe Girardi could have trotted out an A-Ball team and that would have been his right.  His job is to prepare his team the best he can for the upcoming playoffs.

If he feels that the resting of key players prior to the playoffs is the way to go then so be it.  I, and Red Sox fans everywhere should, have no qualms with how Girardi decided to run his team the last week or so.

The Red Sox put themselves in that hole because of poor play, plain and simple.  It was not the Yankees job to help get them out of it.  Just like it wasn’t the Baltimore Orioles job to roll over the last two weeks and to credit of the O’s players and staff they didn’t either.

As Bill Parcells said “you are what your record says you are.”  Period. Amen. The Red Sox are the third best team in the AL East.  Look it up.

With that said I truly believe Francona deserves to stay.  His track record, as far as I am concerned, earns him that.  While everyone, including Francona, failed to do things that needed to be done to win games, to place all the blame on the manager is ridiculous.

At times, I felt he under-managed, especially when it came to the pitchers.  There were occasions he left in starters too long, or showed too much trust in some of the relievers and not enough trust in others.  Sometimes for very logical reasons, sometimes for reasons that only he and pitching coach Curt Young fully understand.

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Fans, especially in the information age, think they know everything when in fact we don’t.  We know more about our favorite teams and players than we did even a decade ago, but teams, especially the Red Sox, do everything in their power to hide, disguise and skirt the injury issue.  Prime examples of this are the injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz.

Because we as fans are not privy to this information sometimes we don’t know, understand or can’t fully grasp the situation why certain players are used and others are not.

Trust issues in the bullpen led Francona and Young to practically burn out Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard.  You saw it before your own eyes Wednesday night when Aceves couldn’t find the plate and appeared gassed before he even threw a pitch.

Why do you think Bard, who spent the first 4 and half months as the premier set up man in baseball, all of a sudden fell apart?  He was relied on too heavily because of poor confidence in other members of the bullpen.

Is that the fault of Francona or Young? Possibly but they can only put out there who they have to put out there.  The failure to get another major league ready reliever at the deadline was a huge mistake.

This team counted on a healthy Bobby Jenks and never saw one and yet never replaced him.

Then there’s the failure of the starters who spent most of September in the showers before the game was half over.  Players play, coaches coach.  They players were on the field and they failed to execute in September and it was ugly.

Young should get to stay as well he is too good of a pitching coach to be one year and done.  I was excited when they hired him after he decided to leave Oakland and I still am.  He has a proven track record and much like a manager or head coach in other sports sometimes it takes a year for the results of your program to start taking hold.

Fans also wanted to see Francona “bunt more” and play “small ball”.  Let me ask you this.  Who on the team, in that lineup is capable of that brand of baseball?  Have you ever seen Crawford bunt?  He’s awful.  Do you want to take the bat out the hands of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez or Kevin Youkilis?

To all of sudden change the way you play the game after 5 months and go against the way the team was built is not the way to win ball games.  You can’t expect players to bunt when they don’t do it.

If you work as a deli clerk is it fair to you for me to say you should be able to handle working in the pharmacy too?  It’s not something you normally do and I wouldn’t expect you to do it well.

I don’t feel the melt down was all on Francona but like the players there are things he can work on doing better.  Francona is a smart guy, he will learn from this.  A guy doesn’t go from being a genius in July to an idiot in September.

The situation he has in Boston is a good one.  He has a seemingly good relationship with most of the players, his staff and the front office.  While there are things they all need to discuss it isn’t so terrible.  Everyone has conflicts at work, they happen in the supermarket business, the engineering business and in sports.  It’s life and you’re still dealing with individuals no matter how much you share of the same philosophies and theories.

There are changes to be made though and it should come in the dismissal of third base coach Tim Bogar.  I haven’t seen this many runners gunned down at home since the days of “Wave ‘em in” Wendell Kim or Dale Sveum.

The third base coach should be someone who has either done it for a long time or was a recent minor league manager.  Bogar was neither when he was given that job after DeMarlo Hale was moved to the bench.

Ron Johnson, the former Pawtucket manager, should be moved from 1st base coach to 3rd base coach and then they need to hire a first base coach who can instruct a team on base running technique.

In addition to all the runs lost at the plate, numerous other base running gaffs costs the team big innings and wins along the way.  It started in spring training and continued through out the season.  I still see Darnell McDonald ending the 6th game of the year in Cleveland by over running 2nd base.  It seemed like a week didn’t go by without 3 or 4 base running mistakes killing the team.  Luckily most of the season they were able to overcome them with the bats.

But with injuries to Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew, as well as David Ortiz, Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia all led to players trying at times during the season to do more.  How many times this year was Ortiz thrown out on the bases? McDonald? Pedroia?  And what the hell was Scutaro doing in game 162?

These are all fundamental mistakes that hurt.  A loss in April or May is still a loss just as it in September.  In theory, McDonald’s base running gaff in game 6 of the season may have cost the team a playoff spot just as much as the Bogar/Scutaro gaff of game 162.  They are preventable mistakes.

I really think the Sox need to hire Gabe Kapler as the base running/1st base coach.  There have been fewer players who were as smart on the base paths as Kapler.  He had decent speed but he never had wasted effort and he knew when to rely on what he saw and when to rely on the coach.  The team needs someone like him and I think being not so far removed and the front office’s love for him he would be perfect.  We need less of Ortiz and others getting thrown out by a mile.

As Theo Epstein said “we all failed collectively”.  It’s time to pick up the pieces and get ready to start all over again because before you know it the free agent frenzy will begin and then it will be truck time.  This team is good and they will be back its just going to be a longer winter than what we’ve been used to lately.

Photo credit: AP Photo