I was as sad as the next Red Sox diehard to see Terry Francona get the ax last week. But the more I think about it, and the more details that come leaking out of the clubhouse, it appears inevitable that Tito had to go.

That doesn’t mean I won’t miss him. Not only was he the most successful manager in club history, he also stood up for his players (sometimes to a fault), was forthright with the media and was as even-keeled as they come. He won games and everyone liked him, a rare combination today or any other time.

Francona was described in more than one story about his departure as an “old school” baseball man. Sometimes old school just means you grew up playing ball in another generation. To me it means a coach, or boss, or teacher who commands respect without asking for it. Tito had this at one time, but appears to have lost it as his team grew a little fat and happy.

I don’t know if drinking in the clubhouse is prevalent among major league players but it appears in the Red Sox case as a symptom of a laissez faire attitude. Save the drinking for the postseason celebration and focus your attention on the field.

Was the effort there? It didn’t appear to be.

Watching David Ortiz or Adrian Gonzalez jog to first base after hitting a ground ball is not my idea of old school baseball. An old school coach sets the bar high and expects his players to reach it. This pertains to performance and self-discipline which go hand in hand.

Not everything about old school is great, though. Old school coaches — and I’ve seen plenty of them in the past — yell at their players for making mistakes without trying to correct them. They embarrass their players in public to cover for their own ineptitude. They discourage free thinking and the flow of ideas. For them, it’s my way or the highway, and this more often than not pertains to assistant coaches as well as players.

New school coaches incorporate fresh ideas and encourage their players to think on their own. Players who do only what they’re told seldom develop into good athletes. A robot can only do so much. They surround themselves with smart people who can take specific responsibility and may have some attributes they lack.

New school coaches take an interest in their players away from games and practice. In short, they treat them as human beings not pawns in their game of chess. They keep abreast of the latest techniques and strategies and are not locked into one way of coaching.

Francona did this for most of his eight years as Red Sox manager. He may well have lost the support of those above him and no coach can operate in a vacuum for very long, whether in the pros, college or high school.

Just like old school coaching, not everything in new school works well. New school sometimes bends over backwards to keep others (fans, media, or in the case of high school, parents) happy. We’re talking about team sports here and when individuals become more important than the team, chaos eventually reigns.

New school coaches sometimes try to become friends with their players and this only works after they’re done coaching them. Old school keeps a separation that fosters respect. And often new school coaches tolerate a lack of effort and make excuses for their players that don’t exist.

A good coach or manager combines the best of old and new. Coaches within the state that jump to mind include John Wolfgram and Bob Brown at Cheverus, Paula Doughty at Skowhegan and Ian Wilson at Waterville. There are dozens more, as their players will attest, and that’s why many of them have been at it so long. They hold their players accountable for their actions and teach them how to reach their potential.

Here’s hoping the Red Sox find someone like that.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]


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