The Boston Red Sox will open the 2012 season with a new manager. Terry Francona and the Sox have “parted ways” after the 2011 season ended in failure.

This has scapegoat written all over it. Clearly, changes had to be made after the team let the division slip away then blew a nine-game Wild Card lead in September by limping through the month with a 7-20 record. But what else could they do? They are most likely stuck with John Lackey for the remainder of his contract, and they couldn’t give Carl Crawford away at this point. And those guys are two of the main reasons the Sox weren’t playing yesterday.

There is plenty of blame to go around, starting with Theo and including Francona, but it ends with the players. The team was on pace to win almost 100 games when August ended, Terry Francona wasn’t starting any games on the mound and getting shelled, nor was he leading the league in errors for the month or leaving runners on base or hitting into double-plays. The players didn’t have the mental strength, the discipline, or the heart to finish what they started. And many of those same guys will be taking the field in April.

I think this move, unless Francona himself orchestrated it, is not only bad for the team, but an outright disgrace. He was the best Red Sox manager in my lifetime, and winning championships in ’04 and ’07 is something none of us will ever forget. I’m not saying he was perfect and that I agreed with every move he made, but I have a lot of respect for him and think he’s the best man for this job. He will be missed.

Whoever the Sox bring in to manage the team next year, that person has some mighty big tea-drinking shoes to fill. And he better get results, because I will be watching very closely with a critical eye (that’s my left one).

Good luck Tito, and thank you for helping the Red Sox bring home two World Series championships.