Best of 2007: Moment #12

Moment #12 – Tony Franklin named Thunder manager
Trenton, NJ
(OK, so this technically happened in late December 2006…)

If I were to do a Top 20 countdown of the most ridiculous moments in Thunder history, Bill Masse getting fired after the 2006 season would certainly be near the top.

After all, he led the team to consecutive playoff appearances and finished with a 154-130 record during his two seasons at the helm of the Yankees Double-A affiliate.

And to replace him, they get a guy who hasn’t managed since 2000? 

“It’s great to be a Yankee,” Franklin said in a team release.

“I’ve been in baseball for 38 years and have always thought the Yankees would be an exciting organization to be a part of and I’m glad Trenton is where I’ll get that chance.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  That all sounds great.  But it was hard not to be skeptical, and it was even harder to think that anyone could produce the kind of results that Masse did.

It turns out that it was the best thing that could have happened to the Thunder.

Franklin’s 83-59 record was better than any individual season that Masse put together.

More impotantly, he did what no other manager in team history could do, leading the Thunder to their first championship after so many seasons of frustrating postseason futility.

He also brought a personality and demeanor that was somewhat the opposite of Masse.  Masse was always accomodating with reporters, he was very intense and very quotable.  He wasn’t really the kind of guy who bit his tongue, and while I think everyone respected and appreciated that, it was also what got him in trouble with the Yankees organization.

Franklin, also incredibly giving of his time with the media, comes across as very laid back and quiet.  He always gives eloquent and well-thought out answers to your questions, but also isn’t going to give you anything that’s going to show up on the back page of the paper like Masse would on occasion.

While Masse’s style could be a little grating on his players, Franklin’s approach was appreciated by all that played for him.  However, the Thunder never really had any consistent struggles last season.  If this year’s team has trouble getting out of the gate, I’ll be curious to see if Franklin’s demeanor changes and he’s forced to crack the whip a little bit.

But if everyone who’s expected to be on the roster this year actually ends up in Trenton, it’s hard to believe that the Thunder aren’t the odds on favorites to repeat in 2008.

Recapping the Top 20 so far…

#12 – Tony Franklin named Thunder manager
#13 – Matt DeSalvo’s MLB debut
#14 – Phil Hughes rehab appearance
#15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB debut
#16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
#17 – Chase Wright’s MLB debut
#18 – Chase Wright’s opening night start
#19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
#20 – Jeff Karstens rehab appearance

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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2 Responses to “Best of 2007: Moment #12”

  1. David Mac Says:

    Mike, I think you give a little too much credit to minor league managers won-loss records here. After all, that has far more to do with the quality of the players, doesn’t it? Tony is a good manager, I agree, and brings a calm style to the clubhouse, which is very important with young players, and lends a continunity to a clubhouse which is constantly undergoing changes of personnel, like all minor league clubhouses. Billy Masse, a knowledeable guy, wasn’t as good at that, and shot off his mouth too much. He did the same in New Hampshire in 07, and got fired again.

    Without an incredible influx of young pitching talent, the Thunder would have done nothing in 2007. And most minor league managers will tell you that they have little to do with the pitching staff – that’s the pitching coach’s job. Have you noticed how pitching coaches tend to get promoted when the staff does well?

    So let’s take two Thunder managers. Both had been around awhile. Both had plenty of minor league experience. Both had worked in other organizations. One was given a minor leage team with top prospects. The other was given a rag-tag bunch in a system that was low-rated, and, at times, had only 23 players on his roster.

    Both managers were good with young players, unflappable, and good with the press. One won the EL championship; the other finished with a 63-77 record.

    The first manager is Tony Franklin; the second is Ron Johnson, in 02, the Red Sox’ last year in Trenton. Two years later, when the Sox promoted RJ to Triple-A Pawtucket, he ran off a 75-69 record and tied for second in the IL. last year, he handled an astounding 70 different players for the PawSox.

    The only difference? The horses, not the jockeys.

  2. thunderbaseball Says:

    I don’t think that the 2007 Thunder were all that much better than the 2006 incarnation of the team, if they were at all. The ’06 team had Hughes for all but the first month of the season and Clippard for the entire season. DeSalvo — who yes, was mindnumbingly horrendous at times — also turned into a big leaguer from that staff.

    The Thunder had a lot of top notch pitchers come through last season, but they didn’t last. Both Chamberlain and Kennedy only stuck around for a few weeks.

    I think overall, the 2006 Thunder had a better offense as well.

    I’m not going to say it was Billy’s fault that the Thunder didn’t win in ’05 and especially ’06, but I also have to give some credit to Tony for being the guy to get it done last season.

    I do agree that Billy’s style probably wasn’t well suited for the young guys on the team, and can definitely understand why he’s been through three organizations in three seasons.

    But regardless of that, both were some of the best skippers in Thunder history…

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