Terry Francona On Red Sox Ownership: ‘I Don’t Think They Love Baseball’
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BOSTON (CBS) — Much hype has been generated regarding the soon-to-be-released book collaboration between former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy. An early glimpse at the publication shows much of that buildup appears to be warranted.
Sports Illustrated ran an excerpt of the book in this week’s issue, titling the article “Too Big to Succeed.” In it, Francona explains in detail how the ownership group of John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner spent more energy focusing on the Red Sox’ public image than it did on building a championship-caliber baseball team.
“Our owners in Boston, they’ve been owners for 10 years,” Francona said in the book excerpt. “They come in with all these ideas about baseball, but I don’t think they love baseball. I think they like baseball. It’s revenue, and I know that’s their right and their interest because they’re owners — and they’re good owners. But they don’t love the game. It’s still more of a toy or a hobby for them. It’s not their blood. They’re going to come in and out of baseball. It’s different for me. Baseball is my life.”
The excerpt details a meeting with then-general manager Theo Epstein, Francona, Lucchino, Werner and a tardy Henry.
“Werner talked about slumping television ratings and whined, ‘We need to start winning in more exciting fashion,’” the excerpt read.
The owners hired a consulting firm, paying $100,000 to find out what the Red Sox can do to regenerate public interest in the team.
“They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle. We need some sexy guys,” Epstein said. “Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We’d become too big. It was the farthest thing from what we set out to be.”
Epstein added, “[That] was evidence to me of the inherent tension between building a baseball operation the way I thought was best and the realities of being in a big market … which had gotten bigger than any of us could handle.”
Slumping television ratings also helped lead to decisions that ultimately didn’t keep the best interest of the baseball team in mind.
“One thing the players were always asking for was getaway day games,” Francona said in the excerpt. “The owners would never go for it. They couldn’t have more day games because the ratings were already suffering, and that would have hurt worse.”
LISTEN: Shaughnessy Joins Gresh & Zo
Shaughnessy also explains the “inattentive ownership” due to the purchasing of Liverpool Football Club.
After Francona and the Red Sox “mutually” decided to part ways, Henry was unable to attend the press conference because he was injured when he fell on his yacht. Henry’s wife posted on Twitter the following morning, “Happy John is home! He slipped down stairs, injuring his neck. Kept at hospital at precaution, but was home for the derby.”
Shaughnessy wrote: “The owner, who’d been unable to attend the press conference announcing the firing of the manager who brought two World Series titles to Boston, made it home in time to watch Liverpool beat Everton 2-0 in the Merseyside derby.”
Francona discussed his meeting with ownership and Epstein after the September collapse of 2011. He said he “knew the owners didn’t want him back [for 2012], but no one was willing to express this uncomfortable truth.”
“I was just trying to take accountability. But I kind of viewed that meeting as a charade,” Francona said in the book. “When people ask me if I left the Red Sox on my own or if I was fired, I don’t even know how to answer that. I tried my ass off to put the team in position to win, and I worked my ass off that last year more than ever.”
“Francona: The Red Sox Years” will be released on Jan. 22. Terry Francona will join the Gresh & Zo Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Jan. 23.