BOSTON (CBS) – Former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger and Massarotti on Friday to discuss the release of his new book, Francona: The Red Sox Years, and some of the details of his time with the Red Sox.
It’s well documented that things didn’t end well with Tito and the Red Sox. Now that his side of the story is out, is he worried about management coming back at him?
“I wasn’t looking for a feud. Once we decided to do this, we decided to do the eight years. I knew at the end we’d have to deal with this. We tried to do it as I viewed it — and honestly. It was hard at times, but we tried to do the best job we could,” said Francona.
Francona said he wasn’t happy with how ownership handled the end of his time in Boston, but he doesn’t think they are the source that gave details about his personal life to the Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler.
“Everything kind of became public, and I didn’t really blame it on the owners. I was just disappointed in I wanted them to care about me and maybe less about the perception of them,” said Francona. “I talked to John [Henry] once and he was going to call me back. That didn’t happen. So I was disappointed, but I didn’t blame [the Hohler story] on them.”
So who does Francona think leaked that information?
“I never did know. I just wanted them to care,” he said again of the Boston owners. “I talked to Larry [Lucchino] a couple times and John once. They told me they were upset that happened and they tried to find out [who it was], but I never heard back from them.”
As for the historic collapse of 2011, Francona saw signs throughout the season the group was not a one of those great Red Sox teams — even with some mid-season success. But Francona doesn’t shy away from his share of the blame.
“In a long baseball season how teams handle adversity goes a long way. We were pretty good in the middle of the season and I though it covered up some of our inadequacies,” he said. “When it came time to handle the frustration we didn’t handle it well, and that falls on me. When you go 7-23 down the stretch, as a manager you’re wide open for criticism… We didn’t play the game very well, and that falls on me.”
The Hohler story gave birth to the whole “Chicken and Beer Gang” image, but Francona laughed at the notion the team had a drinking problem.
“The 2011 team was boring compared to some of those other teams out there,” he said of the 2004 group of “Idiots” that reportedly partook in some pre-game visits from Mr. Jack Daniels.
But there was something a little different about that 2011 club compared to those of the past.
“The good teams we had in Boston always had guys that policed each other in the clubhouse. Regardless of what it was, they had strong enough personalities where if they saw something they didn’t like they took care of it. That’s the sign of a good team. The 2011 team, we never really got that.”
Francona mentioned those successful teams had strong clubhouse players like Alex Cora, Gabe Kapler and Eric Hinske to help him get his message across.
“They were able to really send my message throughout the clubhouse and police things. In 2011, all the guys that were on the bench wanted to be playing, and when we gave guys days off they were mad. We never got to that point as a team, and we knew that all year.”
That’s why Francona called the famous early September team meeting in Toronto.
“I was seeing things that worried me. I wanted to make sure they understood that, as good as we thought we could be if we didn’t put our best foot forward we would kick ourselves,” he said. “When the meeting was over, I felt like it fell on deaf ears. I was disappointed.”
Francona is viewed as being the ultimate players manager, and that approach was part of the reason players began to take advantage of him near the end. But Francona does not resent any of his players, and isn’t second guessing his approach with them.
“I regret the way it ended, but if you really think about it – and this is how I viewed it – we started that year 2-10, and I tried to real hard to be consistent. Then we went 80-40 and I tried to be the same consistent manager. Then all of a sudden in September we played real bad, and I tried to remain that consistency. If I had changed my stripes it would have been viewed as panic,” he siad. “Ultimately it didn’t work, and it was time to move on. That’s the reality of the position. But I feel like I stayed true to myself true to myself, and I can live with it.”
Tito will soon finish up his book tour and head off to his first Spring Training with the Cleveland Indians. While he knows not many places can compare to Boston’s passion for baseball, there will be plenty of expectations waiting for him in Cleveland.
“When we lose, I don’t think I’ll ever change being aggravated. I know there’s different expectations, but didn’t go [to Cleveland] to go to pasture,” he said. “I wanted to go work there. We have challenges, and I’m really excited to try to tackle them.”
Francona also talks about his relationship with Theo Epstein in his final days, discusses his relationship with the Boston media, and clears up how Josh Beckett hurt himself in the bullpen in September of 2011 — sort of: