. . .
Larry Lucchino said that ownership was initially unaware of Francona’s participation in the program, adding, “Later in the season I became aware of it, but not earlier in the season.”
“They weren’t supposed to know,” said Francona.
Eight months later, after the September collapse and subsequent firing of Francona, the Boston Globe ran a page one story, headlined “Inside the Collapse,” written by Bob Hohler. The story included multiple examples of ballplayers behaving badly, but the ex-manager took the biggest hit as details of his personal life were uncovered.
“By numerous accounts, manager Terry Francona lost his ability to prevent some of the lax behavior that characterized the collapse,” Hohler wrote. “Team sources said Francona . . . appeared distracted during the season by issues related to his troubled marriage and to his health.”
Further down in the story, Hohler wrote, “Team sources also expressed concern that Francona’s performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication.”
There it was. Francona’s spring prediction to Dr. Larry Ronan had come true.
The ex-manager was quoted through the story, saying, among many other things, “It makes me angry that people say these things because I’ve busted my [butt] to be the best manager I can be. . . . It [pain medication] never became an issue, and anybody who knew what was going on knows that.”
In a Feb. 18 column in the Boston Herald, Francona told Michael Silverman, “I called John Henry seven or eight times. Never heard from him. I have not talked to John since the day I left. It makes you kind of understand where you stood.”
This got Henry’s attention. The owner called his ex-manager and said he was concerned that Francona was angry with him. He repeatedly asked the manager why he had talked about ownership not having his back.
“Like I always said, it’s not only your right, it’s your obligation to get the right manager,” Francona told Henry. “I understand that. And it’s not me anymore. But if you’re hearing what I heard before our meeting, during our meeting, after our meeting — and then reading that article — how would you feel if you were me? Instead of caring about me and my reputation, you start running into radio stations to make sure it’s not about you. I wanted you to care about me.”
Ten minutes after they hung up, Henry called Francona again.
“Tito, how about if you come back and throw out the first pitch for us on Opening Day?” asked the owner.
“No thanks, John,” said Francona.
“It was the same stuff as before,” the ex-manager said later. “It was like when they made us play the doubleheader and John thought he could make up for it by giving the players his boat and giving them headphones. But the one thing that did come out of that — John promised me he would get back to me regarding that Hohler story. He said the same thing Larry said, but to this day I never heard back.”
. . .
In 2012, Francona returned to Fort Myers for the first time when the ESPN crew visited JetBlue Park for a much-hyped exhibition game between the Yankees and the Red Sox in March. The former manager skipped the customary pregame information session in Bobby Valentine’s office, leaving Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser to carry out the chore.
Despite his efforts, Francona was corralled by a number of Boston baseball reporters. He said he hadn’t heard anything about Fenway’s 100th birthday bash in April, adding, “I’m not quite ready for the hugs yet. I’m still trying to stop the bleeding.”
Weeks later, Francona was in a phone store in Tucson with three young Verizon employees, learning to use his new iPhone. While the phone was on speaker, he took an unexpected call from Lucchino.
“Tito, this is Larry,” Lucchino started.
“Hey, Larry,” said Francona. “Just so you know, I’m in a Verizon store learning to use my new phone and we’re on speakerphone here.”
“Fine,” said Lucchino. “I was just following up to make sure you know we’d love to have you on hand with all the other ex-Sox players and managers when we celebrate Fenway’s 100th on April 20.”
“Larry, you know what my answer is, don’t you?” said Francona.
“Yeah, you’re not ready to hug everybody,” said Lucchino. “I read all about it.”
“That’s right, Larry,” said the ex-manager, “I said the same thing to John. I told him I don’t want to be included in anything to do with the Red Sox until he gives me a decent answer on who [expletive] me in the newspaper.”
“It wasn’t [expletive] me!” insisted Lucchino. “And it wasn’t [expletive] John!”
“That’s fine, Larry,” snapped Francona, aware that folks in the phone store were starting to look at him. “I believe you. I’m just telling you how I feel. I don’t want anything to do with the Red Sox until you care enough to find out who said it. Call me when you got a better answer!”Continued...