Third of three excerpts from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s memoir, co-authored by Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, which went on sale Jan. 22.
In February of 2011, in his eighth year as manager of the Red Sox, Terry Francona stayed in a condo at the Miromar Lakes country club. It was his first year away from the Fort Myers Homewood Suites in the Bell Tower. Miromar had a pool Francona could use in the dark hours of morning before driving to the Sox minor league complex.
The manager’s recently married middle daughter, Leah, came to visit for a few days with her husband and was disturbed when she came across a bottle filled with as many as 100 Percocets. Like everyone else around her father, Leah Francona knew her dad took pain medication. He had considerable history with pain pills and joked about it regularly.
The manager of the Red Sox had undergone an extraordinary number of surgeries in his 51 years. The most recent knee replacement followed the 2006 knee replacement, knee scopes, knee reconstructions, cervical disk surgery, and numerous wrist, elbow, and shoulder surgeries. He’d cheated death during the Christmas season of 2002, surviving a pulmonary embolism on each side of his lungs, as well as subsequent blood clots, staph infections, massive internal bleeding, and the near-amputation of his right leg. He had a small metal device (a Greenfield filter) implanted into his vena cava vein to prevent clotting. He was unable to jog and would be on blood-thinning medication (Coumadin) for the rest of his life. He still wore sleeves on both legs, and still got cold easily. Anytime he sat too long, his legs swelled and needed to be elevated. He had a hard time remaining comfortable. Blood-level maintenance and pain management would be part of his daily life for as long as he lived.
The vial of Percocets had been stockpiled over a long period of time.
“I saved ’em up,” said the manager. “I had hoarded them.”
Francona’s daughter was concerned that his pain was not being carefully managed and asked him to consult with Dr. Larry Ronan, Red Sox head team internist since 2005. Francona knew Ronan well and trusted him.
“I had that bottle, and Leah was worried,” said the manager. “It was legal, but it wasn’t good. I didn’t even open ’em. It wasn’t under the Red Sox umbrella. She knew what I’d gone through, and she wanted me to go to Larry [Dr. Ronan], so I did. I told Larry the truth and that it was no big deal. I didn’t want to lie to him. I told him, ‘I have these, didn’t open them, but I like the idea of having them if I need them.’ I wanted to be up-front. He said he’d keep an eye on me. The next day he said he wanted to tell Theo Epstein. He told me, ‘I know you’re okay, I see your eyes, but I want you to meet with somebody, a pain management guy.’ He said he had to document this.”
As Epstein recalled, “I got a call from Dr. Ronan telling me what happened and what he thought we should do about it. We talked about how we could handle this in a way that fulfilled our responsibility to the organization, protected Tito, and, most importantly, protected Tito’s confidentiality. We had to limit the amount of people who knew about this and get Tito the help if he needed it. We had to alert MLB that something was going on, but do it without mentioning Tito’s name. Terry’s name was not specified in our report to MLB. It was just reported that there was a staff member who had an issue. And that was pretty much it. I have tremendous trust and faith in Dr. Ronan. He’s one of the special people in the world. So I felt like as long as he was the point guy handling it, that Tito would be in good shape and we’d ultimately be covered too.”
Francona agreed to participate in the MLB program and see a pain management specialist several times per month during the upcoming season. Still, he was uncomfortable with the arrangement and worried about his privacy.
“It was just Theo, Dr. Ronan, and me with that agreement,” said Francona. “I remember Larry [Dr. Ronan] looking at me as a friend and saying, ‘Tito, nobody outside of this room will ever know.’ And I said to him, “This will come back to bite me in the ass. I know how [expletive] works here. This will [expletive] me someday.”
According to Major League Baseball’s executive vice president Rob Manfred, the only people authorized to know the identity of an individual in the MLB drug program would be the three-man MLB drug policy oversight committee (Manfred, MLB drug abuse consultant Dr. Larry Westreich, and Jon Coyles, director of MLB’s drug policy) and the “employee assistance professional” at the participant’s own ball club. The employee assistance professional for the Red Sox in 2011 was Dr. Larry Ronan. Under the terms of the program, Francona met with a pain management specialist a couple of times a month, usually at Ronan’s office.Continued...