The Red Sox, in the wake of their third-place finish, severed ties with pitching coach Dave Wallace and hitting coach Ron ``Papa Jack" Jackson yesterday, and only two members of Terry Francona's coaching staff -- bench coach Brad Mills and third base coach DeMarlo Hale -- are assured of being back with the club next season.
Wallace, anticipating that a change might be in the offing after Francona announced last week that general manager Theo Epstein planned to meet with the coaches yesterday, asked for a meeting with Epstein a few days ago, and learned of his fate then. He said Francona told him that he wanted to keep him.
``I've got to believe that Tito had nothing to do with it," said Wallace, 60, by phone yesterday. ``He said he wanted me to stay."
Wallace, who became pitching coach in 2003 after then-pitching coach Tony Cloninger was diagnosed with bladder cancer, dealt with serious health issues of his own this year after developing complications in the aftermath of hip replacement surgery just days before the start of spring training. Al Nipper, who was to have been the bullpen coach, stepped in as interim pitching coach until Wallace returned just after the All-Star break to share duties with Nipper, leading to a situation that Francona yesterday described as ``disjointed."
``I'd have had no problem with it," Wallace said of his dismissal, ``if I'd been there this year."
Wallace said he asked Epstein if his health was the reason for dismissal, and was told that it wasn't.
``Theo said, `Tito wants you, the players want you,' " Wallace said. ``I said, `Theo, don't insult my intelligence and say you need to go in a different direction.' So instead, he said they needed a new environment."
Wallace, who has spent 25 years, mostly with the Dodgers and Mets, as a coach and executive in baseball, was the Dodgers' senior vice president of baseball operations when he was hired by the Sox in 2003. At that time, there had been discussions that Wallace, once Cloninger recovered, would move into the front office to oversee the organization's pitching operations. Instead, Wallace remained in uniform, and upon his dismissal there was no discussion, he said, of moving into the front office.
``I think the thing I find most disappointing is that in four years, nobody ever asked my opinion about bringing in a player," Wallace said. ``In 2003, I was brought into the middle of chaos and we almost won it. The next year we won the World Series, and the year after that, without [Curt] Schilling and [Keith] Foulke, we got in [the playoffs].
``I just wish someone could give me a reason."
Wallace has received expressions of support from Schilling, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek.
``That's respect you can't buy," he said. ``You've got to earn that."
Nipper and Ralph Treuel, who slid into Nipper's spot as bullpen coach, are in limbo pending the outcome of the search for a new pitching coach. Francona said Nipper is in the mix for that job, but Nipper would appear to be a long shot, though it's conceivable he could come back as bullpen coach. One possibility is John Farrell, the Indians' director of player development, who is close with Francona.
First base coach Bill Haselman, meanwhile, is being urged by both Epstein and Francona to take a minor league managing position -- probably in the lower minors -- as a step to one day becoming a major league manager.
``He needs to decide about his career path," said Epstein.
Jackson, who was with the Sox for four years, also was not offered another job in the organization, Epstein said.
``I'm disappointed, I can't lie about that," Jackson said. ``I loved my time there. It wasn't a total shock because things had started to appear in the paper. I sensed it from David [Ortiz] because he probably knew something. I understand these things. Theo hired me, and like I told him, we're hired to be fired.
``Terry told me it was his decision. I'm sure he probably wants his own people in there. But I appreciate the fact -- and I told Terry this -- that he never interfered in anything I was trying to do. We had a lot of success offensively and I know that I did everything the organization wanted me to do. I can look at myself in the mirror and know I gave it my all."
Changes were not entirely unexpected after a year in which the club finished 12th in hitting with a .269 average and sixth in runs after three straight seasons of leading the majors in runs, while finishing 11th in pitching with a 4.83 staff ERA.
``Please don't write that I think it's their fault, OK?" Francona said. ``What happens on the field is my direct responsibility. Sometimes with that responsibility, you do feel like it's necessary . . . to have a new voice, a different voice.
``It's not a fun decision. Papa Jack is one of the nicest men I've ever been around. Dave Wallace is one of my closest friends, [but] those are the decisions we came to."
Epstein said he had a long meeting with Wallace.
``We talked about the state of our pitching performance, talked about creating an environment where pitchers can come and thrive and the different adjustments that I felt we needed to make in all aspects of our pitching operation: How we see our pitchers, how we evaluate them, how we acquire them, how we support them once they're here," said Epstein. ``As Tito said, it's my responsibility as leader of baseball operations to try to make adjustments in a lot of places where we're not happy with the results. It was a mutual decision in the end that it was best to take a different direction and bring in a new voice to try to accomplish those things."
Epstein said Wallace's health was not a factor. While neither Epstein nor Francona mentioned it specifically, the lack of progress shown by two of the team's top pitching prospects, Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, may have factored in the decision, though Nipper, because of his time as minor league pitching coordinator, worked most closely with them.
In letting Jackson go, the Sox are losing one of the most popular personalities in the organization, one who worked tirelessly for the team's community relations department in addition to his on-field duties. On the night Ortiz broke Jimmie Foxx's club record for home runs by hitting Nos. 51 and 52, he credited Jackson with suggesting an adjustment in his swing before the game, and afterward presented him with his bat.
``That meant a lot to me," Jackson said. ``He signed it, `To the best batting coach around.' "
But there was evidence of Francona's disenchantment with Jackson as far back as 2005, when he brought in an additional hitting coach, Mike Barnett, who made considerable use of video and other analytical techniques. Barnett was not brought back this season, club sources have said, because Jackson was not comfortable with the arrangement. It is also believed that CEO Larry Lucchino, who was in San Diego when Jackson was a coach there, championed Jackson.
Epstein, in response to a question, said that Victor Rodriguez, who began the year as the team's Latin field coordinator, a position he has held for three seasons, has been promoted to minor league hitting coordinator. He replaces Orv Franchuk, who was dismissed six weeks ago after almost four seasons in that role with the Sox.
Nick Cafardo of the Globe staff contributed to this story
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