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Dan Shaughnessy

Soft serves from good-humor man

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / June 13, 2004
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Manager Terry Francona had his usual perspective on all things Red Sox after yesterday's 14-5 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On Tim Wakefield (8 runs, 10 hits, 4 1/3 innings): "Didn't have his best knuckleball for sure, but for a while I thought we were going to be fine."

On Anastacio Martinez (4 runs, 2 walks, a hit batsman, one-third of an inning): "Has tremendous stuff, but you see that with young pitchers."

And David McCarty (1-2-3 ninth for the first baseman/pitcher): "His velocity was much better."

If we've learned one thing about the Red Sox skipper, it's that he is the all-time glass-is-half-full guy. Francona makes Baghdad Bob look like a prince of pessimism. Terry is like the knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" who runs around after both arms have been severed and says, "It's only a flesh wound."

He is our new baseball Pete Carroll. Francona is simply not going to say anything negative about any of his players. Ever. We learned this when Pedro Martinez left the ballpark before the game was over on Opening Night and Francona took the blame, saying he didn't tell Pedro the rules.

In this spirit, let's try to imagine what Francona would have said after some of the memorable dark moments in Sox history:

* Manny Ramirez declines to run out of the batter's box after hitting a dribbler back to the pitcher in Tampa.

"You know, I think Manny thought that ball hit him in the leg." * Gene Conley goes on a bender in New York City after a loss at Yankee Stadium. Conley buys a plane ticket for Jerusalem at Idlewild Airport, but can't board because he has no passport. "Geno's a sensitive guy and I understand that. Sometimes a trip to the Holy Land is just what a guy needs to clear his head."* Johnny Pesky hesitates on a relay throw to home as Enos Slaughter scores the winning run of the 1946 World Series. "Guys were yelling, `throw, throw,' but Johnny thought they were saying, `no, no.' "

* In a moment of frustration, Ted Williams tosses his bat in the air and it comes down in the stands on the head of Joe Cronin's housekeeper. "I think Ted was trying to wave to the crowd and the bat just slipped out of his hand."* Carl Everett head-butts umpire Ron Kulpa during an argument at the plate in a nationally televised Saturday afternoon game. "C'mon, guys. You all know there was nothing to that. Carl was just agreeing with the ump. He's a close-talker, and when he nodded his head in agreement, he accidentally bumped the guy."* Jim Rice grabs his manager and wrestles him down the dugout steps after Spike Owen is sent up to pinch hit. "Jimmy didn't mean anything by that. He was just trying to give me a hug and we lost our footing and tumbled into the runway."* Oil Can Boyd goes AWOL after not being named to the All-Star team. "We understand that. The Can deserved to be an All-Star. I like a guy who takes pride in his performance."* Roger Clemens doesn't show up for the start of spring training and neglects to call the team to explain his absence. "That's actually my fault. I never told Clem he had to be here with everybody else."* Jose Offerman ignores a bunt sign and grounds into a double play. "I don't think Offie saw the sign."* Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg blows out his knee while skiing at Lake Tahoe after the 1967 season. "That's actually my fault. Lonnie sticks to a rigorous offseason conditioning program and I didn't tell him that skiing, bungee jumping, skydiving, and skateboarding stunts were off limits."* Ramirez refuses to pinch hit in a crucial Labor Day game in Philadelphia. "You really can't blame Manny. He didn't have a chance to get loose on the bench and I don't think I said `please.' "* With Wade Boggs (batting close to .400) at the plate, Steve Lyons gets thrown out trying to steal third base and the Sox lose a game in Milwaukee by one run. "Psycho was just being aggressive there and we're not going to be critical when our guys are being aggressive."

* Bill Lee throws an Eephus pitch to Tony Perez in the seventh game of the World Series and Perez hits it far over the Green Monster. "Spaceman marches to his own drummer and that's what we love about him. It wasn't really a bad idea. Perez just made a good adjustment. Sometimes you've got to give the other guy credit."* Clemens finally arrives at spring training and goes for a jog with his manager. The manager talks to Clemens while they run. Clemens is wearing headphones. "Rocket was just listening to some country and western music. I love that stuff, too."* Babe Ruth skips the final game of the 1919 season and goes on a barnstorming tour. "The Big Fella needed to blow off a little steam, I guess. We know he'll be there when we need him. He's going to win a lot more games for us than he'll skip. That's just the Babe being the Babe."And that's just Terry being Terry. All pumped and jacked. And don't we all wish we had a boss like this? Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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