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ON BASEBALL

The flag was raised -- why not salary?

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Whatever value winning a World Series has -- and countless New Englanders have called it a life-transforming experience -- it has yet to be reflected in Terry Francona's contract. A feat last accomplished 86 years ago -- before 24/7 news coverage, nightly sellouts, talk radio, clubhouses full of multimillionaires -- has not resulted in the kind of windfall many fans may have assumed would come Francona's way.

Francona's salary is laughably low compared with the compensation received by Bill Belichick of the Patriots and Doc Rivers of the Celtics. Belichick is being paid an estimated $4.2 million a year, while Rivers is at $5 million.

He is still working on the same three-year contract he signed when the Sox offered him the managing job after the 2003 season. And the $550,000 salary he is making this season (it goes up to $600,000 in 2006), while clearly not an assembly-line wage, places Francona in the lowest echelon among big-league managers. He received an extra couple hundred thousand as his share for winning the World Series, but neither he nor his coaches have been given a raise.

The Yankees' Joe Torre, who is paid in the $6 million range, is baseball's highest-paid manager, and should be, for what he has done (and because of who his Boss is). Dusty Baker of the Cubs is in the $4 million class, and Tampa Bay's Lou Piniella is right behind (he's due a raise to $4.8 million next year, which means Piniella makes more than any of his players). Tony La Russa, who signed a contract extension after his Cardinals were beaten by the Sox last October, is in the high $2 million range, according to an industry source.

Art Howe, the now-unemployed Mets manager, was working on a four-year, $9.4 million deal. Eric Wedge, in his first job with the Cleveland Indians, recently had his original deal torn up, one that called for him to make $800,000 next season and more than $1 million the next two years. And on and on the list goes (new Mets manager Willie Randolph reportedly started at a higher salary, $650,000, than the World Series winner) until you reach Francona, even though he has won in one of the game's most demanding markets.

''Most guys start in the $400,000-$600,000 range," the industry source said, ''with [Pittsburgh's] Lloyd McClendon the low man when he signed for $300,000. Guys on their second contract are usually in the $650,000-$700,000 range. More than half the managers are making less than $700,000."

Asked recently about his contract situation, Francona declined to comment, saying he had a signed deal and any discussions that take place will be kept confidential. But it may be telling that Francona has yet to relocate to the Boston area from his Philadelphia home, though he is believed to have looked around at potential homes closer to Yawkey Way.

Francona's immediate superior, general manager Theo Epstein, is on a three-year contract that is due to expire Oct. 31, and while the common assumption is that he will be amply rewarded and kept in Boston, it comes as a mild surprise that his new deal isn't done yet. There is some logic to thinking that when Epstein's deal is done, the Sox will turn their attention to Francona, but there's no guarantee.

''Tito has done and continues to do a fantastic job, first and foremost, and in both of our minds is trying to win again in 2005," said Epstein, who was on a scouting trip but intends to join the team here tomorrow. ''At the appropriate time, as is the case in all of our contracts, discussions will be held."

Managers' salaries are one of the most closely guarded secrets in baseball. The commissioner's office distributes a list to teams, but the names are deleted. And many clubs do not allow agents to represent managers, because a manager belongs to management, and having an agent could lead to potential conflicts of interest, if a manager and player have the same agent. Francona was told he could not have an agent, as was Bob Melvin, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Davey Johnson, who won a World Series with the Mets in 1986, was the first manager to hire an agent after the Baltimore Orioles fired him in 1997, even though he was the American League Manager of the Year. His agent was Alan Nero, who has represented Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson among his many clients.

''You're on management side, and you want to do the right thing for management and ownership," he said. ''How can you hardball them?

''But one thing management overlooks a lot of times is that a good manager solves all the problems with 28 guys, 30 guys. You get them to accept the Red Sox thing, or the Yankee thing, the guy is worth his weight in gold. But management often doesn't realize that the guys in the trenches are the ones solving the problems, making them work.

''A good manager makes the chemistry work, and when you have chemistry, you've given the team an opportunity to succeed. You should be rewarded for it."

Many managers, Johnson noted, aren't paid much more than the big-league minimum, $316,000, that goes to first-year players.

''To me," Johnson said, ''managing is so much more than calling the hit-and-run and squeeze. It's knowing how to use your talent over the long haul, how to get the talent to express itself and live up to its potential. Ownership doesn't understand that sometimes, general managers don't understand that. When you do that, you should be rewarded.

''To me, Tito did a hell of a job. Boston is in a market as tough as any of them -- New York, Philadelphia. To me, managing is a love-hate job, a 24-hour job, a 12-month job. There's a lot of stress in that job. You've got to love it because it's a 24-hour job."

Johnson can relate to the chest pains Francona experienced the first week of the season. When he was in Baltimore, he said, he had heart arrhythmia.

''That's stress," he said. ''That's the toll it takes. It's a very tough job.

''But what happens in reality is that when all 25 guys understand their roles and buy into what you're doing, it looks like just anybody could manage the team. That's what happened in Boston, but that's only because Francona was able to make it happen, and it looks like he's making it happen again.

''Those are the things a guy should be rewarded for. Tell him I think he's worth 3 or 4 million a year."

By its public pronouncements, Sox ownership appears enlightened about what Francona has accomplished here. The time should come when it shows that appreciation in a tangible fashion.


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