THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Francona defends Epstein

Sox manager annoyed by Showalter’s remarks

(File/Kathy Willens/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 28, 2011

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SARASOTA, Fla. — Terry Francona, having not read the story, cracked a joke last week when he was asked about the comments Orioles manager Buck Showalter made to Men’s Journal magazine that appeared to question the intelligence of Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.

Curious as to what Showalter exactly said, Francona read the piece himself. Then it wasn’t such a laughing matter.

“Actually I was kind of aggravated a little bit,’’ Francona said yesterday before the Sox played Showalter and the Orioles. “I don’t think that’s anybody’s place. That’s my boss. It’s not the end of the world, but I thought he shouldn’t have done it.’’

In a profile on Showalter titled, “Is This Man Too Smart for Baseball?’’ the Orioles manager was quoted as saying in a jeering manner, “I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll. You got Carl Crawford ’cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter?’’

Epstein has refused comment on the unprovoked shot. But Francona, who usually keeps such opinions private, rose to his defense.

“I didn’t see any reason to do that. I just thought that was a little bit out of line,’’ he said. “I don’t think he’d be appreciating if I said something about Andy [MacPhail, Baltimore’s GM], which I wouldn’t. It’s none of my business. And, for the record, I think Andy’s really good.’’

Francona also found it amusing that Showalter told the magazine he enjoyed “whipping their butt’’ because the Red Sox had a “$205 million’’ payroll.

“I don’t remember them beating us that much,’’ said Francona, whose team never has had a payroll higher than $168 million. “Maybe it was a different schedule.’’

The Orioles were 3-3 against the injury-riddled Red Sox after Showalter took over as manager last season.

“Way to go,’’ Francona said sarcastically.

Showalter claimed a few days ago that his remarks were taken out of context and he was “joking around.’’ Approached by a reporter before the game, he said he had not read the article.

“I guess I should read it. I keep getting asked about it,’’ he said.

Showalter was asked whether he planned to apologize to Epstein.

“Let me get through spring training,’’ he said. “Then we’ll see what happens.’’

Showalter revealed later that he placed a call to Francona before the game.

“I would be [aggravated], too,’’ he said. “I just felt like I owed him a call. I know Terry and I like him a lot. I have a lot of respect for him.’’

In what may not be a coincidence, the Red Sox media notes for yesterday’s game included a paragraph about Epstein for the first time this spring. It mentioned that Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News had named him the GM of the decade and that Baseball America credited the Red Sox for having the best amateur drafts of the last 10 years.

Showalter, who was previously fired by the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers before taking over the Orioles last July, also made critical comments about Yankees captain Derek Jeter in the article.

“He’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets — and yes, he [ticks] me off,’’ Showalter said.

Jeter, like Francona, took a sarcastic tone in responding.

“I’ve never heard someone make a big deal out of how someone takes inside pitches,’’ he told ESPN. “I’ll work on how I take pitches.’’

MacPhail defended Showalter’s remarks last week. “It’s probably not my first choice, but I don’t really think it’s a big deal,’’ he told MLB.com. “If that’s how [Showalter] feels, that’s how he feels.

“I think we all understood when we interviewed Buck one of the things we were looking to get was somebody that has a personality about him, has some success. This is part of it.’’

The Sox and Orioles play for the first time in the regular season April 26 at Camden Yards.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com.

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