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Francona says Henry didn’t ask him to stay

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / October 6, 2011

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Terry Francona maintains that his departure from the Red Sox was a mutual decision. But he did acknowledge during a radio appearance yesterday that he was never asked to stay on as manager during his meeting with Sox owner John Henry last Friday.

“That didn’t happen,’’ he told WEEI. “Again, there was a reason [for] sitting up in that office having some meetings. I have to own a lot of responsibility for what happened because it was my responsibility to not let happen what happened.’’

Francona said last week that he perceived a lack of support from Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and president Larry Lucchino. He initially backed off that statement yesterday, saying the owners were “second to none’’ in baseball.

But later in the interview, he addressed the issue again.

“Eight years together is a lot, and I have a lot of respect for them and what they do,’’ he said. “There were some things that were voiced in meetings I viewed maybe as not being supportive. Maybe they didn’t. Everybody has their own opinion.

“They gave me an opportunity and I ended up being here for eight years. For that, I’ll always be grateful. Again, maybe it was time to move on.’’

A team source said Francona’s two-year contract option was not picked up during the season because the sides agreed at the time of the original contract to table that decision until after the season.

By then, after a 7-20 September that led to a third-place finish, the owners wanted to move on and Francona concurred. Francona said he and general manager Theo Epstein already had discussed the subject.

“Am I the right person? Because obviously there needs to be some changes made here, and I don’t think I was,’’ he said. “I do think if I go on somewhere to manage again somewhere else, I probably do need to make some changes. I don’t think it was going to be entirely possible with this group, that I already entrusted all this to.’’

Francona said he wanted to stay in baseball but would manage only if the right situation came up.

He also addressed the reports of starting pitchers drinking beer in the clubhouse during games.

“I was uncomfortable with a lot of things that were going on with our team, I will say that,’’ said Francona. “But as far as some of these things that are being said, I don’t think they’re very accurate.

“I’m not so naive to think somebody wouldn’t have a beer. Again, I wasn’t up there.

“More in general were the ideas that I wanted the guys that weren’t down on the bench, I wanted them down on the bench. I wanted them to support their teammates, things like that.

“Whether they had a cup of beer or not was not the end of the world for me. It was more of an attitude towards our team.’’

Francona said some pitchers did put on weight during the season, and it was a concern. But he defended the work of pitching coach Curt Young and strength and conditioning coach Dave Page.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in the interview was that the player he feuded with the most, Manny Ramirez, called Francona to wish him well.

“I was very surprised,’’ Francona said. “Actually a very nice message and I appreciated it a lot.’’

Francona does have a part-time job already. He will call the first two games of the American League Championship Series for Fox with Joe Buck. The usual analyst, Tim McCarver, is having what the network called a “minor heart-related procedure’’ and is not expected back until Game 3.

“I hope Joe Buck has a multiyear deal. When he called me, I thought he was kidding,’’ Francona said. “I’ve only broadcast one other game in my life, and that was in the Arizona Fall League about 13 years ago and it was on radio and there were probably 12 people [listening] and I sucked. So this is going to be interesting.’’

Sox first base coach Ron Johnson confirmed reports that the team fired him after 12 seasons in the organization.

“That’s how baseball works,’’ Johnson said. “I understand that.’’

Johnson, 55, was on the major league staff for two seasons after spending 10 years as a minor league manager.

Epstein said last week that the coaching staff was in limbo following Francona’s departure but left open the idea that some could be recommended to the next manager.

There have been no indications that any of the coaches are being considered for the managing position.

Longtime Sox broadcaster Ken Coleman, who died in 2003, is one of 10 finalists for the 2012 Ford Frick Award. The winner will be announced Dec. 6 and honored next July at the Hall of Fame.

The winner will be selected by a 20-member panel that includes the 15 living Frick Award winners. Coleman called Sox games from 1966-74 and 1979-89.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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