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Time for Terry Francona to Get Over Red Sox, Even If Boston Can't Get Over Him

Terry Francona

Terry Francona, time to get over it.

When the Red Sox collapsed in 2011, you were at the heart of it. You found yourself overwhelmed and mentally checked out as the team around you imploded. Chicken and beer and all that. The '11 Red Sox were once considered "The Greatest Team Ever." It seemed like you were on your way to another playoff appearance, and maybe even an actual playoff victory. The Sox had not won a playoff game since 2008.

Those Red Sox, your Red Sox, gave up. The entire team bailed, not just one player. [See Manny Ramirez, 2008]. You admitted in your own book, co-authored by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, that you too bought into the preseason hype. "As good as people thought we were going to be, I thought we were going to be better," you wrote.

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That 2011 Red Sox team committed the worst September collapse in baseball history. In hindsight, you tell us you saw it coming.

"I was worried about it all year. Somebody would strike out and go look at video instead of staying on the bench. We had a lot of guys who wanted to play every day. David [Ortiz] was in a contract year. [Kevin Youkilis] got hurt. There was just a lot of frustration with a lot of things. Without the voices of the coaches and veteran players, I was doing a lot more of that work, and the players were like, 'Man, where is this coming from?'...[In September] I thought, 'These guys just don't like each other like they used to.' It was a different atmosphere. You could tell the guys weren't as close as the teams we'd had in the past ... Guys were starting to think about themselves. It was a concern. I took a lot of pride in having teams that got mad if we lost, not if they went 0-for-4."

How prophetic -- a year after the fact.

Two days after the Red Sox lost their final game of the season in Baltimore, you were gone. Your GM would leave a month later.

This is where it gets murky.

Ownership maintains they had not made a decision on your fate before you quit. You believe otherwise. [Red Sox ownership includes John W. Henry, the owner of Boston.com.]

Your ugly exit from Boston was revisited yesterday on WEEI's "Dale and Holley" show before the Red Sox beat your Indians.

You told WEEI you weren't sure if you could ever speak to or forgive parts of Red Sox ownership for whatever it is they did to you at the end of the 2011 season.

You said your feelings remain hurt because someone associated with the team leaked personal information about you to the press. It was nasty stuff, including use of painkillers and concern about family weighing on your ability to manage the club. Here's what you said you were asked about that Thursday:

“When I talked to [Henry] the one time, when you tell someone you’re going to call them back, call them back. I think the story changed a little bit with time and some of the things I said, I just wanted them to find out. I didn’t ask them to call me back. They promised me to call me back. I think when you make a promise, you follow through."

Here's what you said about that same episode in your book: You spoke with Henry in February 2012, after he became aware of your misgivings. And he even called you back.

The owner called his ex-manager and said he was concerned that Francona was angry with him. He repeatedly asked the manager why he had talked about ownership not having his back.

Like I always said, it’s not only your right, it’s your obligation to get the right manager,” Francona told Henry. “I understand that. And it’s not me anymore. But if you’re hearing what I heard before our meeting, during our meeting, after our meeting — and then reading that article — how would you feel if you were me? Instead of caring about me and my reputation, you start running into radio stations to make sure it’s not about you. I wanted you to care about me."

Ten minutes after they hung up, Henry called Francona again.

"Tito, how about if you come back and throw out the first pitch for us on Opening Day?" asked the owner.

"No thanks, John," said Francona.

OK, you think you got shafted by your bosses. It sucks. But you easily slid from the Red Sox to ESPN to the Indians with the support of millions of fans and a dedicated press.

You said in your book that Henry promised to find out who on the Red Sox ratted you out. Larry Lucchino told you that he was not the culprit, Henry was not the culprit, and that he believed the person or persons responsible had already left the Red Sox organization.

Some big clues there. But the man "who runs the Red Sox" ruled out conducting a "Nixonian" investigation into finding the mole, your book said. One has to wonder how many "Nixonian" investigations Lucchino has conducted since he took part in actual "Nixonian" investigations back in the 1970s as minority counsel during the Senate Watergate hearings.

But if the rat in question had left the Red Sox by the time Henry became aware of your concerns, what was he supposed to do? Have the NSA download all of Bob Hohler's phone records and give you the printout?

Then your book adds these two paragraphs:

The Sox principal owner [Henry] ignored multiple emails from Francona requesting cooperation for this book.
Francona’s final email to John Henry, sent in August 2012, read: “Hello John. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that after 8 years together and what I thought was mutual respect you chose not to even respond to my email. I guess I know now where I stand with you. Good luck. Tito.”

So are you miffed because Henry didn't do whatever he was supposed to do to find the rat, or are you simply ticked he chose not to cooperate with you for your book?

Maybe Henry simply did not want to participate. Maybe he had some other motive. Who knows? Who cares?

You're beloved in Boston for what you did even if it did not end well. But it's interesting how differently you and your former star are treated by so many who report from Fenway Park or opine on the team.

Both Francona and Manny Ramirez earned legendary status in Red Sox history. Tito went 8-0 in the World Series. Ramirez was MVP in the 2004 World Series and hit .347 in the '07 postseason. Both helped the Red Sox win two World Series crowns. Both also "quit" on the team during their final seasons in Boston. Both eventually frustrated their bosses and left town under grimy circumstances.

The charge of "Manny quitting on the Red Sox in 2008" continues to resonate as if it's a war crime. No one else associated with the Red Sox, apparently, has any culpability for the team not winning the World Series that year. Certainly not you.

In your book, you told the story about how Manny called you the night you were let go by/quit on the Red Sox in '11 and left this voice message:

"Papi, this is Manny [Ramirez]. I just wanted to give you a call. You were an okay manager. Call me back."

The book never says you returned his call. Imagine that.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
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