A day after the Red Sox were bounced from playoff contention, general manager Theo Epstein opened a news conference at Fenway Park by inviting reporters to ask questions.
“Fire away,” he said. “… not literally.”
He was joined by manager Terry Francona, and question 1 was on the team’s inconsistency this season.
“I think we have to accept the three phases of the season for what they were. We got off to a really bad start, 2-10, I think we identified some of the reasons for that, and then we played great for about four months, we went 81 and 42, I think we were the best team in baseball. I think that period represented us at our best, our true talent level, and then obviously September, 7-20 was as bad as you can get. We’ll be dissecting that phase of season forever,” Epstein said.
“We can’t say we’re that team in the middle, we have to own all three phases of the season, including … September, which sunk us. So that’s who we are.”
Epstein was asked about his timetable for making a decision regarding Francona’s future:
“Tito and I have spent some time talking today, just kind of catching up about the season, and talking about what the next few days will look like. We’re going to get together, all the ownership, Larry (Lucchino, team president) and I and Tito over the next several days and talk about the season and talk about the future. We’re less than 24 hours removed from end of season, so we need some time to calm down, get objective and look at ourselves, look at 2011 and look ahead, and make the best decisions for everybody,” he said.
“I can’t answer that question without saying that we’ve already talked about it, John (Henry, team owner), Tom (Werner, team chairman), Larry and I, and nobody blames what happened in September on Tito. It would be totally irresponsible and totally short-sighted. We recognize everything that he means to the organization and all our successes, including at times in 2001. We take full responsibility for what happened, all of us, but collectively it was a failure, and I’m the general manager, so I take more responsibility than anybody, but I know we don’t believe in scapegoats, and in particular no one blames Tito for what happened in September. We all failed collectively.”
On any regrets over the final month:
“I regret the way the month tuned out, but I don’t regret the way we worked at it and kept plugging away,” Francona said.
On the physical conditioning of the Red Sox:
“I think we have high standards in that area, and other areas, and I can’t sit here and say those standards have been met, across the board,” Epstein said. “I’m not going to lump everyone in together, but I’ll say there are certain instances where we can and have to do better, and it will be addressed.”
On team chemistry:
“Ultimately, you don’t need to have a team that wants to go out to dinner together, but you need to have a team that wants to protect each other on the field, and be fiercely loyal to each other on the field. That’s what ultimately is really important,” Francona said.
On John Lackey’s on-field antics:
“I don’t think you can put it in a guy’s contract that if he’s going to make a certain amount of money he can’t roll his eyes. I don’t think the guys in the clubhouse have a problem with Lack, nor do I. I think we certainly wished it would have gone better on the mound. But I haven’t had a problem with Lack at all.”