Extra Bases

Francona: ‘Millsy embodies a lot of what’s right in baseball’

Red Sox manager Terry Francona chatted with the hosts of WEEI’s “The Dale and Holley Show” this morning, and much of the discussion focused on the departure of his good friend and longtime bench coach Brad Mills, who was named the manager of the Houston Astros yesterday. To read Francona’s comments in their entirety, click the “full entry” link at the bottom of this post.

On how Mills went about his duties as Francona’s bench coach:

Francona: “Whatever was supposed to get done got done. Millsy had a lot of responsibility here, and he earned that. And it was great. It was good for him and it was tremendous for me.”

On whether his relationship with Astros general manager Ed Wade, who was the GM in Philadelphia when Francona was the manager and Mills the bench coach, helped him get the job:

Francona: “I think it got him an interview. I think Millsy kind of had to take it and go from there. Ed Wade’s a good guy. We’ve been through a lot together. He had to fire me [in Philadelphia]. It was not easy for him and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun for me. But we’re still really good friends. I think a lot of Eddie. He’s a solid, solid guy. I think he and Millsy are a very good match together.”

On what kind of manager he thinks Mills will be:

Francona: “You know, I don’t know. I know one thing — he’s cheap. He’s not going to pay for any cabs for his coaches. They’re going to have to start working on that. You know what, it will be interesting, because he’s always kind to have had to formulate his feelings around what I felt. I mean, that’s what a bench coach does. I mean, you give your opinion, but the decision would come down to me. Now he’ll be making those decisions. The game won’t be going too fast for him; he’s been doing this his whole life. He’s got a great feel for baseball. He’s a very good person. He’s got a combination of a lot of good things that should help make him successful.

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“He’s so conscientious. I can’t wait until about next June when he calls me at 4 in the morning because he’s not sleeping. Then I can laugh at him.”

On talking to Astros owner Drayton McLane on Mills’s behalf:

Francona: “He actually called me, and I was really impressed. So many times in this game people make calls, I don’t know, to cover their backside, just to say they did it. He came armed with questions, and good questions, and I actually really enjoyed it. Toward the end of the conversation, we both kind of commented that we were ready for spring training. He’s a really likable guy, he’s got a lot personality, and again, you’re talking about Brad Mills, one of my favorite people in the world, so yeah, I told him how I felt. And I hope it did help. I mean, that was the whole idea.”

On the closeness of his relationship with Mills, a former college and professional teammate:

Francona: “That’s just the good fortune of knowing somebody for 30 years. The coaches all laugh because Millsy takes the brunt of a lot from me. And we can do that because we know each other. He’ll give me a look every so often like, ‘Enough’s enough, back off,’ and I’ll leave the room and retreat to my office because he’s bigger, stronger. I need to watch myself sometimes, but the guys get a kick out of it. But we also have a relationship where he can say something right in the middle of the game and I can say, ‘Shut up, Millsy,’ or he can say to me, ‘What are you doing? That doesn’t make any sense.’ We have that special relationship and that doesn’t happen overnight. . . . When you talk about loyalty, loyalty isn’t just somebody that tells you that you’re good. It’s someone that has the caring of you and the organization to tell you that he thinks you’re wrong.”

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On how losing Mills and Jed Hoyer affects the franchise entering 2010:
Francona: “I think inevitably these types of things happen when you have good people. Theo’s got a lot of guys in his office that are . . . this isn’t going to be the only guy that turns into a general manager. Ben Cherington is going to be next. And Mike Hazen. There’s guys that are good. Brian O’Halloran. You can name a pretty good list down there. That’s inevitable. Losing Millsy, sure, it puts a dent in what we do. But you kind of hope you lose people. They’re your friends, and they get respect from industry, and they get asked to move on. Our happiness for them far outweighs our concern with filling their spots.”
On whether he can replace the dynamic that he shared with Mills:
Francona: “Well, I hope so, but you don’t take 30 years and cram it into six months. That’s just not realistic. But we’ve got a lot of good coaches here, and not just at the Major League level, but also in our player development system. In the next couple of days, Theo and I will sit down — and we already talked a little last night — we’ll talk a little bit more today and tomorrow. One of the important things to think about is staying in the organization. I have some friends that I think are really good baseball people that aren’t in the organization. Is that the best move? I don’t know. Theo and I need to sit down and talk about that. There’s some really good people in the organization. I’ve been here long enough now [to know] that sometimes you need to stay in the organization and promote. It’s healthy, and again, we’re hiring good people. Sometimes they need to be recommended for their jobs also.”
On whether any other Sox personnel will follow Mills to Houston:
Francona: “I think Millsy is in the process today of trying to get some thoughts together on his staff. I think it’s a possibility, but I don’t think it’s a probability.”
On whether he watched any of the League Championship Series:
Francona: “Not much. I certainly knew what was going on. . . . I know maybe it sounds silly, but it was a tough ending to the year for a lot of us, and I just wasn’t that into it. I don’t know if jealousy is the right word, or envious, but I just didn’t feel like watching other teams play. I wanted it to be us, and I just didn’t enjoy sitting down watching others play baseball.”
On who he thinks will win the World Series:
Francona: “Well, I have been wrong before, because I thought it was going to be us. I do think you look at [Yankees ace CC] Sabathia and {Phillies ace] Cliff Lee, and they’re going to have a huge say-so in the outcome of this series, because they both potentially could pitch three times. I think it’s going to be hugely important for whoever starts for Philadelphia to get deep into a game, because if you don’t . . . I think what people don’t realize is that you can’t match up against New York’s lineup. You’d better have a good bullpen, and we had as good a bullpen as anybody, but you can’t match up. They have switch hitters, they have lefties who are productive against lefties . . . you just can’t bring out lefty-righty-lefty, because that doesn’t work against New York.”
On what’s harder, Mills leaving or Mills’s family leaving:
Francona: “Oh, my one daughter — I should probably keep her name out of it — she sent Millsy a note right after his press conference and said that ‘You’ve ruined my dad’s life.” [Laughs.] It wasn’t congratulations. We’ve been close for a long time. Millsy, Rhonda [Mills’s wife], and their kids, they’re the nicest family in the world, and anyone who comes in touch with them knows that. Millsy embodies a lot of what’s right in baseball. So for him to get this opportunity, it’s pretty neat.”

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