Terry Francona was just on WEEI for 37 minutes and about the biggest revelation was that Manny Ramirez called and left him a nice message.
Beyond that, there wasn’t much. The former manager of the Red Sox referred to the team as “we” throughout the interview and didn’t name any names in terms of the clubhouse problems that helped lead to his departure.
“A lot of swirling emotions, as you can imagine,” Francona said when asked how he was doing. “A lot’s happened in eight years and a lot’s happened in a week. Tried to sit back a little bit and look at everything and try to gain some perspective. That’s not the easiest thing to do. … 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.”
Here are the highlights (not a complete transcript, however):
On his statement last Friday that he felt a lack of support from ownership: “Maybe it was a little general and I probably should have not been so general in a situation like that. It probably led to a lot more than needed to be. First off, the ownership group here is probably second to none. I haven’t been all places but I’ve been a lot of places. They do a fantastic job here and I know that and I respect these owners.
“When I talked about the ‘all in’ I was kind of referring to myself. If things bother you that didn’t used to bother you then that was my responsibility to either figure it out or maybe get a different job. And things that maybe didn’t bother me in the past were starting to bother me. Theo and I had this conversation all the time, about me staying. Was it healthy for me to stay? Could I be an effective leader if I did stay? That just wasn’t the last week. Theo and I had these conversations from time to time. Just because we were together so much.”
Had they asked you to stay, would you have stayed? “I don’t know, guys, to be honest with you. That didn’t happen. Again, there was a reason [for] sitting up in that office having some meetings. Again, I have to own a lot of responsibility for what happened because it was my responsibility to not let happen what happened. So regardless of how our ownership feels or regardless of how Theo feels or how you feel feel or the fans feel, I had a responsibility to get something done and it didn’t get done.
“So I need to wear that and I do. Maybe it was just time. Certainly it hurts. You can’t just leave eight years, especially in this place. But some things that I felt like I was able to get done in the past I was unable to quite get done this year. Especially at the end and it bothered me a lot and I have to live with that.”
On drinking in the clubhouse during games: “What happens in the clubhouse during games I would never see. I’ve only been in the clubhouse [during games] three times this year and that’s when I got thrown out. Again, I will say in generalities there were things happening around the club that I was getting uncomfortable with and the way I put it, I think I said it in Toronto, I think we talked about it. I wanted to make sure our guys knew that to be a World Series team, to give ourselves the best chance, we had to be all pushing in the same direction. And I saw a lot of guys spending energy on things that we couldn’t control.
“I was uncomfortable with a lot of things that were going on with our team, I will say that. But as far as some of these things that are being said, I don’t think they’re very accurate.”
Where were the team leaders? “I’m not so naive to think somebody wouldn’t have a beer. Again, I wasn’t up there. The players you’re talking about, they’re probably not up there, either. They’re playing the game. Again, if somebody walks around with a cup of beer, again, that’s kind of leading to a life of its own and I’m not real comfortable with it because I don’t know a lot about it. I don’t think it’s the end of the world. I don’t think it’s like it’s being portrayed.
“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.”
On the team meeting in Toronto: “I wanted them to realize that I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the energy we were expending on things we could control. I just wanted to make them understand that. For whatever reason, I wish it would have more impact. There’s a certain segment of players that are going to do everything in their power all the time. There were other players I didn’t feel like I was getting to, and that’s my responsibility.”
The John Lackey question came up and Francona again defended the righthander. Part of the answer included:
“Theo and I had this conversation, too, about am I the right person because obviously there need to be some changes made here and I don’t think I was. 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.”
On his relationship with Theo Epstein: “Well, I think when you first start, you have that little honeymoon period. I think the fact that Theo and I made it through eight years together in this environment I think shows in itself how strong our relationship was. I think there were days he wanted to wring my neck. I don’t blame him. You’re together that much and you’re in a situation you have to give your opinion. That was always afforded. I’m actually proud of our relationship. We butted head sometimes, I think you’re supposed to. But I do know when things were rough, I knew where I could go and I did that to very end. I’m proud of the way we treated each other.”
Could be work with Theo again? “Oh, my goodness. It depends what the job is. I don’t want to be the clubhouse guy. I don’t want to speak for Theo. That’s not fair. He’s got his things to take care of this week, I know. That’s his business. He knows the respect I have for him.”
If they had picked up your option, would you have resisted? “No. Some of these are personal conversations and I hope you respect that. Eight years together is a lot and I have a lot of respect for them and what they do. 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.”
He said the players didn’t care enough about each other. Why was that? “I don’t know. It’s a fair question. I don;t think it’s quite as bad as people are portraying. My point was to be a World Series team, we needed to get some things done. There’s clubhouses I know have a lot of issues going on that the Red Sox don’t. We have some spectacular people down there. I know what we’ve gone through in the past eight years and I knew that we weren’t on the same path. Going through challenges is part of baseball. How you meet those challenges is what drove me and I wasn’t always comfortable with what we were doing. It was probably for a lot of reasons. I didn’t have the answers.”
Did he underestimate the team’s leadership: “I think we have some outstanding leaders. I think it’s more that as the season progresses, teams take on a personality and an identity and we didn’t seem to be doing that and I thought we had opportunities to do it. Sometimes when you get beat, teams come together and they form a bond and I didn’t see that happening as much as I wanted it to. I thought we were capable of slugging out way through this and then getting it figured out and turning Lester and Beckett loose in the playoffs and going on one of those runs. I knew were beat up and I knew we weren’t playing well, I saw that. But I thought we were capable of figuring out a way to get though it and kind of regrouping.”
On the character of the players: After saying he remembered few off-field issues, Francona said, “We’ve actually always allowed beer in the clubhouse because I thought they were men and I thought they deserved to be treated like it. They’ve always handled it. A lot of clubhouse now don’t have beer. I thought our guys didn’t deserve to be treated like high school kids. We tried to give them a lot of leeway to be grown-up men. I mean that in a lot of instances, not just alcohol. Playing the game, being on time, showing up when you’re supposed to, paying attention to detail. Basically being a good teammate.”
How much did the pitchers miss John Farrell? “I think anybody would miss John Farrell. He’s outstanding. Saying that, Curt Young was a blessing. I know people may not want to hear that. This guy was about as steady as you’re going to find. This guy, I’ve never seen a guy so upbeat. If you can’t listen to him, you’ve got a problem. Because when he talks, he’s got a lot of good stuff to say and I don’t think that was issue.”
Did his closeness to Dustin Pedroia undermined his leadership or made some players wonder if Francona was playing favorites: “Oh, boy. I don’t think you’re every go through a clubhouse where 25 guys bow down to the manager. That’s not realistic. I would hope that everybody that came through that clubhouse felt important. My relationship with Pedey was probably a once-in-a-lifetime. … It’s just hard not to. This guy’s the most special kid I’ve ever seen in my life. The next manager is going to feel the same way. That’s just the way he is. No, Pedey was one of the best leaders Ive ever been around. Probably to the point where probably makes it harder on him to be an effective player because he wears it so much.”
On hearing from former players: “I don’t dislike these players. In fact, I love them. I was disappointed in my ability to reach them, especially late. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad kids. That’s not how I feel about this.”
Would he like to manage in 2012?: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I certainly would love to stay in the game. I have no ambition to ever leave the game. I love it so much and it’s been so good to me. I don’t want to try to manage in a wrong situation because that wouldn’t be good for me. To manage again, you have to have somebody who thinks you’re worthy of that. That may not happen. It may happen down the road, who knows? I need to try and take a deep breath and try to have some perspective right now because it’s not the easiest thing to do.
“I just don’t want to go look for a job. Not that I’m above that. I don’t mean it like that. I would want it to be a job that I can grab. You have to be all-in, you do. Whether it’s a young team you can help get better or a team that has a chance to win. There’s a lot of ways to get rejuvenated. Just kind of sit back and see how I feel. Talk to friends, get some input and see what’s going on.”
On broadcasting the ALCS: “I hope Joe Buck has a multi-year deal. When he called me I thought he was kidding. 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.”
On the end of the season: “We played terrible baseball and that was my responsibility. … When things are going bad, the best way to reverse it is with good pitching and we couldn’t get that. That made it tougher.”
On failing to get through to this team yet getting through to Manny Ramirez in the past: “Manny called me, how about that? I was very surprised. Actually a very nice message and I appreciated it a lot.”
On the team’s conditioning, did the pitchers get out of shape?: “I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment. If you look around the game, and I don’t want to name names. But look at who pitched for New York [the other] night. He’s a big guy and nobody’s complaining about CC [Sabathia]. There are reasons sometimes. Some of our pitchers aren’t able to run like they used to for various reasons. I think they do sometimes put on weight. Are we concerned, sure? But I don’t think it means they don’t work. We just wanted to make sure it was for the right reasons. We keep an eye on everything here so much. I think that may be getting a little bit of a life of its own. Dave Page, our strength and conditioning guy, he’s about as conscientious as anybody you’re ever going to find and he finds ways to get to guys and I love it. I feel like to be a successful organization you have to let guys have their responsibilities. I know I’m responsible to overlook it, but I don’t want to micromanage everything. I don’t think that helps everybody.”
On what he takes from his tenure: “I gave everything I had, I really did. Whether it was right, wrong, and or in between, I always tried to do the best I could for the team and I always tried to put the organization ahead of my own personal stuff and I hope that was apparent.”