Francona: 'I gave everything I had'
October, 5, 2011
In his first interview since his farewell press conference at Fenway Park on Friday night, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona on Wednesday talked for 45 minutes on Boston sports radio WEEI about his perceived shortcomings this season, the flaws he saw in the team and why he didn’t think he was the right person to manage in Boston going forward.
Whether Francona’s departure was his choice, a mutual decision or whether he was pushed out the door by Sox brass is a topic that’s been debated ever since it was announced that he would not return late last week. As he did Friday, Francona again stressed that it was his decision to leave. He also said, however, that if the ownership group -- which he described Wednesday as “second to none” -- had exercised his contract at some point either before or during the season, he’d still be managing the Red Sox.
Would he have returned if the Sox had asked him to come back at the meeting between Francona and Sox brass two days after the season ended?
“I don’t know, to be honest with you,” Francona told WEEI’s Big Show. “That didn’t happen.”
Francona steered the conversation Wednesday away from the decision-making process that resulted in his departure and onto what he perceived were his shortcomings and the signs he was seeing that maybe his time in Boston was coming to an end.
“I have to own a lot of the responsibility for what happened,” Francona said of the team’s 7-20 finish to the season. “It was my responsibility to not let what happened happen. So regardless of how ownership feels or regardless of how Theo (Epstein) feels or how the fans feel, I had a responsibility to get something done and it didn’t get done. …
“Maybe it was just time. It certainly hurts. Some things I felt like was able to get done in the past, I wasn’t able to quite get done this year, especially at the end. That bothered me, a lot.”
It got to the point, Francona explained, that he was starting to question himself.
“If things bother you that didn’t used to bother you, that was my responsibility to either figure it out or get a different job,” Francona said. “Things that maybe didn’t bother me in the past were starting to bother me. Theo (Epstein) and I had this conversation all the time, about me staying, was it healthy for me to stay, could I be a leader if I did stay. That just wasn’t in the last week. He and I had these conversations from time to time just because we were together so much.”
One of the things that has become a symbol of Sox disharmony this season is the reported drinking in the clubhouse during games by some starting pitchers on their off days, which a source told ESPNBoston.com had been going on not only this season, but last season as well. Francona on Wednesday said he wasn’t aware it was happening, though he did say he was “uncomfortable with a lot of the things that were going on with our team.”
He didn’t take issue with the idea that there may or may not have been players drinking, but rather with what they weren’t doing.
“If someone walks around with a cup full of beer … I don’t think it’s the end of the world,” Francona said. "I don’t think it’s like it’s being portrayed. More in general was the idea that I wanted the guys that weren’t down on the bench I wanted them on the bench, I wanted them to support their teammates. Things like that. Whether they had a cup of beer or not wasn’t the end of the world to me. It was more of an attitude toward our team that distressed me.”
Another issue with the team, Francona said, was that players’ personal goals seemed to be coming before the team’s goals.
"I used to say, when a team would come up after the game, if they were mad it was because we lost not because they were 0 for 4,” Francona said. "I felt a little bit different this year, especially at the end. The personal goals were outweighing some of the team goals. That’s my responsibility to change that. That falls on me. I was distraught that I wasn’t able to change that all the time.”
While Francona didn’t deny there were issues in the clubhouse, he said he didn’t think there were “quite as bad as people are portraying.” He also said he didn’t think this clubhouse had the makeup of a championship team.
“My point is to be a World Series team, we needed to get some things done,” Francona said. “There are clubhouses I know that have a lot of issues going on that the Red Sox don’t. They have some spectacular people down there. I also know what we’ve gone through the last eight years and I knew we weren’t on the same path.”
Francona’s style, he said, was to give players the benefit of the doubt and not react to every little thing. That’s a philosophy he’s questioning in the aftermath of his departure.
“Maybe it cost me a little bit in the end,” Francona said. “Theo and I had this conversation too about whether I was the right person for this team going forward. Because obviously there need to be some changes made here, and I don’t think I was.
"If I go on 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 had already entrusted all this to -- I use the word implicit trust and I really meant that -- and it’s hard to change that and be a different person with the same group of guys.”
“The fact that Theo and I made it through eight years together in this environment shows in itself how strong our relationship was. I think there were days where he wanted to wring my neck and I don’t blame him. You’re together that much and in a situation where you have to give your opinion, I’m proud of our relationship. We butted heads sometimes, I think you’re supposed to. I do know that when things were rough I knew where I could go and I did that to the very end. I’m proud of the way we treated each other.”
More from the interview with Francona (listen to it HERE), in bullet-point form:
* Will he manage in 2012?: "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 someone who thinks you’re worthy of that. That may not happen or it may happen down the road. Who knows?"
* On joining the Fox broadcast team for Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS: “I’ve only broadcast one other game in my life. That was in the Arizona Fall League about 13 years ago. It was on radio and there was about 12 people (listening) and I sucked. This is going to be interesting.”
* On getting a phone call from Manny Ramirez after his departure: "Manny called me, how about that? I was very surprised. It was a very nice message and I appreciated it a lot.”
* His parting thoughts: “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.”