SBD/October 3, 2011/Franchises

Francona Steps Down As Red Sox Manager, Questions Ownership's Support

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Francona said that leaving the Red Sox is the best decision for the team and himself

Terry Francona Friday said that “he knew it was time for him leave as Red Sox manager when he couldn’t get through to his players even as the season spiraled to an ignominious close,” according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. Francona said that another factor was the “uncertainty he felt over whether team ownership stood behind him.” Abraham notes Francona's departure "was a jolt" Red Sox Owner John Henry and Chair Tom Werner "didn’t expect." Francona described “a perceived lack of support from ownership.” He said, “I don’t know that I felt real comfortable. You’ve got to be all-in on this job. I voiced that today.” Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino “disputed” that assertion, saying, “I was actually puzzled by that comment. We have done nothing differently this year than we have done in previous years.” Henry “did not attend the press conference, having suffered what has termed a minor injury when he fell while aboard his yacht earlier in the day.” Lucchino said that Henry’s absence “should not be interpreted as a lack of support for Francona.” Francona said earlier this week that “he had not heard from Henry during the team’s slump” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/1). Francona said of leaving, “I think it's the right thing to do for the organization and myself.” He met with the club execs Friday to discuss “whether the team would exercise options on his contract for 2012 and 2013, worth $4.5 million per year” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/1).

WHOSE DECISION WAS IT? In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote under the header, “Ignore That Spin From The Brass -- He Was Fired.” Francona “blamed himself, worked hard to stay on message, but late in his goodbye press session, he veered off the rails and threw John Henry under the team charter.” Shaughnessy wrote ultimately it was a “disconnect between Henry and Francona that prompted this change.” He added, “Too bad Henry was not there to answer the charge” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/1). In Boston, Steve Buckley wrote ownership Friday night said that “they wanted Francona back and asked him to take the weekend to think things over.” But if “the guy doesn’t feel they have his back, then what’s the point.” Buckley: “It’s hard to believe -- it’s preposterous, really -- that the Red Sox are kicking this guy to the curb” (BOSTON HERALD, 10/1). ESPN BOSTON’s Gordon Edes writes under the header, “Departure Makes Your Head Spin” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 9/30).

VIEW FROM THE TOP: The BOSTON GLOBE's Shaughnessy notes Henry "made it home from the hospital in time to watch a soccer match" Saturday. Shaughnessy: “Isn’t that just swell? Certainly we’re all relived that the Sox owner was not seriously injured, but yesterday morning wasn’t the time to announce that Henry made it home in time to watch his Liverpool team play Everton in the Merseyside derby. It’s not what loyal citizens of Red Sox Nation needed to hear” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/2). In Boston, Tony Massarotti wrote, “When John Henry first bought this team, the Red Sox were [a] passion and a priority for him. … They were truly championship-driven. But in the last few years especially, the Red Sox have seemed far more interested in promoting their brand than in truly improving their baseball team." Massarotti: "Earth to John: if money is what drives you … then sell the team” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/1). Also in Boston, Chad Finn wrote of Francona's departure, “Absolutely call it the most foolish, shortsighted baseball decision by John Henry and the increasingly tone-deaf Red Sox ownership has made during its stewardship of this franchise” (BOSTON.com, 9/30). The BOSTON GLOBE's Nick Cafardo: “It’ll be interesting to see whether the owners regret not being more proactive in picking up Francona’s option. They don’t seem to be sweating it now. But baseball people are surprised that the Sox would allow this to happen, which is why many believe there was more here than met the eye” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/2).

WHERE WILL THEO GO? When asked if they would grant “another team permission to speak with" GM Theo Epstein, Lucchino said, “We’re not prepared to answer that question here” (BOSTON.com, 10/1). Lucchino “didn’t even want to contemplate whether Epstein might be following Francona out the door.” Lucchino: “You don’t even have a full enough plate right now; you’re going to raise another question like that?” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 9/30). A source said, “The Cubs are obviously interested in Theo and the talk is not going away. I think it’s possible” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/2). In Boston, Scott Lauber noted Lucchino and Werner’s answers regarding Epstein “were noncommittal.” Lucchino: “Theo is under contract with us, so it is an issue that has not been addressed or discussed.” Lauber notes since Epstein “remains under contract, the Red Sox would have to grant permission for any team to speak with him” (BOSTONHERALD.com, 10/2). A source said that “it’s '50-50' the GM would leave for the right situation” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 10/2).

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