SBD/January 16, 2013/Franchises

Terry Francona's Book Draws "Unflattering Portrait" Of Fenway Sports Group

An excerpt from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona's new book that will appear in this week's Sports Illustrated "draws an unflattering portrait" of Red Sox Owner Fenway Sports Group, characterizing FSG as "meddlesome, obsessed with TV ratings, distracted by its soccer ventures, and craving more stars and 'sex symbols,'" according to Gordon Edes of ESPN BOSTON. Francona in the book wrote, "I don't think they love baseball. I think they like baseball. It's revenue, and I know that's their right and their interest because they're owners -- and they're good owners. But they don't love the game. It's still more of a toy or a hobby for them." Edes wrote the "fixation with declining TV ratings led to the club commissioning a $100,000 market research survey, the results of which were discussed in November 2010, a little more than a month after the Sox had failed to make the playoffs, primarily because of a devastating run of injuries." Cubs President of Baseball Operations and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein "offers one of the most damning indictments" in the excerpt. Epstein said, "They told us we didn't have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle. We need some sexy guys. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We'd become too big. It was the farthest thing removed from what we set out to be" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 1/15). In Boston, Peter Abraham in a front-page piece writes the "result" of the team's research survey was 1B Adrian Gonzalez and CF Carl Crawford, "both of whom proved to be busts in Boston." Francona's book "tells of the discord that led to the 2011 collapse" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/16). Francona in the book wrote, "One thing the players were always asking for was getaway day games. The owners would never go for it. They couldn’t have more day games because the ratings were already suffering, and that would have hurt worse" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 1/15).

THE RESPONSE: ESPN BOSTON's Edes adds the criticism of Red Sox ownership "comes at an inopportune time" for FSG Chair John Henry and his partners, as they are "dealing with a fan base already put off" by the hiring of former manager Bobby Valentine and last season's last-place finish, as well as "persistent rumors (despite emphatic denials) that Henry might sell the club, and the ongoing perception that the club is competing with the Liverpool soccer team for the owners' attention." A team spokesperson yesterday said that a formal response from the team "was not anticipated, and if one comes at all, it probably will come after the book's publication." But Red Sox Chair Tom Werner in an e-mail wrote Francona and the Sox "had unbelievable success together, and our focus is on 2013" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 1/15). The BOSTON GLOBE's Abraham in a separate piece wrote Werner "took the high road when asked about the criticism" (BOSTON.com, 1/15).

EXCEPTION TO THE EXCERPT: Francona said that the excerpts in SI "make the characterization sound worse than it really is." He added that "when people read the book they'll understand the portrayal of ownership is not as harsh as it may seem." Francona: "The last chapter is hard because it was a hard ending. I’m sure there will be a thing or two that will piss somebody off that I didn’t think would, but I’ve read it seven times and me and [co-author Dan Shaughnessy] made change after change because I wanted it to be good, I wanted it to be interesting and I also wanted it to preserve the clubhouse because I do believe in that so much" (ESPN.com, 1/15). Francona added, "There's context. What's in Sports Illustrated isn't the whole story." The Boston Globe, where Shaughnessy works as a columnist, will "run excerpts from the book for three consecutive days starting Jan. 27." Shaughnessy will "write about the making of the book and his relationship with Francona for the Globe Sunday magazine" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/16).

THROWING THE BOOK AT 'EM: In Providence, Tim Britton writes the criticism is "rather tame, all things considered, and it's nothing particularly new" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 1/16). In Boston, Michael Silverman writes under the header, "Tito Throws Book At Sox" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/16). Silverman adds that the excerpt comes while the team will "begin ticket sales on Jan. 26 at Fenway and online" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 1/15).
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