SBD/January 22, 2013/Franchises

Francona's Book Hits Shelves Today; Red Sox Execs "Targets For His Ire"

Terry Francona's book about his time in Boston, titled "Francona: The Red Sox Years,” goes on sale today and it is “essentially a biography” of the manager with an emphasis on his time with the Sox, according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. It is “not unexpected” that Fenway Sports Group co-Chair John Henry, Red Sox Chair Tom Werner and President & CEO Larry Lucchino are “targets for his ire.” Henry “comes across as cold and distant, refusing to acknowledge email from Francona in 2012 despite their close ties for eight years.” Lucchino is “cast as a bully who refuses to call Francona by his first name.” Werner is “painted as being hungry for attention to escape Henry’s shadow” (BOSTON.com, 1/21). In Boston, Chad Finn writes, "Much of the book’s advance buzz has focused on management’s backward emphasis on sizzle.” There are “other groan-inducing moments with his bosses.” When the Red Sox “balk at playing a makeup game during a grueling stretch in 2005, chairman Tom Werner, who is described as ‘constantly trying to assert his importance,’ inadvertently confirms that gate receipts are prioritized over what’s best for the team when he suggests to Francona, ‘Just play the backup guys.’” If there is a “recurring antagonist to Francona, it’s … Lucchino.” He “gets angry before the 2004 parade because the official championship sweat shirts have not-so-mysteriously disappeared.” At one point, Lucchino tells Francona, “I’ve been around a lot of baseball managers. You, by far, make me the most uncomfortable” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/22).

FRANCONA DEFENDS BOOK: Francona appeared on ESPN's "SportsCenter" as he begins making the media round to promote the release. ESPN’s Hannah Storm said the book “is a real indictment of Red Sox ownership, that’s what is taking the headlines there, and I see you frowning a bit at my characterization so let's get into this.” Storm said Francona writes how Red Sox ownership’s “approach to putting a team together in later years had more to do with marketing and less to do with actual baseball and that mistakes were made that hurt the team.” Francona: “I don't know that I would ever say 'more.' The way my tenure there ended was very public and hurtful, and I think probably some of that comes out. If you read the whole book, I think it’s mostly meant to be kind of a lot of funny, touching stories about the eight years there. We also had to deal with the end because it was very public and kind of hurtful and I was disappointed on a lot of fronts. But it’s not meant to be just a poke at ownership. I think I actually said in there they’re good owners.” Francona said of ownership’s efforts to market the team, “I don't blame them for wanting to market the Red Sox. That’s their right and, shoot, I don’t blame them. I just always wanted to make sure they understood that when they asked me a question it was about baseball because that’s what I concerned myself with. If we didn't win I felt like all the other stuff was going to not be there, all the interesting Red Sox things on the periphery. My job was to try to win as many games as we could and I never wanted to forget that” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/22). SI last week ran an excerpt of the book, but Francona said that the magazine "selected owner-specific passages from different chapters in the book and strung them together, as if Francona has a chapter devoted to attacking the owners." He noted that the book is not set up that was and it "was not at all its point, or even its main point." Francona: "I’m guessing the publisher probably loved that Sports Illustrated chose the, I don’t know, ‘saucy’ part or ‘whatever sells’ part, but that’s not exactly what the book’s about and I think the people who read it will know that” (BOSTON HERALD, 1/20).

BALANCED OFFERING
: In Boston, Colin Fleming writes while the book is “tough on team management, it manages to avoid reading like ax-grinding.” Francona “offers readers much about the team and the organization but he also shows us plenty about himself.” Perhaps “surprisingly to some,” the union between former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and Francona was “strong right up until the end, and Epstein’s voice is crucial to this narrative, especially as we come to see that here were two men on the side of a team, and a region, having to figure things out in spite of their bosses.” The bosses “will not like that revelation” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/22).
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