[dropcap]D[/dropcap]an Shaughnessy’s new book “Francona: The Red Sox Years” is due for release next week but, as expected, some early excerpts are making their way around the Internet. The book focuses on exactly what the title would indicate – Terry Francona’s tenure as manager of the Red Sox from 2004-2011.
While all the rainbows and butterflies of the 2004 and 2007 championship seasons are covered in-depth, everybody just wants to know what exactly the hell happened in 2010 and 2011 that led to the Sox’s epic collapse, Tito’s eventual firing, and general manager Theo Epstein’s decision to leave for the Chicago Cubs.
A few leaked excerpts feature some very interesting quotes from both Francona and Epstein regarding Red Sox ownership, including John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Luchino. While Red Sox fans probably won’t find anything they say “Earth-shattering,” the offerings from Tito and Theo should confirm some suspicions and paint a clearer picture of why things eventually fell apart.
On the big money, big name free agent signings made towards the end of their run:
“They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle,” Epstein is quoted as saying. “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.”
Yup, that’s about what we expected. Rumors have floated around Boston for a while now that Theo never wanted to commit huge money to guys like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and John Lackey, but ownership forced his hand so they could generate storylines.
And looking back on the successful Sox teams of the early 2000s, they certainly were much different than the ones we saw from 2010-2012. They weren’t sexy. They had great chemistry, thanks in large part to the fact that they didn’t have many superstars, with the exceptions of Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez. So, yeah, it’s easy to see why Theo would say the team became “too big.”
Then there’s the TV ratings:
The books stated the marketing report said: “(W)omen are definitely more drawn to the ‘soap opera’ and ‘reality-TV’ aspects of the game … They are interested in good-looking stars and sex symbols” — a reference to All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Francona said owners refused to let the Red Sox play day games on final days of homestands because of television.
“One thing the players were always asking for was getaway day games,” he said. “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.”
Again, not a revelation that’s going to blow your mind. The Sox owners care a lot more about money than
baseball anything and making profit is always going to be their first concern; we’ve known this for a long time. Although, I’m not exactly sure how happy Dustin Pedroia is going to be knowing that owners don’t think he’s sexy enough for Boston.
Francona goes a little more into the owners intentions with the following quote:
“They come in with all these ideas about baseball, but I don’t think they love baseball,” [Francona] said. “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. It’s not their blood. They’re going to come in and out of baseball. It’s different for me. Baseball is my life.”
That about sums it up right there. The owners are businessmen, not passionate baseball lifers. That’s the way it goes sometimes, there are owners in sports whose priorities lie in other places than putting together the best possible team on the field. For every Jerry Jones, an emotionally invested owner who will do anything to see his team succeed, there’s also a Woody Johnson, a guy who brings in players like Tim Tebow for the media attention and cares more about politics than winning games. That’s sports.
One thing is for certain – you certainly can’t blame Theo and Tito, guys who have a genuine love for the game of baseball, for getting the hell out of dodge a few years ago. Hell, you almost have to give them credit for sticking around so long.