Too Big to Succeed – Exclusive Excerpt from Francona: The Red Sox Years

Francona

When did the end of an era begin for the Red Sox? Long before their historic 2011 collapse, writes Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy, in an exclusive excerpt from the forthcoming book Francona: The Red Sox Years (to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Jan. 22, 2013), in this week’s Sports Illustrated. 

The former Sox skipper tells-all about a front office (principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president and CEO Larry Lucchino), that grew inattentive toward baseball, but obsessed with image. After a third place finish in an injury-depleted 2010 season, marketing consultants were hired by team executives. Their findings? Get more star power. Red Sox G.M. Theo Epstein says in the excerpt:

“They told us we didn’t have any marketable players. We need some sexy guys. Talk about the tail wagging the dog…We’d become too big. It was the farthest thing removed from what we set out to be (PAGE 51).”

However, in direct response to his bosses Epstein built a “sexier” team for 2011, highlighted by the trade for Adrian Gonzalez and the singing of Carl Crawford. The new “sexy” team lost 20 of their final 27 games, becoming the first team in history to not make the playoffs after holding a nine-game lead in September. What was missing on this team? Selfless role players to help police the team. The day after the season ended, Francona was called in to meet with team officials, who told him to “think about if he wanted to come back”. Reports suggested that Francona told officials in that meeting that he lost control of the team. According to him, the decision to fire him was already made prior to the meeting. Francona later said this about the Boston owners:

“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…it’s still more of a toy or 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 (PAGE 54).”


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