When the Red Sox celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park next Friday against the Yankees, the manager who was at the helm when Boston snapped the Curse of the Bambino won’t be on hand.
Terry Francona, who parted ways with the Sox following last season’s September collapse, told the Boston Globe that he can’t “just go back there and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a bit hypocritical.”
Francona said that team president Larry Lucchino called him Monday to talk about the 100th anniversary and the two got into “an argument.” Lucchino said that the team’s invitation was “sincere” and Francona declined.
Francona won two World Series titles while in Boston, the first coming in 2004 when the Red Sox rallied from a a 3-0 hole to stun the Yankees in the ALCS and then sweep the Cardinals for the franchise’s first chamionship since 1918.
Francona led the Sox to a second title in 2007, but an epic collapse to close the 2011 season ended Francona’s run in Boston.
Less than two weeks later, an in-depth article in the Boston Globe — using sources from inside the Sox organization — exposed the Red Sox clubhouse as a splintered collection of me-first players, further tarnishing Francona’s legacy.
“Somebody went out of their way to make me look pretty bad,’’ Francona, who was replaced by Bobby Valentine said about the Globe article. “It’s a shame. I’m sure they’ll have a great event and I was part of a lot of that stuff there, but I just can’t go back there and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a little bit hypocritical.’’
The Globe article described a dysfunctional clubhouse under Francona’s watch. According to the report, Red Sox starting pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey drank beer, ate take-out food and played video games in the clubhouse on days where they weren’t scheduled to pitch. They were also portrayed as unwilling to do the necessary work off the field and in the trainer’s room to remain fit for an entire season.
Boston hired former Mets manager Valentine as Francona’s replacement and one of his first official acts was to ban beer in the clubhouse. Francona, who replaced Valentine as ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball analyst, panned the decision as a “PR move.”
The story, published in October, also said that team sources worried that Francona’s use of pain medication affected his performance, a claim Francona denied, and felt he was distracted due to problems in his marriage (Francona moved out of the home he shared with his wife and lived in a hotel during the season) and the fact that both his son and son-in-law were active Marine officers in Afghanistan. Francona did admit that he felt that he had lost the ability to motivate the team at the end of his eight-year tenure.
According to Wednesday’s report in the Globe, the Red Sox have extended invitations to their centennial celebration to every former player and manager, but Francona declined the invite.
“He has an exalted place in our history and we were hoping it would be convenient and comfortable for him to come back and we were hoping it would be,” Lucchino said.
The former Red Sox manager went on to explain that he doesn’t feel comfortable glad-handing anyone at Fenway until the team makes an earnest effort into sorting out who spoke so openly about his final season as manager. Francona said that he stressed the importance of this to Lucchino and the team president responded by saying that he hadn’t spoken to Red Sox ownerJohn Henry about the report.
“Well then how [expletive\] important could it be,” Francona said he asked Lucchino.
He also said that Henry didn’t speak with him about the initial Globe report until April, despite repeated calls to the owner.
“I thought it was five months too late,” said Francona, who will be in the ESPN booth to call the Sunday night Yankees-Red Sox game April 22.
“I’m never going to forget that,” Francona said about the explosive Globe report. “For me to go back and start waving and hugging, I’m just not comfortable doing that.”