Terry Francona on D&H, 10/7
|10.07.09 at 4:22 pm ET|
Following is a transcript of the interview. For the audio, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand section.
Did you get a chance to watch that [Tigers-Twins] game last night?
Yeah. You know what, we were on the field working out. They had it on the screen, so there wasn’t any volume. But you could just see the game, it was slowly getting everybody’s interest. When our workout was over, everybody ran into the clubhouse because we thought we were seeing the end of the game. Little did we know there was still an hour-and-a-half to go. What a game. That had to be good for baseball. I’m sure that was tough on [Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] and [Tigers manager] Jim Leyland ‘ their stomachs. But that was unbelievable. It was a shame somebody had to lose. Because so many things happened ‘ not all of them good ‘ but you could tell their hearts were in the right place. Everybody was trying to do something to help their team win a game.
Do you agree with [Joe Torre’s comment that the sixth inning is the toughest inning of the game for a manager]?
I sure do. If you look back at one of the biggest mistakes that I think ‘ and I’ve owned up to this ‘ when we brought Cla Meredith here. And remember, it didn’t work. And my big thing to Theo [Epstein] was, ‘Theo, we can’t get through the sixth inning.’ We didn’t have a bridge. We had a bunch of starters at that time that, we’d get to the sixth ‘ it would be 5-2/3, 5-1/3, and I didn’t feel that some of them had enough to get pivotal outs. And we needed a bridge to our next guys because it was too early. It’s always a big inning. I can’t tell you how many times you get to the sixth inning and it seems like the leadoff hitter’s leading off and you’re going right through the heart of the order. It’s a huge inning.
Watching [Tigers outfielder Ryan Raburn] play a single into a triple, I’m thinking [the Metrodome] must be a difficult ballpark to play in, with the roof. And the second thing is if you’ve got a lead late in the game, maybe that’s the mistake of a young player, trying to make a big play and then turning it into a huge mistake.
I’m sure that their defense was set up where that wasn’t supposed to happen. I have a feeling if you go back and slow it down, and I’d love to hear the interview, my guess is the last couple of feet, though, he lost the ball. Because if you look at his body, he actually got himself in position where it looks like he should have had a better chance to make that catch. And then the last two feet, he didn’t really make an effort to make the catch. I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost that ball. Because the end was a little awkward. And I think he positioned himself better where he could have had a chance to make the catch.
Maybe the excitement level of clinching a playoff berth is not the same here as it is [in Minnesota].
We don’t try to downplay it with the players, though. Winning should be special. If you’ve won in the past, it shouldn’t diminish what you’re trying to do in the present. None of us feel that way. If the fans have gotten that way, we can’t help that. Maybe that means we’ve won enough where we’re being a little bit consistent. But I want our guys to enjoy winning. Yesterday, you can’t get around that. There were emotions either way. You look in one dugout one half-inning, then you look in the other dugout the next half-inning ‘ I thought some of the camerawork on Leyland and Gardy were unbelievable. I guarantee you they’re both worn out today. I mean, Minnesota traveled to New York. Just think of all the housekeeping issues [the Twins] had to do after the game. They had probably 35 guys on the roster. All the things that we had about 10 days to do, they had about 45 minutes, let alone try to look at a scouting report on the way. You’re going to start a series tonight. They had to pare down their roster to 25. They probably don’t have anybody in the bullpen that’s even available. I mean, it’s going to be interesting to watch this.
If you’re in that position, would you be crazy enough to look at a scouting report before the game, even though you haven’t clinched anything?
No, you can’t do it. And I guarantee he didn’t do it, either.
Are you considered at all about a factor like rust, when you add, in effect, another All-Star break in here before you guys play tomorrow night?
The only thing I would say is different from the All-Star break is we have the three days off, but during the All-Star break guys go home and they’re away from baseball. And we want them to do that. We know coming back they’re going to have to shake off some rust. During these last couple of days, we have the ability to kind of manipulate that a little bit. We had an optional workout Monday before we left. We had Tuesday, which is yesterday, we had a workout out here. Today, we’ll have another workout. we’ll pick up the pace a little bit today, especially defensively. We did some pitchers’ work yesterday. Today, the defensive work will be a little bit more spirited. Try to pick up the pace, pick up the tempo, where we’re leading into a game, where it’s not like they were home for three days without doing anything.
Have you had to work things differently for your pitchers with this break? Have you had to have simulated game for guys like Daisuke [Matsuzaka]?
No, there’s no reason to right now. Daisuke’s in the bullpen. If something happens to a starter, you don’t want him not to be available because you’re trying to keep him stretched out. Everybody got their side days on Monday and Tuesday. We feel like our pitching is actually in pretty good shape. We have to make a decision on Manny Delcarmen and some things like on Rocco [Baldelli]. But, we don’t feel like we’re stretching anywhere or not getting anything accomplished, especially with our staff.
You haven’t named a fourth starter. Why is that, and when do you expect to make a decision there?
I think we need to obviously get through [Jon] Lester‘s game. I think there’s some thought that he’s positioned that we could go with three starters in the series. Lester has to be able to come back and do it, and that’s not something we would know until he pitches Game 1. But it also positions us to bring [Josh] Beckett back in Game 5, which is just as important as bringing Lester back. So, there’s certainly some advantages to doing it. If we think it’s enough of an advantage, we’ll do it, If not, we won’t.
Why is Lester the No. 1 starter?
Well, if you look at the way guys have pitched, Beckett would have been on normal rest and Lester would have been like nine days’ rest. Flip-flopping them around didn’t make a whole lot of sense. We were going to have to get a little bit imaginative. And it didn’t make any sense, especially if we could end up pitching them both. That was kind of the idea all along. We have a chance, possibly, to pitch both of these guys without having to get real creative on days off and re-doing the rotation ‘ Clay Buchholz fell right in line. So, we really thought what we were doing was correct. We just wanted a chance to sit down and talk to each player, make sure they understood. And then, especially when a guy like Lester gets one off the leg, let the season play itself out. If something happened to Buchholz on Sunday, I don’t know that you want to go to another pitcher, or publicly, and then go back and say, “Well, we didn’t mean that. We really need you.” So, sometimes you just need to let things play itself out.
Was it a tough call for you and your staff to decide between Buchholz and Matsuzaka as the third starter?
I think we feel pretty comfortable where we’re at. I think Daisuke’s done a terrific job. And Daisuke may carry a very big load in this postseason. And that’s kind of what we told him. But for right now, he’s starting the postseason out in the bullpen. That could change in a hurry.
Is the speed of the Angels and the style of play of Mike Scioscia a major concern for you going into this series?
It’s something that we certainly need to be aware of. There will probably be times where we’re not as concerned as people want us to be. There’s probably going to be some times where we can’t stop it. You don’t steal that many bases ‘ I mean, you can’t stop every one that they’re going to steal. There’s other times when we’re going to place more importance on the hitter. There’s also going to be hopefully times when they’re not on so they can’t steal and we have a lead. It’ll be a little bit of a combination of all of the above. If it gets to the point where they’re running wild, something’s not going right for us.
If you do think they’re different than last year, how are they?
Some of their players have matured. Like [Jacoby] Ellsbury for us. You give them a year under their belt in this league and they’re a little bit more productive than they used to be. You add [Bobby] Abreu to the lineup, and the kid [Kendry] Morales has really given them a big lift. When [Mark] Teixeira left, I think everybody thought, “Oh, there’s going to be a big hole.” This kid [Morales], a switch-hitter, right in the middle of the order, 30-something home runs ‘ he’s given them a ton. They have balance. They can do a lot of things 1 though 9. Let alone 1 through 9, they can do things 1 through 13. You bring a guy like [Mike] Napoli off the bench. He’s got as good power as anybody. So, they’ve got a lot of ways to make you think.
Would it have been a big deal if Jon Lester had been told an hour after last night’s [Tigers-Twins] game, “Hey, you’re starting tomorrow instead of Thursday”?
No, we did a side day on Monday just in case. We tried to cover everything. We’ve been talking about that for the last week. We tried to cover everything, because we knew there were a lot of gray areas. So, rather than moan about it and complain, we just tried to prepare as best we could. He understood the situation. So, we would have been OK.
What’s the decision you have to make on Manny Delcarmen?
He’s kind of beat up. He was struggling a little bit at the end of the season anyway. Then he got in the car accident, which certainly didn’t help. It kind threw his progression off a few days. Now, he threw yesterday and he actually felt pretty good. We don’t have to have our roster in until tomorrow morning, I believe at 10 o’clock. So, we’ll watch him again today and we’ll try to make a good decision on whether he’s ready. Because again, once you put a guy on the roster, guys have to be ready to pitch every day, and all gloves are off. So, we’ll try to figure out if it’s in his best interests, which would end up being in our best interests.
Rocco is still pretty sore. We’re trying to give him the maximum amount of time possible before we make a decision just because of what he can do. He may keep [Brian] Fuentes in the bullpen one game, who knows? He presents an obstacle for the Angels that they can’t forget about, either.
Are you willing to share at least whether it’s going to be 10 pitchers and three catchers, that sort of thing?
No guys, I can’t. Because we haven’t talked to those guys yet and made it official. It’s just not fair for a George Kottaras to hear it on the radio whether he’s on the roster or not. We can’t do that.
What does [Ellsbury] bring to your team?
He brings just that [base-stealing ability previously referred to]. Sometimes I get tired of people saying, “Let guys run.” We do. If they can run, we let them run. I just don’t like making a lot of outs on the bases. We try to take our guys’ strengths and use them. Ellsbury’s strength is his legs. All the things you asked me about the Angels, I guarantee you they’re talking about the same thing with him, because he can change the game. They may have more, and more consistent, runners. But Ells is as good as anyone in the league at changing the game with his legs.
After his turnaround here, do you think [David Ortiz] can be the threat he was in the postseason as recently as 2007, 2005, 2004? Because he wasn’t that much of a threat last year.
Yeah, I definitely think so. I think there’s a lot of people that actually owe David an apology. Having an opinion is one thing. And everybody’s supposed to, I understand that. But there were some pretty nasty opinions. And some pretty vocal: “He ought to quit. He ought to go home.”
His first two months were miserable. I mean, they were flat-out miserable. His last four months have been just about as good as anybody in the game. So, that’s just not righting the shift. That’s a pretty good pace. He had a chance his last at-bat, if he could have found a way to get a hit, to have a hundred RBIs. From where he started, that was incredible.
Have you noticed a change in his … a change in his demeanor, just in his spirit, because his season has turned around as well?
Oh, sure, he’s got a little bit of his swagger back. … When you’re hitting .140 with no home runs, if he’s sitting in the clubhouse having a party every night I think people are going to be shaking their heads. He was justifiably concerned. And especially in a place like Boston, you’ve got to answer a lot of questions. I’m sure it wore on him. Once you start swinging the bat ‘ and I told him this repeatedly, I said, “David, don’t look at your batting average. Your batting average is going to not be where you want it. But if you’re the type of hitter you want to be, if you can get past looking at that batting average, you’re going to be just fine.” And I think that’s what happened.
What has the acquisition of Victor Martinez done for your team?
A lot of things. Offensively, we got a switch-hitter right in the middle of the order, which is huge. He’s assumed a leadership role, which is surprising. I think it’s not very easy for guys to come in in the middle of the year and do that ‘ and pull it off. Guys can try to do it. A lot of times guys have been in that clubhouse for a long time, and it’s not accepted. Victor’s got enough of an aura that guys take to him, and he’s been very welcome. And his enthusiasm is legit. And guys have really kind of bought into it, which is neat.
What time do you think you’ll make some of the tough decisions you have regarding the playoff roster?
We’ve got a workout today at 3, so we’ll watch Manny throw. Rocco, if he’s making enough progress, we might wait until tomorrow morning just to see if there’s enough progress. If not, if things are kind of cut and dried, we’ll probably do it tonight. If we know that it’s in stone, we’ll do it. If not, we’ll wait.
Do you guys study umpiring crews?
We study everything we can find. I think we do a good job as an organization. We had a good meeting yesterday. Actually, it didn’t need to be as long as in the past, because this group has been together for a few years now, and everybody knows what we’re looking for, and we’re a little bit more condensed just because everybody knows ‘ [Dave Magadan] and John Farrell and myself and the front office guys and the scouts. But it’s a good meeting, we enjoy it. Guys are hungry for information, and we kind of take that and do the best we can. Again, the guys have got to go play, and we know we’re playing a great team, but we feel good about our preparation.
Didn’t [umpire] Greg Gibson bounce you out of a game this year?
Not this year. He’s gotten me plenty of times in the past. That’s not something that really worries you in a playoff game. Because if you’ve had run-ins with umpires ‘ too many people are watching playoff games. And so, personalities rarely come out in a playoff game.
You have Joe West as your crew chief, correct?
Yeah, and that’s kind of what I meant.
Have you every heard any of Joe West’s music?
No, I have no interest in listening to Joe’s music. The only thing Joe and I talk about is … You see, Joe went to Elon College. I guess he fancies himself as quite a football player. I have a hard time seeing that. I tell him all the time when I see him that they play seven-man and flag football. He actually gets a kick out of that. He loves when you rag on him. Oh, yeah, he’s a funny guy.
Listen to this [Joe West country song plays].
Is that Joe? Well, when you turn on the game tomorrow night and you see Joe laughing, you’ll know that I was just crushing him about his singing.
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