|Terry Francona on D&H 10/14||10.14.09 at 8:15 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined Dale & Holley for the final time this season to talk about the postseason and what Francona might do with all the free time on his hands. Check out the entire audio here. Some highlights below.
We wrap up the season with Terry Francona, I just thought it might be three or four weeks from now.
Yeah, I’m used to doing this either in my office or from the road. Not from home. I don’t like it.
Tito, how are you dealing with this?
It’s hard. Every year is a little bit different. A couple of years we’ve been fortunate enough to be celebrating, a couple of years we’ve been heartbroken. This year is a hard one to figure. There are a lot of ways to spin it, I think perspective is the hardest thing to achieve early on, from fans, media, myself. You know, the one thing we talked about when we were down to New York, down to Cleveland was we thought we were good enough to win, but if you put yourself in a position where if you make a mistake, you go home, well, you know what happened. We played a good game the other day, for the most part. We scored off a good pitcher, we had a two-run lead going into the ninth. We made some mistakes and when you get yourself into a situation like that, if you make a mistake, you end up going home.
You know what it’s like in this town, the other team never plays well, your team always played poorly. How much credit does the starting pitching for the Angels get for those two games in Anaheim? How much blame does your offense get?
Well, we probably always look at ourselves more than the other team. That’s human nature. [John] Lackey and [Jered] Weaver pitched great games. We feel like, regardless, once you get to the playoffs you have to find ways to score. We didn’t. We always take that responsibility. Again, perspective is the biggest word and it’s going to be difficult for people to find that. [Jon] Lester pitched great. There are some things that happened in that game … For me probably the biggest one is Bobby Abreu. He had an at-bat, a couple at-bats where he never flinched. He took a 94-mile-an-hour fastball that was two inches out of the strike zone and never flinched. That’s pretty good hitting. We’re trying to give up a run to get out of the inning because Torii Hunter was coming up next. Bobby had that great at-bat and then Torii took Lester deep. That was the game. So there are some things that happen during the game that I don’t think people necessarily remember that can really swing a game.
Going back to Game 1, I would love to know what the approach was for Bobby Abreu. Was Lester pitching around Abreu? Or was that a just a very discriminating eye by Abreu?
We’re not pitching around him. Now, we respect what he can do. I think if you go back and look at his at-bats, he took some pitches that most hitters don’t take. He got to a 3-2 count with Lester, Lester threw him a 94-mile-an-hour fastball that was a borderline strike. Bobby never flinched. Bobby Abreu was as locked in, and when I say that I don’t mean he was just getting hit after hit, he never offered to pitches that were an inch or two off the plate. To me, with some of the stuff we were throwing up there, that’s an amazing feat.
We were looking at first-time through the lineup in those first two games, your team was 1-for-25 with two walks. Is there such a thing as being too patient or were they just making pitches …?
What happens when you go through the lineup the first time and you don’t have any success, guys are trying to be patient because that’s what we do. And what happens sometime is they understand that and they execute strike one and now we’re hitting in the hole. That happens from time to time, that’s just the way the game is. That’s why sometimes when the game’s over you tip your hat to the opposing team and you feel like you should have done some things better. That’s the way the game is. When you work ahead, you’re going to have success. We didn’t want to be too aggressive, we wanted to be patient. What ended up happening is that we were hitting 0-1 a lot. We ended up expanding the zone because they were good enough to make it expand. It kind of goes both ways.
What went into the decision to intentionally walk Torii Hunter and pitch to Vlad Guerrero in Game 3?
There are a lot of things that happened. For me, nobody will be able to tell me that was the wrong move. Not that they won’t be able to tell me, they won’t be able to convince me, I’ve been told a lot. Vlad hadn’t done much in that series. I felt like we executed pitches and if you go back and look at the executed pitches we did throw to Vlad, we broke his bat, and struck him out. Torii Hunter is swinging with a lot of violence and makes me nervous. I thought it was the right thing to do. The first pitch to Vlad wandered out over the middle and he kind of threw it up into center and it did the job. I would do that again every single time because I know it’s the right thing to do.
Were you concerned that it limited Jonathan Papelbon’s options with the bases loaded?
Yeah, sure. It certainly is a factor. It wasn’t enough of a factor to make me not want to do it. If Pap makes a pitch to Torii Hunter and Torii does something to help them win the game, I would want to shoot myself. Again, I wasn’t happy that Vlad got a hit. Again, I would do it every single time if it was the same situation.
I know you don’t deal in absolutes, but do you feel like in the situation you had there, it was an absolute time to load the bases?
Michael, I just said that. I don’t know what else you want me to say. Again, every situation is different. We had a situation down in Tampa earlier in the season that we elected not to. I wasn’t comfortable with his ability at the point in the game where he was. I thought I was putting him in an unfair position. I thought Pap would be able to execute a pitch easier to Vlad than to Torii Hunter. I thought with Torii Hunter if you make a mistake, Pap was missing up a lot. You miss up to Torii Hunter and he might hit it on that street. We don’t have a lot of time to think about it, but again, you can’t convince me that was the wrong thing to do. You can try, but I feel strongly about that.
Did you feel the running game of the Angels, their vaunted running game was as big a factor as some feared?
It concerned us, I think justifiably so. Not just stealing bases, but going first to third, but the fact that they can run. Even when a guy like Vlad hitting, they’re not afraid to put runners in motion. If you vacate, which you have to, Vlad hits the hole, whether by luck or execution, it works. When they’re on second base you have to hold them or they’re going to run. So just the fact that they didn’t steal a ton of bases doesn’t mean that it doesn’t play into the game.
Was there any point in that game, before the blow up, that you said to yourself, “It doesn’t look like Pap has it today”?
When he came in in the eighth, he actually made a a terrible pitch to [Juan] Rivera. We got the base hit to right that drove in two runs. When we got the add-on run I was actually thrilled because of everything we talked about. The running game, Pap’s not real quick to the plate, it takes away the stolen bases, it takes away the sac bunt. So that run, for me, was huge. In fact, if you replay the inning, as much that happened, we’re still sitting on a win if we can get that last out. I thought that last run we got was huge. That’s why we pinch-ran, that why we did what we wanted because we did want to get a tack-on run.
When you play a series you come out of it with more respect for a certain guy. That guy for me was Eric Aybar. Do you agree with that?
Well, I don’t know. I had respect for him going in. We studied them pretty extensively. We thought we could beat them, it doesn’t mean we don’t respect the way they play. They have a lot of balance, they have a lot of different ways to beat you. Again, you have to remember, in a three-game series, whoever does something is going to stick out for you. If Eric Aybar goes 0-for-10, you might say, “I don’t think he’s very good.” Well, he is. [Kevin] Youkilis didn’t hit much. Youk hit the ball three times in the last game as hard as you can hit it. Those things happen sometimes. over the course of 162 games, those things even out. In a short series, they don’t always even out.
Do you undertake exit interviews, for lack of a better term? Without getting into specifics, if you do, what are the things you talk to players about?
Some are formal, some are informal, some are done before the season is over, some will be done in the next few weeks. Some are not done exclusively by me, some are done with John Farrell and the pitching staff, some are done with the medical staff, some need to be done by me and Theo [Epstein]. We pretty much try to communicate with everybody.
I read Clay Buchholz’ comments in the paper, “I’ll never assume anything again. I’ll go into this offseason working as though I have to earn a spot on this team.” You probably like to hear those words.
Yeah, that’s good to hear. Now, I don’t pay much attention to the paper, but I understand your point. He assumed a little bit a couple years ago. He was young, when we were that age we made mistakes. And Clay probably learned the hard way. But he’s got a chance to be a pretty special talent and he seems to be growing up. Now, again, he’s got some more to go. The game got going for him a little fast the other day. Torii Hunter took off and if Clay steps off, Torii’s in the middle of “no man’s land” with a huge base-running blunder. Now, because Clay balked, nobody remembered that. So, there are things that happen in the game that seem to get lost in the shuffle that are huge plays.
In 2008, you were one win from going to the World Series, you just tweaked the team. In 2009, you lose in the first round. Is this a tweak situation? Do you expect to have the same guys back next year?
I don’t know. What I do know, we won 95 games this year, I don’t know how many we won last year, I think the same. Again, we exited real quick in the playoffs and that is distressing to all of us. If we make moves as a reaction to that, that would be a mistake. The moves we make, and Theo is great at this, will be made to try to make us be good not only for the short term but not forgetting the long term. That’s the one thing he has his hands full doing and I probably get to see it first hand because I’m there, it’s not easy. When you don’t have the ability to step back and “reload” or however you say it, it can be challenging. I think he’s done an amazing job of, at times, cutting ties with some pretty popular people. I don’t know if I’d have the ability to do that. He’s done a great job of balancing the present and the future and it’s going to be another challenge this year.
I know you guys talk continuously, but when Theo is about to make one of those major moves, say trade Nomar Garciaparra away for the sake of discussion, is it better for you to not know what’s going on?
No, no, no, I definitely appreciate knowing. I think he understands that. I’m there every day and if I don’t understand what’s going on in the clubhouse he has the wrong guy. So, we do a lot of talking about that kind of stuff.
As a manager dealing with grown men, is there a point where you say, “That is crossing the line, we don’t want you talking about this or saying this to the media.” Does that exist?
Oh, sure, every so often, I call Pap in and tell him to shut up. He’s great, he says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like this, or I did this.” Or he’ll just come in and say, “I messed up.” We do that from time to time. It’s how we operate.
Papelbon likes the attention, he has a big personality. Do you think that had anything to do with his on-field performance this year?
No, I don’t see how it possibly could. As long as he works hard and he’s ready to pitch. He was out there at the end and he didn’t pitch very well. That might stay with him for a while. It doesn’t have anything to do with the interviews he does on Comcast or whatever. He’s a good-hearted kid, he works hard, he made some bad pitches. I’m sure, being in this town for six years there will be a huge reaction to that. He’s one of the best in the business and just didn’t do a good job in his last game.
You know what, I may just do that. I know Theo says I’ve always had an open invitation to do it, but in the past we’ve really never had the time to do it. So, I may try to take advantage of that, go out there and watch those guys. And maybe even get a chance to go to dinner with them, get a chance to get to know them a little bit. I think that can be an advantage.
You’ve got some babies in this organization, 18, 19, 20 years old.
Yeah, it’s exciting. They’re a few years away. Most of our guys are here right now, so there is a little bit of a gap. But there are kids coming, they are exiting. Potentially really impactful players like we have now, but a little on the younger side.
When the season ends so quickly, do you get the urge to e-mail and text these guys to just talk?
Well, I actually have with a few of them. The way it ended was so abrupt that we had a short meeting. The losing manager has an obligation to get to the media room “right now.” We gathered everybody up, had a short meeting and moved on. And then the next day, guys were packing, some decided not to. So there were a few guys I missed that I wanted to talk to. There are some things I wanted to tell some guys, some “thank yous” things like that. But there is some time where guys need to be away from me. I understand that. Then the process starts over again. The trainers and medical people make sure that the guys have their programs and our guys know what to do. I’ll be in touch when the time is right, but they need some time away to take a breath.
How would you describe your interest in the ALCS and NLCS now?
Zero. This was such a tough ending for me this year that I don’t think I can watch it. I wasn’t ready to be done. There is no getting around it. This was a tough one. I felt, like in the past, we have the ability to come back and beat teams. We have the ability to get down, but we have the ability to come back and I felt like “here we go again” but it didn’t happen and it crushed me. I’m going to have to deal with that for a while.
The only way there will be changes is if someone becomes a manager. Which, I guess, that’s a good thing. I love the staff, I think we have the best staff in baseball. They’re hard-working, knowledgeable and passionate. That’s why you’re seeing these guys getting interviews. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Demarlo Hale’s name creep in there, too, with one of these teams. And I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these guys gets a job. And if that happens, we will have to go find a coach, which is tough for me, but also very rewarding at the same time. It’s a good problem to have.
It would be bittersweet if Brad Mills gets a job.
He’s one of my best friends in the whole world, not just in baseball. We’ve been together a long time. What he means to me is a lot. I know he wants a chance to manage and I think he’s very, very deserving. The situation in Houston is really intriguing. He’s been with Ed Wade before, 10 years ago. I think we’ve all done some growing up since then. I think Ed is going to enjoy interviewing Millsy and I think Millsy is going to have a good interview. Now, saying that I think Tim Bogar is going to interview well, too. It’s really a unique situation.
Do general managers call you about Bogar and Millsy?
You know what, there is kind of a protocol that people have to follow, but again, I’ve known Ed for a long time. I’ve already talked to him and Theo knows I’ve talked to him, he doesn’t have a problem. I guess the guys you know, you talk to. I know the guys in Cleveland real well, and I know Ed. We’re not breaking the rules they’re just trying to find out who’s capable of managing their team.
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