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Francona on Epstein: ‘His choice of managers was smart’

03.24.11 at 1:34 pm ET

JUPITER, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona shrugged off comments made by Orioles manager Buck Showalter about Boston GM Theo Epstein. Showalter raised eyebrows with his dig at Epstein, suggesting that the Sox GM was the beneficiary of his team’s payroll above all else during an eight-year tenure that has resulted in two titles and six playoff campaigns.

“I’€™d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll,’€ Showalter told Men’s Journal. ‘€œYou got Carl Crawford ‘€™cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’€™s what makes you smarter? That’€™s why I like whipping their asses: It’€™s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘€˜How the hell are they beating us?’€™’€

Based on his personal experience, Francona was happy to back his boss.

“For the record, I think Theo’s really smart — whether he has a high payroll or not. His choice of managers is smart,” Francona (hired by Epstein and the Sox in 2003) joked.

Even before he interviewed for the Sox job, Francona received a scouting report on Epstein from then-Indians GM Mark Shapiro. Francona had worked with Shapiro in the Indians front office in 2000. Shapiro made clear that the Sox GM was a bright fellow.

“(Shapiro) just said, ‘Don’t mess with him, because he’ll turn you inside-out,'” mused Francona.

That turned out not to be a problem. Instead, after spending the day with Epstein and Assistant GM Josh Byrnes, Francona felt that he had found an organization for whom he was the right fit.

“You go into those and, obviously, you want to get a job, but my goal was always just to come out of there saying what I felt,” recalled Francona. “Sometimes, you come out of interviews feeling uncomfortable, or you get to the airport saying, ‘I didn’t want to say that.’ But I felt really good when I left there.”

Read More: Buck Showalter, Terry Francona, Theo Epstein,
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