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Terry Francona on The Big Show: Significance of All-Star Game has ‘run its course’

07.13.11 at 6:00 pm ET
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Terry Francona

Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show for his regular appearance Wednesday afternoon  to talk about the All-Star break and the state of his ballclub.

When asked his thoughts regarding the All-Star Game impacting home-field advantage in the World Series, Francona said that he wasn’t a fan of it.

“Maybe the significance of this game has run its course,” he said.

Added Francona: “The way they’re playing the game with fan voting, they want interviews in the dugout, they want a lot of things to make it not like a regular-season game and then at the end you end up treating it like the most important game of the year.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

What did you do all weekend?

None of your business.

Oh come on, man. Tito, I can imagine you on the edge of your seat last night, popcorn, just watching the All-Star game from start to finish.

No not quite. I was a little on the edge of my seat when I saw [Josh] Beckett. When I saw the 17 messages on my phone I figured something was going on. Fortunately, I talked to him pretty quickly after that and he assured me that he was going to be OK so that was good there. I just kind of tried to get a break. I told you the other day I was going to try to go up to Mohegan Sun. Get a little plug in for Mohegan Sun on Sunday night. I took all the clubhouse kids up there so that was fun, and we came back the next morning and I’ve just been kind of laying low, going to head down to Florida tonight. So I’ll spend the day down there tomorrow. We’ve got a workout tomorrow night. So just give me a day to relax and maybe get some sun on this head

So you all did come back? It wasn’t like one of those hangover things right? “The Hangover,” “The Hangover [Part] II”?

We came back. Actually I think I was the first person in the history of Mohegan Sun to sit at a blackjack table and drink milkshakes.

Really? What was that about?

I don’t. It just tasted good. The lady was nice enough to bring me one and then she was nice enough to win me three.

Did you win anything?

I think I won, but the kids I was gambling with were so bad I think ended up coming out about even.

So what is the latest with Josh Beckett? Was it just precautionary that he felt something beforehand?

What happened was, Sunday morning he went out and threw. Because, with respect to the league, we needed to kind pull the trigger and not leave them hanging out to dry, which is kind of what we did, which I feel bad about. He assured that he felt great. Curt Young watched him, said he felt great. Our trainer was with him, said he looked fine. Josh is really routine oriented. He went out there. He was going to throw the second inning. Everything was kind of coming fast and I think he was a little out of sorts to begin with. On about his tenth pitch he felt something in the back of his knee and he was like, “OK. I better cool it.” And I’m glad he did. I wish we would’ve had the foresight to not have him go out there anyway becauseI know it’s a big deal to people during the All-Star game.

I was going to ask you about that Tito. Did you have any issue with him, right after he hyperextended that knee against Baltimore, did you have any issue with him going out there, making that flight?

No, because he told me, and I actually told him, I said, “Josh, you deserve to pitch in this game.” I feel that way with all our guys. I said, “But just promise me if it’s not right, you’ll use your head.” And he did. And I’m proud of him for that. He didn’t take this lightly. He respects the game. I know there’s some guys who didn’t play and some guys whatever, he respects this game a lot and at the same time if he can pitch, I think he should. That may not help us, but I think it’s good for baseball and I think he deserved it.

I guess though when the American League has no [CC] Sabathia, no [Jon] Lester, no [Justin] Verlander, no [David] Price, who am I forgetting …  no [Felix] Hernandez and of course no Beckett, it’s pretty difficult to win one of those games, isn’t it?

I mean, yeah. Maybe the significance of this game has run it’s course. I don’t know. I mean Price…

Oh I know. I think it’s run its course.

Price couldn’t pitch the other day, but he’s going to open up against us so that turf toe must be getting better. And I understand that these guys get beat up during the year and they probably do all have nicks and things including David Price. I know what they were trying to do at the game and I think they accomplished it, but maybe its run it’s course. Again, there’s maybe better ways to figure out home-field advantage.

I just think there’s too much at stake here. When you look at it, that could be dramatic. Now, you won in ’04 and you won in ’07. The first two games at home were at home. I think it gets you off to a tremendous start and probably changes how the series is going to play out. To me, there’s too much at stake here for a meaningless game, an exhibition game.

And again, there’s a lot of different opinions and I think I’ve listened to them all. The way they’re playing the game with fan voting, they want interviews in the dugout, they want a lot of things to make it not like a regular season game and then at the end you end up treating it like the most important game of the year. So it’s a little bit, it’s just not real consistent. And there is a lot riding on it. And it’s probably unfair to a lot of people, one being the managers because you’re trying to get everybody an all-star appearance and make it be a moment they can remember, and then at the end of the day you better win the game.

Well, if you were commissioner for the day, what would you do to determine home-field advantage in the series?

If I was commissioner for the day, I’d give the commissioner a raise.

After you get the raise what would you do? And you blow it on Mohegan Sun, what would you do next? And you spend it on 25 milkshakes.

And that’s the one thing about complaining is you’ve got to have a lot of answers. And again, I know there’s some logistical nightmares with hotels and things like that, but I would always base it on the body of work you did during the year. 162 games is a lot of games and I think teams should be rewarded for doing well in the regular season.

That’s absolutely right. And you mentioned they do all these things, in-game interviews. I saw an interview yesterday with Prince Fielder in I think the second or third inning after he hit the home run. All sorts of stuff. An interview with Justin Timberlake during the game. That was scary. If you were trying to win the game as an All-Star manager and that was all that mattered and you weren’t trying to look out for people and give them the experience, you’d probably just play your guys and have your pitcher go six or seven innings right?

Exactly. And again we’ve talked about this a number of times Michael, me and you. The two experiences I had, I was so fortunate. We had an idea, had a plan in place of what we wanted to do and it actually worked out. Now the one in New York didn’t work out like we thought it would, but we got everyone in there and we actually won the game. But we were very fortunate. It just puts the manager in a really uncomfortable position. And again, the game, I think everybody kind of feels the same way. It’s an honor to go to the All-Star game. Our players for the most part really do respect the game. I think that’s pretty obvious. I don’t know that we need to have so much riding on the outcome of this game. There’s probably better ways to do it.

We had Jon Lester on yesterday and Jon was saying the same thing. It’s an honor to be there, he said, but the problem is they wrap you up. You’re literally doing something every single hour. And we don’t see that as fans.

It’s so corporate. There’s so much going on and I know some of it, it’s needed. But it’s tough. I mean you get there, I know for me, you fly in Sunday night so you’re already kind of tired. You get up early morning Monday for breakfast, then a news conference. Then you finally get to go to the ballpark and you probably sign two hours worth of things for the game. Every time you turn around, somebody’s in your face. You don’t get to enjoy very much, just the game itself with the players. I know the funnest time I had was when I locked myself in a room with Jimmy Leyland and we told stories. Now it didn’t get to last very long, but that’s the enjoyment of getting to meet these players and watch them play and the relationships. But it’s not very much because there’s always somebody tugging at you.

Did you tape that? Is that available on tape?

With Leyland? No. Too many curse words.

I’d love to air that on the radio. Speaking of people being in your face and lot of cussing, how about the game at Fenway between you guys and the Orioles with David Ortiz and Kevin Gregg? How do you think that started and what do you expect to happen?

Well we always have our own versions. Every team’s going to have their own versions and we’re no different. It was unfortunate, obviously. You never want to see that happen. I thought that some of the rules weren’t enforced. I don’t think that helped. When Gregg stepped off the mound after the 2-0 count and started yelling at [Ortiz], [Ortiz] was jawing at him and they were going back and forth. The rule says that when a pitcher leaves the dirt aggressively, he’s automatically out of the game. Well, that didn’t happen. Even if they wanted to throw [Ortiz] out also, that ends it right there. Now all of a sudden, [Ortiz] puts the ball in play, and that was probably partly my fault. I was so aggravated by the whole thing, I was screaming at him to swing. I probably shouldn’t have done that. But when [Ortiz] left the box and he’s getting yelled at, we saw what happened from there. But it shouldn’t have gotten to that point because the rules weren’t enforced.

Have you heard anything from the league yet about suspensions?

No, but I bet you we will soon. I was kind of under the impression that they didn’t want to deal with it during the All-Star break, which I understand. They want the All-Star break for a time to kind of brag about our game, which they should. But I would assume we’ll hear something pretty soon.

Will you guys appeal it?

Well, it depends what they say. Yeah, you don’t see too many ones that are not appealed, but I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything yet. And that’s up to [Ortiz], but we’ll certainly sit down and try to figure it out. But we’ll wait and see what we hear.

What’s going on with you and the Orioles? Sometimes bad teams just really develop these rivalries.

But I don’t really think of this as a rivalry. I think it got heated and things happened. That happens sometimes but what are you going to do? Our objective was to win the game and we did that, so that was fine with me.

And you get to play them again very quickly in a few games.

Yeah, I know. And again our objective will be to win the game again too.

What do you do about the pitching staff right now? Who is healthy and do you have a better time table now as to when guys are coming back?

No, we don’t. We’re going to come out of the shoot with [Andrew] Miller, then [John] Lackey. The plan is still to have Beckett on Sunday, now we can adjust that if we need to. And then we have [Tim] Wakefield and Kyle Weiland. Once we get back into our workout tomorrow we should start knowing more about [Clay Buchholz] and [Jon Lester]. I don’t think Lester’s going to be terribly long. I’m hoping [Buchholz] won’t either. [Buchholz] has been out for a while now so it’s going to be a throwing program, he’s going to have to get ramped back up. It’s not going to just be you miss a start and you come back. Hopefully Lester is going to be coming back quick. That would be the hope. We have to get these guys healthy. The worst mistake we can make is getting them back too quick or we nurse it along or they’re not throwing the ball the way they can. That’s not going to help us. We’re going to have to weather this.

When Weiland was ejected in the fifth inning of his last start, did you see that coming or did you think that was an overreaction?

I thought it was an overreaction. The one thing they tell you is they’re not going to take the inside part of the plate away. Well, they did. I mean those were two kind of check swings and again, the warning was on a changeup. That’s what the umpire was telling me. He goes, “We’re trying to protect you. You were mad.” I said, “No I wasn’t mad. I was mad because you put the warning out there. Our guy got hit with a changeup, we weren’t yelling.” Sometimes things happen. We’re not perfect as coaches or managers or players and neither are the umpires. They have a tough job too, but it was just kind of a weird game.

What did you think of Weiland’s start overall?

His stuff’s good. He made a bad pitch to [Derrek] Lee that he hit for a two-run homer and then the inning kind of spiraled from there. There were some balls hit hard, there were some balls that weren’t hit hard. I don’t think he commanded as well as he needs to. I like his stuff a lot. I like the way he competes. The poor kid, he gets thrown out of his first major league game. I don’t even think he knew what was going on. We got up to the clubhouse both together, he’s looking at me like I think he was scared. So I just kind of chuckled a little bit. But he’s going to get the ball again. There’s a lot to like about him. Again, it was a bad inning but that doesn’t mean we don’t think he’s going to be a good pitcher.

You haven’t had any consistency with the starting rotation because of all the injuries in the first half of the season.

No, but we’ve had some guys fill in and really do a good job. I mean Wakefield, and Wakefield’s done it before and I really think he enjoys it. And Miller’s a really interesting guy. I think there’s a lot more left in the tank, which is really exciting for us. Alfredo Aceves has done a terrific job. Guys have stepped in and we talk so much about let’s just be one run better than the other team instead of one run worse. So it’s actually kind of fun when it works out. We know we need to get these guys healthy to get where we’re going.

You start 2-10, and now you’re up by a game on the Yankees. Did you have a number in your head with that 2-10 start, a position in the standings, or did you just say, “We’ve got to start winning some games and get to .500?″

No, I really don’t ever put a number in my head. I think it’s a little bit dangerous. I don’t go week-to-week or month-to-month or road-trip-to-road trip. You guys know that. I just feel better when we’re playing better. It’s like a guys batting average. You feel better when you’re on your way up as opposed to just trying to keep it where it is. It’s just that feeling. We’re playing better. When we’re done, we’ll be where we deserve to be. I don’t know how many wins that will be. I hope it’s enough. But for me, if we go out there and we just pay attention to detail, play the game right, then you don’t know where injuries are going to take you or how much they’re going to affect your team, but we’ll be all right.

When you manage the All-Star Game, do the managers of other clubs ask you not to use their players or try to limit their roles?

Yeah, there were certain instances where guys did do that, and it was kind of frustrating because the league had put out a memo asking teams not to do that. If your guy was selected and he was going, they needed to be able to pitch or play. And I know it got difficult for me, especially in that 15 inning game in New York because we were trying to stay away from guys and we just couldn’t do it. It’s impossible. You’re trying to win, you’re trying to take care of guys’ health. It’s a lot going on. That’s why to have the game be so meaningful was kind of tough.

Is the All-Star Game still viable? Should it be a shortened game? Should we just change the game altogether?

I think the All-Star Game is kind of a show and baseball games aren’t a show. That kind of ticks me off when I hear people, they talk about baseball players as entertainers. No, we’re baseball players and if you give people entertainment, great. But being a baseball player is what we do and we’ve got to not lose sight of that. Now the All-Star Game, they want a lot of entertainment in it like the in-game interviews and all that stuff, so don’t have the outcome of the game be so important. Enjoy that aspect of it. It’s probably good enough. Our guys respect the game. It’s a good thing. They’ll still respect the game. But you can go out there and it doesn’t have to have so much on the line to make it a special night.

If tomorrow they announced in the NBA that they’re going to make the All-Star Game determine who gets home court advantage in the finals, people would say you’re crazy. But this is the same thing.

Sometimes in baseball I think we get a little reactionary, which I guess maybe that’s human nature. I know what happened in that All-Star Game when they ran out of pitching. This is the reaction to that, and it’s probably run its course. If I had my wish, it would. But that’s probably not the case.

Getting back to whoever gets the best record, I think that’s more equitable.

You’re getting back to my original point and we’ve talked about this before, to getting the schedule back to where it’s even also. Then the rewards for having a good regular season, they do mean a lot. Right now there’s some work involved and I don’t think anybody really likes that. That’s why I’d like to see this whole thing get revamped a little bit.

Before we let you go, what’s the update on Carl Crawford?

He’s working out tomorrow at Fenway. Friday and Saturday he’s going to play for Pawtucket. He’ll fly to Baltimore on Sunday and hopefully join us Monday ready to play in Baltimore.

Read More: 2011 mlb all-star game, carl crawford, Josh Beckett, kyle weiland
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