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Red Sox notes: Terry Francona suggests ‘I think the way the divisions are set up is not fair’

08.27.11 at 1:57 pm ET
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Maybe MLB was listening in when Terry Francona made some frank and honest suggestions about how baseball should consider re-structuring its playoff format starting in 2012.

“I hope they add about six,” Francona said in partially tongue-in-cheek fashion of adding MLB teams to the playoff pool.

Then he struck a more serious tone.

“I like the idea of having another wild card. I think it’s intriguing because it’s drawing more fans in and having more teams maybe think they have a legit chance, which is good.”

Then the blinds came down in the Fenway Park media room. A mesage from MLB perhaps?

“I thought that was me, I thought I was going down,” cracked Francona. “Wow, I thought I was going to say goodbye to you guys.”

But then Francona collected himself and continued to entertain the topic.

“I think the way the divisions are set up though is not fair,” Francona said. “I think you have to get more balance in what you’re doing. The question about sense of accomplishment, in ’04 we won 98 games. The only team that won more than us was the Yankees. We didn’t back in anywhere, and they were in our division. If they weren’t in our division, we would’ve probably won 102. If you’re going to start giving that much importance to a division winner and less to the wild card, I think there needs to be more balance. Look at our division right now, you’ve got four teams over .500.”

Would he be cool with 15 teams in each league and a possible interleague match-up in the final weekend of the season, perhaps in an NL park where an AL team would be without a DH?

“I’d be cooler if there was a designated hitter,” Francona said. “There’s decisions that need to be made by people that are smarter than me, hopefully. It’s never going to be perfect but I think there’s probably ways they can figure out to make it really good and a little more fair.”

Does this give more significance and satisfaction to winning the division?

“I don’t think we stop and think about it,” Francona said. “If you gave me my choice, I’d say I’d rather win the division because that means you came in in first place. When you set out to compete, you want to be the best. Saying that, you have a day-and-a-half to prepare for the playoffs, you don’t really sit around and think about your pride or sense of accomplishment when you’re getting ready for the next team so we don’t probably sit around that much and think about it.

“We’ve won coming from a wild card, we’ve lost, too. There’s advantages obviously with playing at home and things like that. I think ultimately what’s more important is your team feeling good about themselves and being healthy.”

Meanwhile, while Francona announced John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester as the starting trio for the Yankees series, there’s no word on what he’ll do with Tim Wakefield or Andrew Miller at a time when Wakefield got roughed up on Friday against Oakland while Miller shut down the Rangers in Texas on Thursday.

“[Miller] is one of our pitchers,” he said. “We have two days off, so that’s kind of a rarity. We have to figure out what’s in our best interests. No reason to [decide where Miller and Wakefield slot before Saturday's games] because we don’t know how much baseball we’re going to play.

“[Miller] was terrific [in Texas]. We were thrilled. You’re always trying to balance the present, the future and making it match, and sometimes it’s not easy and when a guy comes out and throws the way he did, it’s very encouraging.”

Clay Buchholz (stress fracture in back) will be examined this week to determine if he’ll even be allowed to begin throwing on September 1st.

“He is going to be examined in the next couple of days,” Francona said. “Even if the examination is good, he’s not allowed to throw until the 1st. That’s coming up. We should have more information soon. They want to get him running through [an exam] from Dr. [Tom] Gill in the next couple of days and potentially get him mapped out on a throwing program but we’ll see how that goes.”

Francona gave his old pitching coach and current Blue Jays manager John Farrell a call on Friday after Farrell had to call in sick with pneumonia.

“I think he appreciated my sympathy,” Francona said. “That’s just who he wanted to hear from. He’s well enough to be able to joke.”

Read More: andrew miller, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, john lackey
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