Archive for September, 2011

Terry Francona’s most memorable moments with Red Sox

Friday, September 30th, 2011

With Terry Francona‘s departure from the Red Sox, a gaping hole is left in the dugout as arguably the best manager in Boston’s history leaves town. Francona will most be remembered for leading Boston to its first World Series title in 86 years during his first year as manager of the team in 2004.

Francona managed the Red Sox for eight years, posting a 744-552 record and winning the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007. He finishes second all-time in wins for the Red Sox, and his five playoff appearances are the most for any Boston manager. But September’s collapse may be a stain upon Francona’s otherwise admirable legacy.

Here are Francona’s most memorable moments as manager of the Red Sox, both good and bad.

Red Sox hire Francona ‘€” After the Red Sox were ousted in the 2003 ALCS by the Yankees, Grady Little was sent packing and Francona got the job. Francona was relatively unproven, as his only experience was managing the Phillies for four seasons (1997-2000), posting a mediocre 285-363 record with Philadelphia. While the first half of the season was a struggle, the Sox got hot in the second half, finishing with a 98-64 overall record, setting up an epic postseason run …

Boston’s run to a World Series title ‘€” After sweeping the Angels in the 2004 ALDS, Francona and the Red Sox ran into the rival Yankees in the ALCS. Down 3-0 and with no conceivable hope left, Boston put together the greatest comeback in MLB history and won four straight to beat the Yankees and advance to the World Series. With the momentum behind them, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to win its first World Series title since 1918, breaking the most-storied title drought in professional sports. In the process, Francona outmanaged Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, Yankees manager Joe Torre and Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, considered three of the game’s best.

Health issues in 2005 ‘€” During the 2005 season, Francona was hospitalized with severe chest pains at the start of the year during a series in New York. While he did not suffer a heart attack, tests showed that Francona had clogged arteries. He was determined to have circulation issues, which is why Francona wears his pullover during games.

Struggle to quit dipping ‘€” Before the 2007 season, Francona made a bet with team president Larry Lucchino that he could quit chewing tobacco that season. Whoever lost the bet would donate $20,000 to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Francona could not kick the habit and resumed chewing during the season. While he still has yet to quit, Francona claims that he only chews during games and does not do it at all in the offseason.

Sox win World Series again ‘€” After finishing first in the AL East in 2007, Boston swept the Angels in the ALDS before dropping three out of the first four games against the Indians in the ALCS. Just like in ’04, though, the Red Sox clawed their way back into the series and won the last three games of the series to advance to the World Series. Boston once again swept its World Series opponent, the Rockies, to win another title. Francona became the only manager in MLB history to win his first eight World Series games and one of two Red Sox managers to win multiple championships (Bill Carrigan, 1915 and 1916).

Boston trades Manny ‘€” Always a bastion of controversy, slugger Manny Ramirezs situation came to a head during the 2008 season. Among other incidents during the season, Ramirez got into a scuffle with Kevin Youkilis in the dugout during a game, shoved an elderly traveling secretary out of frustration and often failed to run out ground balls in late July, supposedly out of anger with his contract situation. The outfielder’s antics became too much for Boston to handle and the team traded him to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. A star during Boston’s 2004 World Series run, Manny would struggle after being traded and has since retired after violating the league’s substance policy.

The collapse of 2011 ‘€” In the worst September collapse in MLB history, the Red Sox went 7-20 in the month, losing a nine-game lead over the Rays in the wild card standings. On the final day of the season on Sept. 28, the Rays and the Red Sox were tied in the standings. In a matter of five minutes, closer Jonathan Papelbon surrendered the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Boston’s game against the Orioles, while Tampa’s Evan Longoria hit a home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to beat the Yankees and win the wild card for the Rays. As manager of the talented-but-troubled Red Sox, Francona received a lot of blame for the collapse and was fired two days after the season ended, amidst revelations that he’d overseen a fractured clubhouse that had become unresponsive to his messages.

Statements from the Red Sox on the decision to let Francona go

Friday, September 30th, 2011

STATEMENT FROM JOHN HENRY, TOM WERNER AND LARRY LUCCHINO ON BEHALF OF THE BOSTON RED SOX:

‘€œWe met with Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington Friday morning to discuss the 2011 season, ways to improve the club in the future, and Tito’€™s status.  During the meeting, Tito, Theo and Ben agreed that the Red Sox would benefit from an improved clubhouse culture and higher standards in several areas.  Tito said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on.  After taking time to reflect on Tito’€™s sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract.

We have enormous respect, admiration and appreciation for Tito and the job that he did for eight years, including two World Series Championship seasons and five playoff appearances.  His poise during the 2004 post-season was a key factor in the greatest comeback in baseball history, and his place in Red Sox history will never be forgotten.  We wish him only the best going forward.’€

STATEMENT FROM THEO EPSTEIN:

‘€œTito and I didn’€™t know each other when he was hired eight years ago, but over time we developed not only a great working relationship but also a personal friendship that will always be important to both of us.  He proved to be an unflappable leader for our major league club, displaying consistency, calmness, hard work, thoughtfulness, a sense of humor, and faith in the players even at the most difficult of times.  Without Tito’€™s commitment over eight years, we would not be the organization we are today.  Nobody at the Red Sox blames Tito for what happened at the end of this season; we own that as an organization.  This year was certainly a difficult and draining one for him and for us.  Ultimately, he decided that there were certain things that needed to be done that he couldn’€™t do after eight years here, and that this team would benefit from hearing a new voice.  While this may be true, his next team will benefit more than it knows from hearing Tito’€™s voice.  I will miss seeing Tito every day in the manager’€™s office, and I wish him and his family nothing but the best in their next chapter.’€

STATEMENT FROM TERRY FRANCONA:

‘€œWe met this morning to look back on the 2011 season and to consider the future of the Boston Red Sox, including my involvement with the club.  I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players.  After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on.  I’€™ve always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job.  I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team.

In my eight seasons as manager of the Boston Red Sox, I have developed a tremendous appreciation for Red Sox Nation.  This is a special place with some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in all of baseball.  They packed Fenway Park for every game and because of them, I had a special sense of pride coming to work every day.  I want to thank John, Tom, Larry and Theo for giving me the opportunity to manage this team through some of the most successful years in this franchise’€™s history.  I wish the entire organization and all of Red Sox Nation nothing but the very best.’€

Red Sox, Terry Francona part ways after eight years

Friday, September 30th, 2011

In the aftermath of a historic nosedive that took the Red Sox from an apparent playoff lock to a team that lost the largest September postseason lead in major league history, the Red Sox and manager Terry Francona have parted ways.

The team will not exercise its two-year, $8.75 million option on Francona’s three-year contract, which ran from 2009-11. Instead, the team will pay his $750,000 buyout, and the manager will be free to pursue a job elsewhere. The decision was made after a meeting on Friday morning that included Francona, Epstein and members of the Red Sox’ ownership group.

Francona leaves having overseen the Sox for one of the most successful periods in franchise history. During his eight-year tenure (tied for the second longest in team history, behind only Joe Cronin), he won two World Series titles, becoming only the second manager in team history with two rings and the first since Bill Carrigan won titles in 1915 and 1916.

Francona went 744-552 (.574) during his time in Boston, with the second-highest wins total in franchise history and the third-highest winning percentage among managers with at least three seasons with the Red Sox. During his tenure, he was often given raves for his ability to maintain a positive clubhouse environment in a region where scrutiny — especially during times of struggle — can become overwhelming.

His ability to balance the team’s longer-term interests over the desperation for a win on any given night was viewed as a critical component of the team’s successes over the 162-game seasons. And in short series, where each game is indeed pivotal, Francona’s success was nearly peerless. He has a 28-17 (.622) record in the postseason, including victories in seven different series, and his postseason winning percentage is the second highest all-time by a skipper with at least 25 games in October, behind only Joe McCarthy (.698).

However, while he reached the playoffs in five of his first six seasons in Boston, the Sox missed the postseason in the last two seasons, with the Sox going 89-73 in an injury-riddled 2010 and then going 90-72 this season, including a 7-20 record during what turned into the worst September collapse of a first-place team in baseball history. The Sox haven’t won a postseason game since 2008.

Both Francona and general manager Theo Epstein suggested at a Thursday press conference that the Red Sox clubhouse had become a challenging one to manage this season. (more…)

Theo Epstein: ‘No immediate plans for an announcement’ on Terry Francona

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The wait for a smoke signal from Fenway Park will continue.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said in a press release that “there are no plans for an immediate announcement” regarding the status of manager Terry Francona. The manager met with Epstein, assistant GM Ben Cherington, team principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino Friday morning at Fenway Park to discuss Francona’s future in the aftermath of a season-ending, 7-20 September collapse that left the Red Sox outside of the playoffs for the second straight season.

‘€œJohn Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington and I met with Terry Francona this morning at Fenway Park to exchange thoughts and information on the 2011 season and discuss areas for improvement going forward,” Epstein said in a statement. “We all plan on taking some time to process the thoughts expressed in the meeting. There are no immediate plans for an announcement.’€

Francona is at the end of a three-year contract, with the team holding a two-year, $8.75 million option on his services. If the team does not exercise the option, it will be on the hook for a $750,000 buyout, and Francona will be free to pursue a job elsewhere.

The Sox have 10 days to make a determination about whether to exercise their option. It is worth noting that the last time the Sox changed managers, letting Grady Little go after the 2003 season, they did not announce their final decision until Oct. 27, 10 days after the final out of the Red Sox season arrived shortly after midnight on Oct. 17.

Francona has been manager during one of the most successful periods in franchise history. During his eight-year tenure (tied for the second longest in team history, behind only Joe Cronin), he has won two World Series titles, becoming only the second manager in team history with two rings and the first since Bill Carrigan won titles in 1915 and 1916.

Francona is 744-552 (.574) during his time in Boston, with the second-highest wins total in franchise history and the third-highest winning percentage among managers with at least three seasons with the Red Sox. In the playoffs, Francona’s success is nearly peerless. He has a 28-17 (.622) record in the postseason, including victories in seven different series, and his postseason winning percentage is the second highest all-time by a skipper with at least 25 games in October, behind only Joe McCarthy (.698).

Nonetheless, Francona acknowledged that it had become increasingly difficult for him to keep the team’s priorities in order this season. In a season-ending press conference with Theo Epstein on Thursday, the manager unmasked some of the difficulties of what he characterized as a difficult clubhouse to oversee, and he declined to say whether he wanted to return to the Red Sox dugout in 2012.

“To be the very best, there’€™s got to be some extraordinary things happening. I thought at times we didn’€™t put our best foot forward. That’€™s my responsibility. That’€™s why it bothered me,” said Francona, who acknowledged calling a team meeting in September at a time when the team was up eight games on the Rays in the wild card because he was concerned about the team’s cohesion. “There were some things I was worried about. We were spending too much energy on things that weren’€™t putting our best foot forward towards winning. … There were some things that did concern me. Teams normally as the season progresses, there are events that make you care about each other, and this club, it didn’€™t always happen as much as I wanted it to. And I was frustrated by that.”

Now, his future is up in the air as he and the Sox mull what is best for both sides going forward.

If Terry Francona is out, Bill Belichick has his back

Friday, September 30th, 2011

FOXBORO — As reports were surfacing Friday morning at a breakneck pace on the expected departure of Terry Francona from the Red Sox, Patriots coach Bill Belichick reiterated his respect for the man who helped end the 86-year World Series title drought in Boston.

“Yeah, Terry and I are good friends,” Belichick said of Francona’s reported impending departure. “I didn’€™t realize that that had happened. But great manager, I’€™m sure that there are a lot of people in baseball that would like to have his record, including the championships. I’€™ll certainly miss his presence in this area. I’€™m sure we’€™ll be friends and still talk and see each other and so forth.”

Belichick, who owns a home in Palm Beach, Fla., would often take time out in March to travel across the state and visit Francona during spring training in Fort Myers.

“That’€™s disappointing, you know, on a personal level because I like Terry. As I said, he’€™s certainly had a great record as the manager of the Red Sox. Whatever it was, a hundred and some years without any championships and then they win two of them. That speaks for itself right there.

Belichick said he plans to reach out to Francona, when and if the announcement becomes official but would not reveal what he would say to him.

“Any conversations I have, those are private conversations,” Belichick said. “They’€™re not public.”

Potential Red Sox managerial candidates to succeed Terry Francona

Friday, September 30th, 2011

UPDATE: The Red Sox and Terry Francona have agreed to part ways with the team not picking up the two-year option on the manager’s contract.

While one might assume that Boston would look to hire a veteran major league manager with a background of success, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have hired one manager with no MLB experience (Grady Little, who was hired one year before Theo Epstein became GM) and another with a losing record (Francona). When Francona was hired, he was selected over Joe Maddon, who did not have any big league managerial experience at the time, while other candidates (DeMarlo Hale, Glenn Hoffman and Bud Black – the latter of whom declined to be interviewed) had never managed in the big leagues.

It is clear, then, that track record is not necessarily the most important thing to Boston’s front office.

Here are are some possible candidates to inherit the reins from Francona.

Dave Martinez ‘€” The bench coach for the Rays, Martinez played for nine MLB teams between 1986 and 2001. Considered one of the better defensive outfielders in the game during his career, Martinez was amongst the league leaders in assists and fielding percentage several times in his career. He was hired by Tampa Bay as bench coach in 2007.

DeMarlo Hale ‘€” As the Red Sox bench coach for the past two years, Hale would be the most logical in-house hire. Hale has managerial experience at the minor league level. He was named Minor League Manager of the Year by several publications in 1999 when he led the Double-A Trenton Thunder to a 92-50 record. Hale received interest from several MLB teams in the 2010 offseason as a possible managerial candidate.

Ryne Sandberg ‘€” A Hall of Famer, Sandberg is the manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Spending nearly his entire 16-year career with the Cubs, Sandberg posted a .989 career fielding percentage, first all-time among second basemen. He was a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove candidate.

After spending most of his minor league managerial career with the Cubs organization, Sandberg moved to the IronPigs in 2010 when he did not receive the Cubs’ managerial job following Lou Pinella’s retirement. He interviewed with the Red Sox for the job of manager at Triple-A Pawtucket last year, but accepted the Lehigh Valley job before the Sox had made a decision about a managerial post that went to Arnie Beyeler, who had spent the previous years managing in Double-A Portland.

Torey Lovullo ‘€” The first base coach of the Blue Jays, Lovullo spent time in the Red Sox organization as manager of Triple-A Pawtucket during the 2010 season. Lovullo has been interviewing for managing jobs since 2006, when the Dodgers considered him for their open manager spot. He was also a candidate for the Pirates’ job in 2007, but it went to John Russell.

Bobby Valentine ‘€” Perhaps the most high-profile candidate, Valentine is a baseball analyst for ESPN. Valentine, of course, would bring plenty of managerial experience. He managed the Rangers from 1985-92, then took over as manager for the Mets from 1996- 2002. Valentine led the Mets to the NLCS in 1999 before taking them to the World Series in 2000, when they lost to the Yankees in the Subway Series. After two subpar seasons, Valentine was fired in 2002. He went on to manage in Japan before landing at ESPN in 2009.

Tim Bogar ‘€” The third base coach for the Red Sox, Bogar should be able to make the transition to manager smoothly. Bogar has experience as manager in the minors. He was named Best Manager Prospect in the Eastern League in 2006. The Red Sox hired Bogar in 2008 as first base coach, and he moved to third in 2009.

John Gibbons ‘€” Gibbons was the manager of the Blue Jays from 2004-08. During his time in Toronto, Gibbons was known for his feuds with players such as Shea Hillenbrand and Frank Thomas. He was fired in the middle of the 2008 season. Gibbons was then hired for his current position as bench coach of the Royals in October of 2008. Gibbons does have a connection with the Boston area, as his mother is from Gloucester.

Regret is the hardest word for Theo Epstein and Terry Francona

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Regret is the hardest word in sports.

And on Thursday both Theo Epstein and Terry Francona — in likely his last press conference as Red Sox manager — expressed regret for the way the 2011 Red Sox season ended.

In the last week of the season, Dustin Pedroia announced that he would have no regrets — playoffs or not, collapse or not — about the way he went about his job.

“I know I’m going to play my [butt] off and give it everything I have,” Pedroia said, as the Rays drew closer and closer entering the final weekend.

So when disaster finally struck 15 minutes before midnight on Wednesday, the question was only natural, what were the regrets of Epstein and Francona?

“I have regrets because we had a big lead but we did sense that things weren’t right,” Epstein said. “A lot of things went wrong and a lot of things had to go wrong for us to blow the lead but they did. I don’t think any of them were completely unforeseen. We tried different things. I know Tito talked about his meeting in Toronto. I actually addressed the team later on in the month before a game. We redoubled our efforts off the field in the front office.

“There were things we could do, watching games over, looking at charts or seeing if there were little tidbits we could offer players or the coaching staff.”

Francona even acknowledged a last-ditch effort in September to reach the team AFTER a 14-0 win in Toronto, when he saw the clubhouse getting away.

“Tito was trying anything he could do to reach the team,” Epstein said. “So, the bottom line is we didn’t, we didn’t find a way to stop the slide. But bigger picture, sure there are plenty of regrets. There was a lot of talent in that clubhouse and we didn’t get results commensurate with that talent. Just from a straight player personnel standpoint, I could’ve made several decisions differently that would’ve impacted us differently that would have given us an even bigger lead along the way so that we wouldn’t have had to worry about having a month like September.

“Sure there are regrets. I don’t specifically right now that there is any one thing we could have done but I’m sure it’ll come to us over time. But because we didn’t get the results we wants, though we identified some issues, yeah, we have to live with regret.”

As for Francona himself, he admitted frustration but not regret.

“I talked all along about being consistent and there’s a fine line between being stubborn and being consistent,” Francona said. “As things were starting to not go our way, I just continually wanted to put our players in a position that they were accustomed to and they could succeed in. Sometimes that’s hard.

“You start changing the batting order. I think there were times we started changing the batting order out of necessity, especially when we lost Youk. Tried at times to protect Bard and use him as much as we could, tried to use Aceves as much as we could without overusing him. I regret the way the month turned out but I don’t regret the way we worked at and kept plugging away. We spent too much time and were too prepared. Not a lot things worked out too well. I can live with myself on the intensity and the work we put in.”

Epstein: Red Sox failed conditioning test

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

In recent weeks, there had been suggestions that a number of Red Sox players failed to make a proper commitment to their conditioning. On Thursday, without naming any individuals, GM Theo Epstein acknowledged that some of his players did indeed fail to meet the team’s expectations for the physical shape in which they kept themselves.

Certainly, the issue became a bit more of a talking point given that the Sox had a number of players who started the year well but then faded down the stretch. But while Epstein said that inadequate conditioning was not the sole issue that the team faced, it was an area that he targeted (as part of the team’s emphasis on achieving better health) for potential improvement.

“I think we have high standards in that area and in other areas. I can’€™t sit here and say those standards have been met across the board,” said Epstein. “I’€™m not going to lump everyone in together. But I’€™ll say there are certain instances where we can and have to do better. It will be addressed. Some of the things [manager Terry Francona] was alluding to earlier, about the way the clubhouse evolved ‘€” and I’€™m not throwing this all exclusively on the players because I have a ton of respect for almost everyone down there and the leadership a lot of them showed ‘€” but the way the clubhouse culture has evolved, and this falls on me ultimately as the general manager, we need to be more accountable.

“If we require our players to be in first-class physical condition and look out across the field and we want to be in better shape and better condition than our opponents, if that’€™s not happening consistently one through 25 on the roster, then that’€™s a problem, and we need to get it addressed,” Epstein added. “If we’€™re not better prepared than the other team one through 25 when it’€™s game time, then that’€™s a problem and it has to be addressed. If we’€™re not doing the little things on the field, playing fundamentally better than the other team one through 25, then that’€™s a problem. It all falls on me as the general manager to fix that.

“In some small ways, we’€™ve gotten away a little bit from our ideal, what we want to be on the field and off the field. It’€™s our responsibility to fix it. There’€™s nothing good that comes from this September collapse at all. But if there’s one silver lining, when you do make the playoffs and you can fall back on a track record of success, there’€™s a tendency to look past certain things that might not be exactly the way that you want them. But when you go through what we just went through, you can’€™t look past anything. You have to take a hard look at every aspect of the organization, one’€™s self included, and ask, ‘€˜Is this exactly the way we want it to be? If everything is going right for the Red Sox, if we’€™re exactly who we want to be, is this element of the organization functioning the way we want it to?’€™

“If the answer’€™s no, then we have to go out and fix it. And that’€™s going to be a very difficult, very painful, painstaking, thorough process but the bottom line is we failed.”

The free agent question: David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, John Lackey, Carl Crawford and Red Sox decision-making

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

General manager Theo Epstein discussed four players at some length on Thursday afternoon, two of whom have been longtime cornerstones of the Red Sox, and two of whom have been costly free agent signees who have performed dramatically below their expectations.

Designated hitter David Ortiz and closer Jonathan Papelbon represent the two most prominent members of the Red Sox who will be eligible for free agency come November. Ortiz is the defining icon of the Red Sox’ success of last decade, a middle-of-the-lineup force for the World Series champions in 2004 and 2007. For the first time since signing with the Red Sox after the 2002 season, Ortiz (who twice signed multi-year deals with the Sox before reaching free agency) will be able to test the open market, coming off a season in which, at age 35, he hit .309 with a .398 OBP, .554 slugging mark and .953 OPS with 29 homers and 96 RBI.

Papelbon, meanwhile, was a dominant force for the Sox in their march to a title in 2007. The four-time All-Star, who has a Red Sox team record 219 saves, converted 31 of 34 save opportunities in 2011 for the Sox while forging a 2.94 ERA and striking out 87 and walking just 10 in 64 1/3 innings.

Epstein praised both free agents, and said that the Sox would like to retain both of them.

‘€œI can’€™t say too much about that now expect the general and the obvious. We’€™d love to have both guys back, if there’€™s a way to do that,” Epstein said. “They’€™ve been huge contributors here not only on the field but as leaders. David’€™s been that way for a long time, been the face of the franchise and an instrumental figure in our clubhouse. I actually told Pap earlier today I think he took his overall game to a new level this year, not just on the field but again demonstrating some leadership capabilities.

“There was a time earlier in his career that I never thought I’€™d say that about Pap. He really matured, he grew up as a Red Sox and I was proud of him the way he took that next step to lead by example a little bit. We’€™d love to keep those guys if we could.”

While those two players prepare to enter free agency and could end up leaving the Sox, Epstein also offered a stark assessment about the organization’s need to get more from a pair of players whom it signed to huge free-agent deals in Lackey and Crawford. (more…)

Francona, Epstein leave questions about their Red Sox futures unanswered

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

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Red Sox manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein both declined to respond directly to questions about whether they would be — or wanted to be — back with the organization in 2012.

Francona is at the end of a three-year contract, with the club having 10 days to decide whether to exercise a two-year option to keep him in the Boston dugout through 2013. Epstein has a year remaining on the contract he signed after the 2008 season.

Epstein said that the team has just commenced its conversations about the offseason, and who the right people are for the right roles. He applied that blanket statement to the entirety of the baseball operations department, including himself, Francona and the Red Sox coaching staff.

As such, less than 24 hours after the Sox suffered a crushing defeat that ended their season in Baltimore, he said that he and Francona have started the process of what the future holds for all members of the organization. While he could not offer any clarification about the manager’s future, Epstein did so that he would not be deemed the solely responsible party for the team’s collapse.

“Tito and I spent some time talking today, just kind of catching up about the season and talking about what the next few days will look like. We’€™re gonna get together, all of ownership and [CEO Larry Lucchino] and I and Tito over the next several days and talk about the season and talk about the future,” said Epstein. “I think we’€™re less than 24 hours removed from the end of the season so we need to calm down, get objective, and look at ourselves, look at 2011, look ahead and make the best decisions for everybody.

“I can’€™t answer that question without saying that we’€™ve already talked about it, [principal owner John Henry], [chairman Tom Werner], [Lucchino] and I and nobody blames what happened in September on Tito. That would be totally irresponsible and totally short-sighted and wouldn’€™t recognize everything he means to the organization and to all our successes, including, at times, in 2011,” he added. “So we take full responsibility for what happened, all of us. Collectively it was a failure.

“I’€™m the general manager so I take more responsibility than anybody. I don’€™t think we believe in ‘€“ I know we don’€™t believe in scapegoats. In particular, no one blames Tito for what happened in September. Look, we all failed collectively. Kind of failed collectively in this one and we have to live with that. We’€™re not going to pointing the fingers at any one person in particular. We’€™re going to be identifying issues, finding ways to address those issues and in some cases, sure, getting the right people to address those issues. But it’€™s going to be issues-based. There’€™s plenty to fix.”

For his part, Francona suggested that the conversations about his future in the organization were ongoing, and that he wasn’t prepared to address his future, including the question of whether he wanted to remain the manager of the Sox.

“Theo and I talked today a little bit, and we’€™ll continue to talk tomorrow,” said Francona. “It’€™s still pretty fresh and pretty raw. It’€™s a fair question, but I’€™d rather stay with the other stuff [assessing what happened to the team] today if that’€™s OK. It’€™s a fair question.”

Francona did allow that it was an extremely challenging season, one in which he had enough concerns about his clubhouse that he called a rare team meeting after a 14-0 win in Toronto on Sept. 6, when the Sox were still eight games up in the standings, in an effort to try to focus the team on winning. He suggested that the 2011 Sox did not appear to pull together as the season progressed, perhaps contributing to the groundwork for the season’s dissolution.

“There were some things I was worried about. We were spending too much energy on things that weren’€™t putting our best foot forward towards winning,” said Francona. “We spent a few minutes in the clubhouse that day talking about that. There were some things that did concern me. Teams normally as the season progresses, there are events that make you care about each other, and this club, it didn’€™t always happen as much as I wanted it to. And I was frustrated by that.”

Epstein also suggested that decisions about the coaching staff remained unresolved, an unsurprising development given that Francona’s future has not yet been defined formally.

“I think, to throw that into the same boat, as with Tito, it’€™s just too early. It’€™s less than 24 hours and we need time to sleep on things, settle down, talk amongst ourselves and have an orderly process,” said Epstein. “The coaches gave a big effort. They worked really hard at this to help get things right and they were a good part of our success when things were going well. And as for our failure at the end, that was collective. We all have to own that, every single one of us. I have a lot of respect for the coaches and I think for the most part they did a great job.’€

As for Epstein’s own future, given reports of his potential interest in a job with the Cubs, Epstein again responded indirectly.

“That’€™s just speculation [about his potential interest in another club],” said Epstein. “I’€™ll throw myself in the same boat as Tito and the coaches. It’€™s just 24 hours, less than 24 hours, after the last game. We’€™re all going to get together with ownership and discuss everything. I think the process we’€™re going to undertake is to continue to identify all the issues that need addressing, taking a hard look at ourselves and seeing if we’€™re the people to address them.

“I believe in a lot of people in this organization, including Tito, including myself. When we’€™re at our best, I think this is the best organization in baseball. This year, we weren’€™t at our best. I think I can say that about myself. Tito and I talked about it, I think he’€™d probably say the same thing about himself. I think it touches on a lot of people. Colletively, we were not our best. We need to identify the issues, sit down, identify a plan and execute it to fix it.”