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Francona, Epstein leave questions about their Red Sox futures unanswered

09.29.11 at 5:45 pm ET
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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.”

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