Results tagged ‘ Terry Francona ’

Ortiz gears up for first reunion with Tito

When the Red Sox played Terry Francona’s Indians in Cleveland from April 16-18, slugger David Ortiz was still in the final stages of his Minor League rehab.

On Thursday night at Fenway, Ortiz will stand in the batters box against Francona for the first time since they parted ways at the end of the 2011 season.

“I mean, yeah, it’s definitely going to bring memories back,” Ortiz said. “I was with Tito for eight years. He’s a good dude. He did a lot of good things. I learned a lot of things from him. It’s going to be a little weird just watching him from the other side. It is what it is, right?”

Ortiz and Francona experienced a lot of success together, winning two World Series championships together, most memorably the one in 2004 that included the comeback from 3-0 down in the best-of-seven ALCS against the Yankees.

“It was weird watching him on ESPN at the beginning until you get used to it,” Ortiz said. “So now you watch him on the other side and it will feel weird for a couple of series. At some point, it will be pretty  normal.”

 

Catching up with Tito

Obviously the circumstances weren’t ideal for Terry Francona’s reunion with the Red Sox. Boston was devastated by tragedy on Monday, with three people getting killed and more than 100 injured by multiple bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Here is a look at what Francona said to the media before today’s game.

Obviously Francona has roots in Boston, where he lived year-round for most of his eight years as Red Sox manager.

“I’m not sure you have to have roots in Boston to care about that,” Francona said. “Obviously I do, as you guys do, too. It just seems when you turn the TV on, it’s hard for everybody. Whether it’s personal or not, it seems like it gets personal. You turn on the TV and you hear left wing, right wing. I wish there were no wings. I just wish people would get along. I don’t understand it and I don’t pretend to. I hope there are people way smarter than me who are somehow, some day able to figure this out, so stuff like this doesn’t happen. It’s hard enough being an adult. You can imagine being a little kid growing up now? It’s hard. It just makes you feel bad.Can baseball help heal people during a tough time?

“I hope so. That would be terrific. If it helps anybody at all, that would be terrific. I think that is the case. Just from being there the time I was, that day is so special to people in Boston. They’re so proud of that day. You have the Marathon, the game, it’s a big deal. It’s kind of a personal day for the city of Boston, shoot, and New England. There’s no way, I don’t know how you quantify what happens. It’s unfair. I just hope maybe this game does help some people.”

How did Francona hear about the news?

“I was here at the ballpark and one of my daughters, I saw I had a bunch of missed calls, so I called her back. That’s how I knew.”

When did he realize the magnitude of it?

“I couldn’t get to anything right away. I was tied up for a while. Then I went and turned the TV on and saw right where it was. It’s personal for just about everybody. Some of those views, you can see the church my daughter got married in. It’s very unsettling, for everybody,” Francona said.

How about playing the Red Sox for the first time?

“It’s OK. Just being as honest as I can, I had a year removed. We’re not in Boston. I had mostly eight really good years. I don’t think I’d have scripted the way it ended, but sometimes it’s time to move on. I’m really happy where I’m at here. I think it’s unfair to the players for me to have a nostalgia week. Our job is to beat them, and it is them. It doesn’t take away anything, the people I’m close to there, there’s a lot of them. I like where I’m at. I think they like where they’re at. Everything’s pretty good. I do think it will be harder when we go to Boston for me.”

How does Francona think Boston will react to the recent events?

“I really don’t know. I don’t know how anybody could answer that. I imagine they’ll be very resilient. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Did Francona have time to see his old buddy, Dustin Pedroia?

“I went out and saw him for a minute, me and [former Sox catcher Kevin Cash]. He didn’t get any better looking. Neither did I.

Francona on John Farrell?

“It’s hard when the season starts. You get tunnel vision. But the day he got hired, I said the glass became half full, and I still believe that. I hope for the next three days everything that could go wrong does for them. But he’s one of my best friends, not just in baseball, but in life. They got a good hire.”

The Indians come to Boston May 23-26. That should be a far more emotional time for Francona.

On Tuesday night, 11 of the 25 players on Boston’s roster played for Francona during his time in Boston. They are: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross, Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Add in three players on the DL (David Ortiz, John Lackey and Franklin Morales) and there are 14 Francona holdovers left.

Tito insightful, candid at Winter Meetings

Indians manager — yes, it still sounds a little weird to call him that — Terry Francona held court at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday in a media session that lasted nearly a half hour.

Francona spoke in-depth about his new challenges with the Indians while looking back fondly at his time in Boston, and sounding more at peace with how things ended with the Red Sox than he did a year ago.

Here is a sampling:

The swing of emotions from September of 2011 to a year as an ESPN commentator to, now, the manager of the Indians:  “Uneven.  A little bit of a roller coaster.  I think you go back to September of ’11, and that was tough, man.  I don’t care what city you’re in.  When you go 7 and whatever, 20, if you’re the manager, you’re wide open for criticism.  That’s just the way it is. And the way things ended was difficult.  I thought stepping back was probably a smart thing.  It’s not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to tell yourself you need to do that, but it was, I think, really healthy for me.  I know I get back into it now feeling like I’m better prepared to do the job correctly because it’s got to be almost 24 hours a day to do it right, at least I think so.  I was pretty beaten up by the end of that last year.”

Now on the other market of the small market/big market race, and losing out on Victorino to the Red Sox. “[Jerks],” quipped Francona. “You know what, it’s kind of hard to fault a guy like Shane Victorino for going to Boston.  When guys get to be a free agent, they earn that right to go wherever they want, and it’s a great baseball town. Again, I have a lot of respect for him and the way he went about his decision.  So it’s kind of hard to fault somebody for that.”

Difference in managing the Indians and the Red Sox? “When I took the job in Boston, the expectations were win or go home.  I remember being very thankful that Dave Roberts was safe.  I probably would have gone home.  This is a little different now.  We’re younger.  We’re not in the same position.  But our expectations, at least in my opinion, are still the same.  We’re supposed to try to win.  So Chris and I and all the guys are trying to put together the best roster we can, and when it’s time to put a uniform on, that’s when I get really excited, and we try to have our guys play the game correctly.”

People were surprised you took the Indians job? “First of all, people may not have known me as well as they thought they did, and the hurdle don’t scare me.  I know they’re there, the challenges, but I wanted to do it with a group of people where I knew I’d be comfortable, and I wanted to be part of the solution.  I didn’t want to be like a quick fix.  When Chris and I talked, it became evident to me real quick ‑‑ again, I was either going to take this job or not this year.  And I’m very comfortable with where I’m at.  Again, having a challenge isn’t bad.  Trying to find a way to tackle them is actually pretty exciting. And I’m not delusional.  We have challenges.  We have some things we’ve got to overcome, but trying to do that, I’m looking forward to it.”

What about the staff John Farrell has put together in Boston? “I want to be careful on rating everything that Boston does.  That’s not my job anymore.  I’m a manager of another team.  I think, being totally honest, I think Boston’s biggest weakness is their manager,” Francona said to a chorus of laughs.  “I want to kind of stay away from that.  I don’t need to rate everything John does.  That’s not going to work.”

Your upcoming book with the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy: “I don’t know.  I hope people want to buy it.”

Do you expect fallout? “Fallout?  I hope people buy it.  I spent a lot of time.  No, I think it’s more ‑‑ it’s eight years of a lot of funny, some emotional, a couple sad things.  I think Dan busted his rear end on this thing. The fact that, first of all, me and him were together doing it was a shock to me. First time I picked him up, I told him, you have to blackout the windows because I don’t want people to see you driving me around.  It ended up being probably ‑‑ I had a year where I could do it because under normal circumstances, you can’t do it.  And it ended up being kind of fun. I think, for the most part, if somebody ends up being bent out of shape, that was not ever the intent.  It was just to kind of tell the story, and I hope that people take it that way because I think it’s a really good story.”

Did you gain perspective on managing in your year away?  “It’s hard to sit and just say, I should have put a hit and run on on April 13th or something like that.  But in our game, the communication is so important, and if you get away from that at all, that can ‑‑ again, your talent level, if you don’t have enough talent, it’s going to get exposed at some point during a long season, but as a manager, if you have get your guys to play to most of their ability more often, you’re doing your job right.”

More at peace now with your departure from Boston? “You know what, I never had a problem.  I think it’s a little bit of a misrepresentation.  If you really think about it, it wasn’t like all of September me and you guys were feuding.  We had a really tough September.  It was a rough, uphill battle for us.  We were leaking oil like every day, but our biggest concern was to trying to get to the playoffs. We didn’t deal with any of those issues until after the season.  So it was kind of weird.  I didn’t have a chance to like sit back and think about not having that job.  Two days later, I was defending myself.  So it was hurtful.  And where it went from there was disappointing, but time does have a way of ‑‑ I don’t want to go through life being ‑‑ I don’t know if vindictive is the right word.  I don’t know if that’s healthy. I have too many people there that are too special.  I was disappointed with the way it ended, and I’ll probably always feel that way, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great seven years and five months.”

Coming back to Fenway for the 100th anniversary: “I was conflicted.  I’ll be pretty honest about it.  I wasn’t planning on doing it.  I talked to some people who told me maybe I was a being a little too self‑centered.  I wasn’t too thrilled about that.  I was glad to be there, and I was glad to leave.  But I’ve never felt like ‑‑ besides that one guy in the third row that used to scream at me, I thought Boston ‑‑ it’s a wonderful place.  If you care about baseball, it’s a wonderful place.  Sometimes things happen in that city.  You can’t have all that good without having some of the bad, and I got caught up in it.”

Gain additional perspective on managing while working in the broadcast booth? “I hate to say this.  I hope it makes me more respectful to the media’s job.  Not you personally.  Actually, it was a great learning year.  One, you’re looking at a game not emotionally because, when the season starts, I don’t care what manager you talk to, you have no ability to view the game without emotion.  When you lose, you’re beat up personally.  You take it personally.  Whether you have enough talent or not, you try to make it work.  I also got to see what goes into putting that game on.  I used to think those guys showed up and did the game, and it was a lot of work, but I learned a lot, and I was with people that were unbelievably good to me.  So it was a great year. I just missed being on the field a lot, and that’s not a bad thing.  I was kind of hoping I would.  But I had a wonderful year.”

Crawford sits, Valentine explains, Tito reunites

It was a bizarre Saturday afternoon in the Red Sox clubhouse. ESPN color commentator Terry Francona held court with roughly a half dozen Red Sox players near Dustin Pedroia’s locker. As Francona initially sat down with just Cody Ross, Pedroia sidled up to him. Next thing you know, there were six or seven players (from Clay Buchholz to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Nick Punto to David Ortiz) having a grand old time with Francona, which presented a semi-awkward scene for current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. By the way, Valentine didn’t see the scene as it was happening, but was told about it after the fact.

But before you know it, things got even stranger. When asked why Carl Crawford wasn’t in the lineup on Saturday, Valentine said it was part of a four-day plan mandated by the training staff. Crawford shouldn’t play more than four days, or games, in a row. Of course, Valentine broke his own rule when Crawford initially came back, playing him six days in a row.

Valentine was candid about the fact he blew off this plan earlier this month, when he wound up playing Crawford six days in a row when he came off the disabled list.

“Actually, I did a manager no-no thing and went against what I was told to do. Never to be done again,” Valentine said. “They told me before that game that he wasn’t playing, and I kind of did the old veto power. ‘Who says he’s not playing?’ And I played him.”

Crawford has a strained UCL in his left elbow and is all but certain to undergo Tommy John ligament transfer surgery before the start of the 2013 season.

The Red Sox actually had a day off on Thursday, which meant Valentine had the leeway to play him on Saturday. But the Red Sox are facing three straight righties beginning on Sunday, so Valentine felt it would be more beneficial to have him in the lineup for those games.

“My understanding is that I got today off and I know the medical people want me to get rest,” Crawford said. “I’m not really sure what’s the program on it. I guess that’s the way it is right now. I came here ready to play, like I always do. I found out this morning I wasn’t playing. That’s it, pretty much. Could I play? Yeah, I could play today. Like I say, they’re following that method right there. I’m just going along with the way things are.”

It is a unique situation for everyone involved – particularly Valentine.

“I’d like to have Carl every day,” said Valentine. “I’d like to have all my good players every day, but I understand the situation better now than I did then.”

Crawford was on the bench Saturday, despite his .319 career average against CC Sabathia.

Catching up with Papelbon

While David Ortiz was the only Red Sox All-Star this season, there was a familiar face in the room during the availability for National League All-Stars on Monday afternoon.

Jonathan Papelbon, a four-time All-Star with Boston, was back on the big stage again, this time for the Philadelphia Phillies.

As was always the case during his years with the Red Sox, Papelbon had plenty to say on a variety of subjects.

Has Papelbon’s newfound wealth changed him? “It hasn’t changed my life at all. I’m good, man. I bought two four-wheelers for hunting camp. That’s about it, man. I went from a Back Bay penthouse to a Renthouse Square penthouse. That’s about it, man. When it’s all said and done, man, I’m easy breezy. I mean, the contract for me, it never real was about money. I’ve said this from the beginning. If it was about money for me, I would have tried to stay and start.

“It was a pride thing for me. It was a thing that I felt like, what can I do to go enjoy myself every day man. But the contract for me and wanting to go year to year like I did, and into the free agency like I did, was, I think, more just the competitive thing for me. Like, I’m going to try to be the best on the field and if I can be best on the field, why not be the best off the field? You know what I mean? It’s just kind of the way I tick.”

Papelbon hasn’t lost any motivation just because he has financial security, right? “No, man, I’m always ready to go, ready to rock. I think, when that starts happening, you really have to ask yourself: should I keep playing this game? When your work ethic changes and you start getting lazy and stuff like that … I’m one of those guys, I don’t do anything [less than full speed]. That’s just what I do.”

It would have been tough for Papelbon to stay in Boston without the only manager he ever had there — Terry Francona. “Yeah. I truly do believe that. Tito told me how to play big league baseball. I tell you what, that [guy ripped into me] sometimes. He did. But a lot of times also, he picked me up when I was falling down. He told me the ins and outs of how to prepare, how to be successful, how to succeed. He told me something one day when I was a rookie, he said, I had Michael Jordan in Birmingham and he said, you’ve got to learn how to fail before you succeed. And man, something just clicked in my head.

“It’s things like that, when I was a young kid coming up, everything, from the first Spring Training I had in Baltimore, sitting down with me and explaining how it works and how to be successful and everything. He was like a father figure to me sometimes. A to Z, to go from having him for a manager from ’05 to 2011, it’s just, him being gone, that wouldn’t have been easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for Dustin [Pedroia], and I don’t think it’s easy for anyone in that clubhouse. There are adjustments you have to make. “

Was Papelbon gone pretty much the moment Tito left? “I’d say it pretty much closed the door, yeah. Not 100 percent but I wasn’t going to go there and not know what manager I was going to playing for. Even when Philadelphia showed interest in me, I asked around about Charlie, you know, because I think as manager has a lot to do with the way a player ticks and a way a player can go. It did – it had a whole lot. And then Theo bounces, ding, ding, ding, lightbulb went off in my head and I say to myself, Theo bounces, he created all of this. He wouldn’t just leave this behind if … so the wheels started turning.”

How weird would it have been to stay under the new regime? “I think it would be. I don’t think that would be an experience that I could really handle too well.”

The Red Sox never made an offer. “They wanted to see if I could go out and test the market and maybe come back. I don’t know if they would [have countered], but I don’t go back. I go forward.   go full steam ahead, man. I don’t look back. I’ve got a car that don’t have rearview mirrors in it, man. I just go.”

Charlie Manuel reminds Papelbon of Francona. “Charlie’s a really good manager. Charlie’s very similar to Tito. Charlie gets on you when he needs to get on you and lets you be who you need to be.”

Papelbon is thrilled for his close friend and former teammate David Ortiz. “I was saying that earlier. I’m excited for him, I’m happy for him. I mean, I think sometimes he gets his feelings get in the way but that’s Papi, man. Papi, he gets a little emotionally fired up sometimes. You guys know. I mean, I’m happy for him. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Lack of security for Ortiz, similar to Papelbon’s final years in Boston? “I think it fuels him. He just talks about it a little bit more. David, he’s an emotional guy. He puts his heart and soul into this. I find nothing wrong with what David says. I don’t find … you’ve got a small window, bro. a small window to try to succeed. And what David said and what he’s trying to do, I don’t find nothing wrong with that. no, it don’t surprise me, man.”

“Like I said, you have a small window to do your thing in this game. I’m so happy for him, man.”

Should the Red Sox weigh in intangibles more for a player like Ortiz? “Yeah, I think they should weigh it in. you’re talking about, in my opinion, the Red Sox are not the Red Sox without him, period. I don’t care what he asks for. I’m trying to make that big man happy.”

Papelbon is well aware that his former bullpen mate Daniel Bard, who is now in Triple-A, is having a rough time of it.  “I have. I haven’t talked to him. I’ve been meaning to actually talk to him here lately but, you know, Daniel’s the kind of guy, he’s a mature athlete and he knows what it’s about. He’s going to be fine. I really do think he’s going to be fine. He’s taking some bumps and some bruises right now but who doesn’t. You’re not in the big leagues if you’re not taking bumps and bruises. I took my bumps and bruises in 2010. You’re going to take some bumps and bruises. I think he’ll become better.”

Papelbon thinks Bard will be OK.  “He’s a pretty mentally strong kid. He really is. I saw that in the bullpen. I saw the days he got beat up and the way he  came back. I saw him have success the way he handled that. I think he’ll be fine.”

Tito’s change of heart pleases players

For all Terry Francona did during his time as manager of the Red Sox, the one thing he never got was closure. He remains a popular figure among the fans, even after last September’s 7-20 collapse.

On Friday, during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, the fans will get their chance to give Francona a standing ovation. Originally, Francona indicated he wouldn’t participate in the pre-game ceremony, in which several key figures of the team’s history will be in attendance.

“I think it’s great.,” said Dustin Pedroia. “I’m excited to see him. I’m sure everybody else is. I’m sure the fans will enjoy it. It’s a pretty big thing we’re doing here for the 100th year and he’s a huge part of this organization.”

The ovation will probably be one of the loudest of the day.

“I hope so,” Pedroia said. “There’s not a manager to do what he’s done here. He was pretty important to this organization for a long period of time so I’m sure the fans will be excited to see him.”

“I think that’s good.That’s a tough personal decision for him the way things ended here for him a few months ago. But he’s such a big part of the recent history of the team and the ballpark. I think it’s only appropriate that he’s here,” said Daniel Bard

‘Tek tributes

Tremendous job by the Red Sox PR staff getting quotes from impactful voices near and far on the career of Jason Varitek.

Without further ado:

“Tek epitomizes what a true professional should be. He’s been a great teammate, but more importantly he’s been a better friend. The way he prepared and led the Boston Red Sox over the last 15 years has been an inspiration to all who have watched.  Although his leadership will be missed, his legacy in Red Sox history will be forged forever. It has been a true honor to have played with him for this long and I wish him nothing but the best as he starts a new chapter in his life. Congratulations Tek on an unbelievable career. I’m glad we’ve been able to share a lot of great memories together.” — – Tim Wakefield, Red Sox teammate from 1997-2011

“Ever since I’ve known him, dating back to being his teammate in college, he has been a tireless worker. His preparation and endless work ethic has made him a true champion. He is a great player, great teammate, great friend and even a better man. Thanks Tek for all you have taught me.” – Nomar Garciaparra, Red Sox teammate from 1997-2004, Georgia Tech teammate from 1992-94, current ESPN analyst

“It’s tough to see Tek go. He was a class act in the clubhouse, a leader on that team. He epitomizes what a captain is all about. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to play with him, I never saw someone worked harder. We all loved him, he was a quiet leader, but when something needed to be said he said it.” – Trot Nixon, Red Sox teammate from 1998-2006.

“I want to congratulate Jason Varitek, a.k.a “Johnny Unitas fl at-top hair cut” on a remarkable career and mostly for being part of the fi rst World Series in 2004 with Sox Nation. It seems like yesterday we were in our hotel rooms on the road hitting with a pizza box going over our stances in our underwear during our struggles offensively. But above all, he’s a true professional, a true teammate and, best yet, an even better person. I wish him much success in the up and coming real world and we’ll see you soon with powder and an ear piece on TV.” – Kevin Millar, Red Sox teammate from 2003-05, current MLB Network analyst.

“In my 23 years of professional baseball I never played with or against a more selfless and prepared player than Jason Varitek. The ultimate team player, never hesitating to forgo personal success for the greater good, I’m proud to call him a friend and former teammate. I wish him God’s blessing and much happiness in wherever life takes him from here, he’s certainly earned it.” – Curt Schilling, Red Sox teammate from 2004-07, current ESPN analyst.

“Tek was a rare player. His first care was that his teammates succeeded even before himself. I have never seen a player so prepared for every game, even if he wasn’t playing. I learned a lot from him just by watching. I am glad to have been his teammate. Thanks for all you have done for the game Tek.” – Mike Timlin, Red Sox teammate from 2003-08

“He’s a true professional and was always the most prepared. He taught me how to be a leader and showed me how to be a champion. He should be a Red Sox Hall of Famer and it was a honor and a pleasure to have been his teammate and a huge fan of his since our high school days in Central Florida. I wish him all the best in the future.” – Johnny Damon, Red Sox teammate from 2002-05.

“Tek was hands down one of the best teammates I ever had. I have never come across someone who would prepare for the game more thoroughly than him. His dedication to his craft, and work ethic, were always qualities that I admired, and he was a true captain in every sense of the word. I wish him nothing but the best” – Mike Lowell, Red Sox teammate from 2006-10.

“Congrats on a Hall of Fame career. I will always cherish our championship memories together. He showed me how to be a Major League Baseball player with honesty, hard work and integrity without ever having to say one word and I am forever thankful for having him as a captain and teammate.” – Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox teammate from 2005-11, current Phillies pitcher

“Jason is the consummate professional and teammate, he never waivers on who he is. He was a selfless leader and example for the entire team. He always cared about all 25 guys in the clubhouse and should serve as a role model for all baseball players present  and future.” – Bill Mueller, Red Sox teammate from 2003-05.

“Jason is a perfect example of what I think Red Sox baseball is all about: tough, gritty, passionate and most importantly, loyal. He has had an incredible run and was one of the biggest reasons why the Red Sox raised the Championship fl ags in ’04 and ’07. I can’t wait until he joins us in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, it will be a well deserved honor. He was a great teammate, a great friend, and a great professional. He should hold his head high and be proud of what he accomplished. Proud like the organization he spent 15 years with, proud like his teammates, and of course, proud like the greatest fans in all of baseball, Red Sox Nation! Congratulations Tek on a special career!” – John Valentin, Red Sox teammate from 1997-2001.

“He made himself with hard work into greatness. Fitting he led the Sox to two World Series championships. Couldn’t have happened to a better man.” – Mo Vaughn, Red Sox teammate from 1997-98.

“I have great respect for Jason’s 15-year career. I want to thank him for the great memories during my time with the Red Sox. I hope to see him pass down his wealth of knowledge to the younger generation.” – Hideo Nomo, Red Sox teammate in 2001, threw no-hitter to Varitek on 4/4/01

“He’s one of the hardest workers that I’ve ever seen at that position, as far as studying every day and taking pride in what he did. You look back and marvel at playing that position that many years and to see the stuff that he was able to see from his eyes. He should be proud of what he’s been able to accomplish.” – Derek Lowe, Red Sox teammate from 1997-2004, threw no-hitter to Varitek on 4/27/02, current Indians pitcher.

“With Tek, we always saw a guy that was really intense on the fi eld and baseball is his passion. He was always thinking about the little things. He caught me in my fi rst two full seasons and he was a guy that was an awesome resource for anybody to go to if they needed help in any aspect of the game. I’ll be forever in debt to him for that, I had a great time playing with him.” – Clay Buchholz, Red Sox teammate from 2007-11, threw no-hitter to Varitek on 9/1/07.

“It was a pleasure and an honor to be able to put this uniform on with him all these years. Congratulations Tek on a great career and congratulations on a well-deserved retirement.” – Jon Lester, Red Sox teammate from 2006-11, threw no-hitter to Varitek on 5/19/08.

”Congratulations to Jason Varitek on an outstanding career. As a former captain of the Red Sox, I can appreciate the way he approached the game. His leadership set a fi ne example for his teammates and the Red Sox organization.” —  Carl Yastrzemski, Hall of Fame outfi elder, Red Sox Hall of Famer, played entire 23-year career with Boston from 1961-1983

”Jason Varitek will always have a prominent place in Red Sox history. He caught more games as a Red Sox and helped the team win their fi rst World Series in 86 years. I am happy for him and proud of his accomplishments. Congratulations Jason!” – Carlton Fisk, Hall of Fame catcher, Red Sox Hall of Famer, played with Boston from 1969-1980.

”I think he was born to be a catcher. I was with him when he was a rookie, I remember seeing his fi rst Major League hit. To me, he was an over-achiever, but had a great work ethic and leadership qualities. He was always goal oriented in achieveing the best. He is an outstanding person and outstanding teammate. Definitely the type of player to win championships with. Bottom line he’s a baseball player.” – Jimy Williams, Red Sox Manager from 1997-2001.

”Tek was the captain seven out of my eight years with the Red Sox. The “C” on his chest was just a formality, he was the leader of the team with or without it. I could say a lot of things about Tek, but the most important thing was he kept everyone going in the right direction.” – Terry Francona, Red Sox Manager from 2004-11, current ESPN analyst.

”Jason was a rock during his Red Sox career and a rare leader who delivered in the most important games. He knew how to get the most out of all pitchers by giving his own best effort everyday.” – Dan Duquette, Red Sox GM from 1994-2001, current Orioles EVP of Baseball Operations.

”Jason Varitek has been the rock of the Red Sox for nearly a decade and a half. He was always prepared for each game and every situation and guided many diverse pitching talents and personalities to success while taking no personal credit. His future Red Sox Hall of Fame plaque will highlight the record four no-hitters he caught and his critical role in two World Championships as well as the quality of his character which made him such a strong leader and captain. I am thankful for his friendship and appreciative of how he gave his body and his heart to Red Sox Nation.” – Joe Castiglione, Red Sox Radio broadcaster from 1983-present

”Jason was one of those players that made the rivalry between our two teams so special. He was the type of competitor that brought out the best in everyone who was on the fi eld with him, whether you were playing with him or against him. He should be very proud of the way he represented the Red Sox organization throughout the years. He played the game with passion and dignity, and regardless of the color of his uniform I will always have a great deal of respect for the way he went about his business, day after day, and year after year.” – Jorge Posada, Yankees catcher from 1996-2011.

”I’ve always admired the way Jason played the game, and I appreciated the opportunity I had to get to know him throughout the years. He was a big part of the reason they had so much success as a team. Jason had a career that should be celebrated and I’m happy for him.” – Derek Jeter, Yankees shortstop from 1995-present, Yankees captain since 2003.

”Jason is one of the greatest players, not only to wear a Georgia Tech uniform, but to have played college baseball. There’s not a better guy in the world. He’s one of the best guys that I’ve ever had a chance to coach. I certainly wish him well and I’ll be interested to see what he does next.” – Danny Hall, Georgia Tech Head Baseball Coach from 1994-present.

Jeter stands by ‘flip play'; Tito weighs in

It had to be an amusing scene at Yankees’ camp today, what with Terry Francona roaming the clubhouse as a broadcaster and Derek Jeter being asked to defend perhaps the defining play of his career, which happened, oh, 11 years ago.

This came on the heels of Bobby Valentine saying on Tuesday that he thinks that Jeter was out of position on that flip play, and that the Red Sox would never practice that alignment in their cutoff drills. The moment in question happened on Oct. 13, 2001, Game 3 of the Division Series between the Yankees and A’s. Terrence Long lined a double into the corner, and Shane Spencer missed two cutoff men. But there was Jeter on the first-base side of the mound, in position to flip the ball home to Jorge Posda to get Jeremy Giambi, who didn’t bother to slide.

Valentine did tell me this morning he wasn’t trying to malign Jeter because he said, “I love Jeter”.

Anyway, here is what Jeter had to say from Yankees camp. Thanks to colleague Adam Berry for passing these quotes on.

On Bobby V. disputing the notion that the Yankees actually practiced that play. “I mean, we do. You know what I mean? You’ve seen it. You guys have been here.”

What does he think about this being a topic of conversation? “I don’t think anything. I really don’t. I have no thoughts whatsoever. Who cares? Why are we talking about this? They must be bored over there, huh? I don’t understand.”

Valentine’s motivation? “I don’t know Bobby well enough to tell you what he’s trying to do. I could care less, I guess is the best way to put it. I just don’t know why it’s brought up.”

“Think about it. We don’t practice it? We do. You guys see it. What else can I say. I was out of position? I was where I was supposed to be.”

Terry Francona’s view of the flip play?” I’m sure some of [what Valentine said] is in jest,” Francona said. I don’t know. I wasn’t there, and I’m out of it. I’m out of it. To me, it’s not important whether the Yankees practice that play or not. The fact of the matter is that he’s good enough to make that play. You could practice that play until you’re blue in the face, and he’s probably still the only guy who makes that play. That play was part of baseball lore. Again, I don’t doubt they do practice it. He’s probably the only guy that makes the play. He sees the field better than anybody in baseball. He’s the one guy that makes that play.”

Jeter was much happier to talk about his fellow captain for all these years, Jason Varitek, who will formally retire on Thursday.

“Talking about Varitek, I’ll point out the good things — an unbelievable career. I’m happy for him. I enjoyed competing against him all these years. That’s what we should be talking about as opposed to what Bobby said.”

Valentine praised Varitek in a blanket statement yesterday adding that he “beat up Alex”.

A-Rod didn’t feel like touching it.

“Like I said, I’m not going to win many battles here when it comes to words, especially against Bobby. But I will tell you this, I got my new press secretary that should be landing in the next couple days, Reggie Jackson, so I’ll let him handle that. All right? Thanks.”

More from Jeter: Rivalry still strong? “It’s the same. I don’t know. I can’t tell you that he’s trying to stir it up. I don’t know why you would have to stir it up. I think our rivalry gets so much attention anyway. But I am not saying that he is stirring it up.”

What will Jeter say to Bobby V. when he sees him?

“Hey, Bobby. That’s about it. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, really. A lot of people have said that I wasn’t supposed to be here, and I’ve told you guys from Day 1 that’s where I’m supposed to be. That’s what we work on. He’s not the first person to say that. Since I’ve come up, we’ve done it the same way. We might be doing something like that the next couple days, so I invite all you guys to come out there and see that I’m in the same spot every time.”

How about seeing Tito in the Yankees clubhouse? “Yeah, I’ve always respected Terry. I’ve enjoyed playing against him, getting to know him throughout the years. I have a lot of respect for him and how he manages. Every player that I’ve ever talked to about him appreciated the way he managed and the way he dealt with players. I always had a lot of respect for him. Yeah, it is [strange having him in the clubhouse]. But it’s good to see him. He did a great job. It goes without saying how great he did in Boston. I’m happy to see him.”

Henry, Lucchino talk Epstein, other things

In a wide-ranging interview with WEEI this morning — and simulcast on NESN — Red Sox owner John Henry and president/CEO Larry Lucchino ran through the gamut of topics that have engulfed the club since the season ended way earlier than anyone could have expected.

How stunning is this that you didn’t play in October?

Henry: “I think, weren’t people writing at that point of the season that this was the greatest Red Sox team ever?”

Did you assume the Sox were in? Henry: “You never assume. In other business as well, you never assume that you’re going to accomplish your goals until you accomplish them.”

Lucchino: “I think that was a reasonable assumption at that point, given the lead, where we were in the season. and the statistical probabilities of what would happen. Certainly none of us anticipated a collapse of biblical proportions that we endured.”

Tito was a little cryptic about where it all went wrong, Henry: “Uh, there was some cryptic-ness when we met. You remember, we had problems over the years with certain players. Like Manny Ramirez, for instance, was a problem at one point for the manager. But he had his back, because that’s the clubhouse culture. As a manager, you don’t throw your players under the bus. You do everything you can to make them productive and keep them that way. In this case, we didn’t get any information along those lines at that point.”

Allegations that starting pitchers were drinking in the clubhouse during games? Lucchino: “There are certain principles that are important within the clubhouse culture. I think that’s one of them. it’s not something that we think should be tolerated. There’s a rule about it and it should be enforced. It was much after the fact that that was brought to our attention. We’re still trying to dig in, trying to figure out how pervasive it was, how extensive it was and not try to superficially conclude that it was a major factor in anything.”

When did Titanic hit iceberg? Henry: “We didn’t just hit an iceberg. Every day we went, what, 7-20? This was a team that was going 20-7 and suddenly went 7-20. So it was throughout that process that we began to wonder, why is this team breaking down? This is the second straight year that on Aug. 1 we looked great and looked like we were headed for a potential World Series and second straight year that the team broke down physically. I’ve been reading somewhat what the media has been saying. I haven’t heard enough about that. that was the concern that started at some point during that decline. The biggest concern we had was we’re just not doing well physically.”

Subpar physical fitness? Lucchino: “It’s certainly an issue that’s important to us, physical conditioning. That’s another one of the issues we are looking into examining. It’s our responsibility to try to right this ship and give the fans what we promised when we got here, which is a team worthy of their support. We’re going to do that. We’re going to look into the whole conditioning issue. I take exception to pointing to any individual. I don’t want to talk about any individual in particular. But I will talk about the general notion that our team has to be in first class physical condition. And as John said, the last couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic decline at the end of the season. That is one of a myriad of issues to look at going forward.”

Pitchers out of shape? You looking into that. Henry: “Yeah, the day before yesterday, I spoke with a couple of our medical people and the trainers and so forth just to try to get an idea. We’re still early in this process and that’s one of the reasons there hasn’t been a lot to say. You don’t want to go off half cocked because one person said this. Talking to a few people, one thing thus far that I’ve been able to establish is that the pitchers did their work. They did their cardiovascular. This organization is as good as any in baseball, I’m told, at doing their work. What is their work? Cardiovascular, shoulder exercise is very important. Very important. We have very little in the way of shoulder problems, as compared to other clubs. They did their leg work. Some of the people, including the person you mentioned [Josh Beckett], are adamant. That’s what they do. They don’t shirk those responsibilities.

“Were there nutritional issues was another question I asked? Yes. I believe there were nutritional issues and there’s just, one of the things we’ve learned in getting involved with English football is they have sports science and the science of fitness is very advanced among football teams around the world, at least the top football teams. So we’ve learned a lot just recently. Our people within the Red Sox have learned a lot. I think there’s much more we can do. to me, the most important thing is this is the third time in six years, and certainly the second straight which a great team just couldn’t make it through 162 games physically. And it wasn’t just one or two players. We were really banged up. We were really struggling to put healthy players on the field. every team has to be able to make it through 162 games. Two years in a row we didn’t do it.”

Tito mentioned something about lack of support/encouragement from ownership as things unraveled: Henry: “I don’t engage in encouragement. My way of encouraging the manager is generally, if we win, I’ll go down and say hello. My experience over the years is they really don’t want a lot of interracation from our level when things aren’t going well. But every once in a while, I will send over the years, I would send Terry an e-mail and basically say, you’re doing a great job, which I did this year, or we’re going to be fine. I’m probably the person inside among Tom and Larry and Theo and Tito, among all of us, I’m probably the person who most often says, we’ll be fine. The problem is we weren’t fine this year. “

Lucchino: “We did make an effort as things were proceeding in the wrong direction in September, certainly we made an effort before games. I would go down on the field and certainly not pep talks, but just try to engage some conversation to show that we were in this together and to try to beat as comfortable as I could around players, the manager and coaches.”

If you had picked up Tito’s option, he would have stayed. Why did you leave that until after the season? Lucchino:  “It was certainly something we considered during the course of the year. you have to go back a step and understand the contract arrangement we had with Tito which was, we gave him a long term deal and we agreed we would not talk about options until the end of the fourth year. We said there would be a 10-day period. The first order of business after the season would be to talk about options but we don’t want the distraction of that happening during the year. because we had it during ’08. The first part of the ’08 season was all about contracts and his situation, dealing with agents and all that. so I think he understood. It’s not something that was  going to happen during the course of the season. In fact, to his credit, he never said what do you think about my option. His agent never called us. There were never any discussions. We always anticipated that discussion would take place as understood, the first 10 days, the first order of business in the offseason.”

Was this mutual with Tito?  Henry: “Well we really didn’t get a chance to make it mutual. Thinking about it, would we have ended up in the same place he ended up? Based on the things we heard and the things we saw, there’s a strong likelihood that we would have. So you could say it was mutual. The way it took place, in my mind, wasn’t really mutual, the way it took place.”

Lucchino: “We had a conversation about, again, that first day after the season, we sat for an hour and a half, two hours, talking about the season. We went through challenge after challenge and various reasons for the breakdown. We talked to tito about whether he was ready for this challenge, given all the challenges he had enumerated. He made clear to us that he wasn’t. You need a new voice down there. I’m not your man for next year. I think my time here is up. In some ways, he took that position and that is a very determinative factor when your manager feels like there needs to be a change. He did a fantastic job for us over the years. remember, he was contemplating his ninth year in this pressure cooker that is Boston. Different teams require different skillsets or different talents and I think he made an assessment with which we concurred that to that extend, it was mutual, and the word mutual does fit. Still, it was a sad occasion nonetheless. There was no joy that day. we had a myriad of problems identified for us and a manager who suggested in pretty clear terms that we should [move on].”

If they made the playoffs, does Tito still leave? Lucchino: “I’m not sure. I think the same process would unfold. We’d sit down as planned the first 10 days. the first order of business after the season, sit down and talk and find out. it takes to tango. Again, we’re talking about the ninth year. Tito was the second longest duration in Red Sox history, 110 years. you have to find if the manager is still ready for the challenge.”

So the Cubs requested permission to speak with Theo, eh? Henry: “How do you know that? how do you know that?

Lucchino:  “Those things are supposed to be kept private and we have a policy of not discussing whether permission has been asked for x or y or z. In fact, every year we get requests for people. We never discuss them publicly. It’s been our policy and our practice.”

You haven’t denied it though, right? Lucchino: “But our position on that is that we don’t comment on requests. We have gotten requests every year. sometimes one or two or three a year. we don’t talk about them publicly. A few years ago, we got a request from another team about Theo Epstein. You heard nothing about that because we didn’t discuss it publicly. I think there’s good reason for it too. There’s some privacy considerations here. I don’t know that people would want their career development or their job decisions to be debated publicly, for people to know what they’re considering or not considering. And I’m not sure the other team would like that to be made public. Our consistent policy and practice is not to discuss whether there’s been a request made for permission.”

Do you usually give permission? Lucchino: “I’ll tell you what we have done. We have done both in the past. There are numerous individual. I mentioned that Theo was one of them in the past. We’ve had a number of our high ranking people move on.”

If Team A comes to you and says, we’d like to talk to Theo, would you grant them permission? Henry, “There is a certain protocol in this game. if someone asks permission for a job that’s not lateral, you give them permission. Now I’m sure there are examples where it didn’t happen. I’m sure we’ve done that in the past.”

Lucchino, “We don’t mean to sound evasive on this but this is one subject where we don’t think there needs to be full disclosure. Our fans have a keen interest in knowing as much about this team as we can possibly know. There are some thigns that come up against the lines of personal privacy, where there are some considerations that should be factored into it, and that’s where we are with respect to this thing.”

Can you hire a manager without knowing who your GM is? Lucchino, “We’re actively engaged in that search for a new manager. We’re not sitting around twiddling our thumbs. There’s a lot to be done. Theo is actively engaged day to day in that search. We just had a meeting with him the other day going through a list of candidates, possibilities. Ben Cherington is actively involved in the process. Certainly John, Tom and I are involved in it as well. That process is moving ahead. It’s not going to happen overnight. There will be some time that will pass. There’s a lot to work to be done and Theo and Ben are knee-deep in doing it. “

Interview anyone yet? “Not yet. I think one point needs to be made. As I look out over the landscape of what’s been said over the last couple of weeks, I don’t think people understand the governance of the Red Sox. when we talk about a manager, general manager issues, when we talk about important decisions that are made here, this isn’t John or it isn’t Larry. We really, over the last 10 years, have consistently done things collectively. This is a collective process. We’re intimately involved in the managers search. It’s not just theo that’s involved. With regard to what happened with the manager’s situation previously, we made collective decisions. We build consensus. When we signed Adrian Gonzalez, that’s not a one person decision. It’s not just the general manager. That being said, we’re very good, sometimes we’re too chain of command;  Larry and I don’t make baseball decisions.”

Lucchino: “Let me just add that Tom Werner is a critical part of this as well, though he is not here today. In this instance, he is an active part of this process. We are a better organization because of the collaboration, the input. If you take Tom and myself, we’ve probably got like 45 or 50 years collectively of running major league baseball franchises. We take advantage of that experience. We collaborate , we debate.”

Theo’s recent struggles with free agents:  Henry: “I think that’s one of the problems in baseball. It’s hard to predict things. it’s hard to predict performance going forward. When I look back over the last 10 years, and the last eight years with Tito being here and the last nine years Theo has been here, I look at what we’ve accomplished, every year, including this year, I felt we were headed to a World Series. Not the only thing, but the biggest thing to us every year is playing in October. that’s what we do. that’s we spend all our time doing is trying to create an atmosphere. People talk about, we’re business oriented. Well we’re business oriented for one reason. This guy is a tremendous revenue generator for one reason, and that is to be able to give the right people the amount of money it takes to be successful. You can criticize the things he’s done but we’ve averaged, what, 92, 93 wins?“

Horrific finish: Lucchino:  “We are not unmindful of that. This was a disappointing torturous end of the season. As John said earlier, we watch every game. we suffer. We’re in this because we’re competitive people. Go back to December 21st, 2001, our very first press conference. The very first thing we said was, we have an obligation to field a team that’s worthy of the fans support. We feel that now. Believe me, it hurts not to be playing right now. This kind of weather. Walking around the ballpark, I keep thinking, we should be playing. It’s cold comfort, the sense of schandefraude that comes from the Yankees losing. That’s not a noble emotion. We have it. but we should be out there playing. We want that every year and we’ve had a good run at it but the challenges next year are real, they’re there and we’re prepared to deal with them.”

Is Theo the right guy to keep spending John Henry’s money?  Henry: “He is but I think everyone has to understand a couple of things and I think Tito alluded to it. I think there’s a certain shelf life in these jobs. You can only be the general manager if you’re sane. You can only be the general manager …. You can only be the manager for a certain amount of time. There’s a tremendous pressure cooker here —  162 games. It’s a long season and the pressure here is 365 days. Theo is not going to be the general manager forever.  Just as , if Tito had come back for the last two years, would he have gone past 10 years, I can’t imagine that he would have. I think that Theo will … he’s the guy now, he’s been the guy. We’ve had tremendous success. We fell apart at the end of the season. As Larry expressed, we’re upset about it. No fan could be more upset than I am about the result this year. He’s done a tremendous job for us over the last eight years.”

Can you hire a manager until you are sure who your GM is? Lucchino, “I think it’s not desirable to proceed that way if you don’t know who this person’s immediate boss is. I’ve been in situations where that has happened. I think the more desirable scenario is the one you first outlined, that there’s a certainty and a continuity with respect to general manager that would be in place before you pull a trigger on a manager but I’ve seen the opposite occur. Let me remind you that we hired Tery Francona some time in late November, it may have even been the first couple of days of December in 2003. There is time to address this issue. This is an important issue, the manager of this team and the manager of this team in this pressure cooker that is Boston.”

Why Tito over Joe Maddon eight years ago? Lucchino: “Theo should be here to discuss that as well. He certainly had a strong opinion on that. They were both good. Two different flavors of ice cream but they were both good. I think at the time, the sense was that Francona’s history was clearer and that maybe the kind of easy rider we understood him to be would be appropriate for that team. That was my recollection of it.”

What do you want in a manager, Henry: “Well, I think what we were looking for last time, in that we have a certain organizational philosophy and we want someone that is highly intelligent. Someone who can communicate with the players and be able to get the best out of the players. I think we lean in general toward player managers. The most important thing for me, if I had to choose one aspect, is that he really fits into our organizational philosophy.”

Could you kick the tires on someone like Joe Torre or Bobby Valentine: “I’m not going to talk about anyone individually. Would we consider experienced well established managers who are not young, who have been around a bit? The answer is yes.”

Can John Lackey bounce back? Henry: “I think so.”

Lucchino: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

How can you say that? Lucchino: “Can he come back? I say yes he can. I’m not predicting necessarily when he will or if he will. But I’m saying can he? Yes. He’s a guy with an established track record. You have to look beyond the past year or so. Again, it depends on what your level of expectation is for various individuals.”

Just because of the recent difficulty with the success of free agent signings, will the Sox shy away this winter? Lucchino, “We’re not going to turn off any avenue to improve this team. Particularly this year. We’re not going to say, no, we’re not going to dive into the free agent market because of the recent record has not been as successful as we might like. No, we’re going to explore free agency, we’re going to explore trade,s we’re going to explore waiver wire, minor league free agents, international signings. We’re going to look at the whole of possibilities. The challenges are very real for this next year so yes, we will explore free agency.”

Do you keep Ortiz and Papelbon because they’ve proven they can produce in this market? “Those players you identify have leverage because of their performance. Their performance has been substantial here and with that comes a bit of leverage, to be sure. Does that mean we can not find players elsewhere that can fit in? we think we can. It doesn’t mean we’re always right but we think we have a process that theo and our baseball operations takes into consideration makeup and ability to deal with this city and Carl Crawford has had one bad year. This is one year of a long term commitment. It’s too early to say this is a guy who cannot play in Boston. We’ll see about that.”

Tito on TV

Those of you who already miss hearing Terry Francona’s voice on a daily basis can get that fix cured for the first two games of the American League Championship Series.

The Boston Globe’s Chad Finn — citing confirmation from FOX — reported that Francona will fill in for veteran analyst Tim McCarver for at least Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS, which will pit the Rangers against either the Tigers or Yankees. McCarver, reported Finn, is dealing with a medical issue but is expected back for Game 3. In the past, FOX has utilized a three-man booth during the ALCS, so perhaps Francona will do the whole series.

Francona obviously didn’t have much problem communicating with the media during his eight years in Boston, not to mention his four years in Philly, so it would seem his transition from manager to analyst would go pretty smooth. He will also be working with a consummate pro in Joe Buck.

I, for one, am looking forward to hearing Tito dissect the ALCS.

As for who will replace Francona as the next manager of the Red Sox, that remains a work in progress. Team Owner John Henry tweeted that the Red Sox will start talking to and/or interviewing candidates soon, perhaps as early as next week.

Meanwhile, there continues to be silence on Yawkey Way regarding the report that the Cubs have requested permission to speak with Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who has one year left on his contract. The report from the Boston Globe is all but certain to be accurate. The true questions are these: Will the Red Sox grant Epstein permission to speak with the Cubs; Does Epstein want to speak with the Cubs?

Several requests for comment from Henry have gone unanswered.

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