Quote of the Day: Terry Francona

by Jason Epstein

I apologize to fans of teams not situated in the American League East, and to Brewers, Cardinals, Rangers, and Tigers fans in particular. (Wow, how about Victor Martinez clocking a home run while straining his oblique on the swing!) Instead of commenting on the clubs still battling for the title, I choose instead to focus on the perceived mess that is the Red Sox, an organization Newsday’s Ken Davidoff described in August as follows: “To paraphrase Joe Esposito, they’re the best around. (H/T Ken Davidoff!)

Anyway, the Boston Globe has an incendiary piece out on the Sox collapse that includes, among other sordid tales, suggestions of a depressed, pill-popping skipper, veteran players no longer interested in leading others, and most notably, in-game clubhouse antics of three starting pitchers:

Drinking beer in the Sox clubhouse is permissible. So is ordering take-out chicken and biscuits. Playing video games on one of the clubhouse’s flat-screen televisions is OK, too. But for the Sox pitching trio to do all three during games, rather than show solidarity with their teammates in the dugout, violated an unwritten rule that players support each other, especially in times of crisis.

Sources said [Josh] Beckett, [Jon] Lester, and [John] Lackey, who were joined at times by [Clay] Buchholz, began the practice late in 2010. The pitchers not only continued the routine this year, sources said, but they joined a number of teammates in cutting back on their exercise regimens despite appeals from the team’s strength and conditioning coach Dave Page.

“It’ s hard for a guy making $80,000 to tell a $15 million pitcher he needs to get off his butt and do some work,’’ one source said.

For Beckett, Lester, and Lackey, the consequences were apparent as their body fat appeared to increase and pitching skills eroded. When the team needed them in September, they posted a combined 2-7 record with a 6.45 earned run average, the Sox losing 11 of their 15 starts.

Writer Bob Hohler’s article includes former manager Terry Francona’s retort:

Francona took strong exception to the suggestion that his problems motivating the players had anything to do with his commitment to the team.

“You never heard any of these complaints when we were going 80-41 [from April 15 to Aug. 27] because there was nothing there,’’ Francona said. “But we absolutely stunk in the last month, so now we have to deal with a lot of this stuff because expectations were so high.’’

Well said. Unfortunately, the Globe did not allow the quote to interfere with its desire, as well as the intentions of unnamed sources among the brass, to smack around outgoing general manager Theo Epstein, Francona, and pretty much every player not named Dustin Pedroia.