Francona: It's style over substance with Red Sox owners

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Francona: It's style over substance with Red Sox owners

In an excerpt from Terry Francona's new book, written with the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, the former Red Sox manager explains how ownership was obsessed with the team's "sizzle," and accuses John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino of not truly loving baseball, that they were concerned more with how the game could line their pockets.

Sports Illustrated's latest issue leads the excerpt with a scene from June of the 2010 season in which Francona, then general manager Theo Epstein and ownership met to discuss the team's slump at the time. Henry and Lucchino found several faults with how the team was being managed, but Werner, widely credited with running NESN, made a comment that struck a cord with Francona.

"We need to start winning in more exciting fashion," Werner said.

For Francona, that was just one of the signs that the team was focused on the wrong things. Of course, that season ended with the Red Sox out of the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Before that final loss, Werner passed Francona on the field and said, "What a s----- season."

That bothered the manager.

"We ground out 89 wins," Francona said. "I remember thinking, F---, if this was s-----, I don't want to be around here when it really is s-----."

That offseason, the Red Sox went about building a more "exciting" team. They traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford, but those moves didn't solve much. The clubhouse was in shambles, Francona was having problems with his health and at home, and the team wasn't winning.

After the season, and after reports were published that there was drinking in the Red Sox clubhouse, Francona was informed -- clumsily, awkwardly -- by ownership that he would not be manager for the 2012 season. He said he still doesn't know how to respond when asked if he was fired.

"When people ask me if I left the Red Sox on my own or if I was fired, I don't even know how to answer that," he said. "I tried my ass off to help put the team in position to win and I worked my ass off that last year more than ever."

Then, the kicker.

"Our owners in Boston, they've been owners for 10 years," Francona said. "They come in with all these ideas about baseball, but I don't think they love baseball. I think they like baseball. It's revenue, and I know that's their right and their interest because they're owners -- and they're good owners. But they don't love the game. It's still more of a toy or a hobby for them. It's not their blood. They're going to come in and out of baseball. It's different for me. Baseball is my life."

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?