Farewells reveal rift between Francona, ownership

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Farewells reveal rift between Francona, ownership

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- For the better part of the last two days, as the Red Sox attempted to explain a season that went horribly, inexplicably wrong, the focus was squarely on Terry Francona's relationship with his players.

On Thursday, approximately 24 hours before he and the Red Sox parted company, Francona spoke of the "challenges'' he sometimes faced communicating with the players and provided some details about a team meeting he was forced to call last month in Toronto.

In the press release -- carefully crafted, revised and issued some seven hours after the fateful meeting between Francona and his superiors -- the ownership troika of John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner spoke of the need for an improved "clubhouse culture'' and the need for a new "voice.''

Then, separated by 75 minutes, Francona met with reporters, followed by Werner, Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein, the four mostly echoed the same thoughts.

Mostly.

But every once in a while, someone would steer, if only ever-so-slightly, off script. The talking points got tossed aside and instead of buzzwords like "reach'' and "voice'' some honesty seeped through.

Sure, you had to be paying very close attention. But if you listened carefully, it was there. And what emerged was the undeniable fact that, beyond whatever problems existed between Francona and his players in the sanctum of the clubhouse, Francona had also lost the support of his bosses, and he, his patience with them.

Time and again, Francona blamed himself for his inability to get his players to be more committed, more loyal to one another, more invested in the game. He chastised himself for his "inability'' to reverse the team's September slide.

He cited the need for responsibility and accountability, the same things he asks of his players. He spoke of the demands of the job, and noted that managing the Red Sox is, in essence, both the best and worst job in baseball.

But occasionally, Francona couldn't help himself. He answered with a simple "No'' when he was asked if the owners had ever offered him the chance to return next season. And, when asked why he didn't ask for another chance to make up for September, Francona went unfiltered.

"To be honest, I'm not sure how much support there was from ownership,'' he said with no hint of rancor. "You've got to be all-in with this job. And I voiced that today. There were some things, going through things here, to make it work, you've got to have everybody together and I was questioning some of that a little bit.''

And there it was. A peek behind the curtain at the real dynamics.

Who knows how ownership and management could have aided Francona in September when both their record and the attitude were on the skids. Perhaps picking up the option years earlier in the year, or last winter, would have sent the not-so-subtle message to players that Francona had their backing, that he would be in charge for several seasons to come.

Instead, Lucchino reacted with great surprise when asked about Francona's remark.

"I was actually puzzled by that comment,'' said Lucchino. "We have done nothing differently this year than we've done in previous years. I think it's a question you should probably ask him.''

Clearly, Francona's candid assessment was not part of the pre-approved script. Lucchino made the point that Francona had done an otherwise solid job of fixing the blame right on himself.

This other stuff? Where other people might have had a hand in the team's undoing, or the manager's inability to halt it? Not part of the scrubbed-clean talking points.

Sure, Francona had, in no particular order, the owners' "thanks, gratitude, respect and appreciation.'' Check, check and check.

But support, backing and advocacy? Those were apparently in short supply.

Werner and Lucchino shifted uncomfortably when they were asked if it had been their intention to retain Francona before hearing his concerns Friday morning.

They never got around to answering that directly. Werner noted that they had gallantly "respected his wishes,'' to move on. But their refusal to answer was moot. The answer, quite simply, was no.

They didn't want him, and in the end, Francona didn't want them.

Neither side said as much, at least when they were all staying on script.

But occasionally, in the middle of the carefully rehearsed lines and glowing praise being slung around, the real reasons for Francona's departure were revealed.

The problems with clubhouse culture were real, but so too was the, ahem, disconnect that existed between Francona and his bosses.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Pomeranz gives up three runs in Red Sox loss to Blue Jays

Pomeranz gives up three runs in Red Sox loss to Blue Jays

Starter Drew Pomeranz gives up three runs on five hits in four innings of work in the Red Sox' 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday.

Lou Merloni breaks down Pomeranz's start and explains why he should be in the starting rotation to begin the season.

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem to Yanks' Cashman

Sox' lack of homegrown starters an understandable problem to Yanks' Cashman

The dearth of homegrown starting pitching for the Red Sox is talked about almost as much as every Tom Brady post on Instagram.

Red Sox fans may take some solace in knowing their team isn’t the only one dealing with this problem.

In an interview with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn’t talk about his team’s pitching problems in context of the Red Sox. But the explanation the longtime Yanks boss offered should sound familiar. 

In the biggest of markets, time to develop properly is scarce.

“Yeah. It's a fact,” Cashman said when asked if criticism of their pitching development was fair. “I think part of the process has been certainly where we draft. Because we've had a lot of success, we've not been allowed to tank and go off the board and therefore get access to some of the high-end stuff that plays out to be impactful. Part of it is we can't get out of our own way because we don't have the patience to let guys finish off their development, because if you possess some unique ability that stands out above everybody else -- whether it was Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, now [Luis] Severino and before that [Bryan] Mitchell and Shane Greene -- we're pulling them up before their development is finished.

“Teams like Tampa Bay, for instance, they're going to wait until they have their four pitches down and their innings limits are all exceeded at the minor-league level; they're very disciplined in that approach as they finish off their starters. For us, if I'm looking at my owner and he says, ‘What's our best team we can take north?’ 

“Well, ‘We could take this guy; he's not necessarily 100 percent finished off, but we can stick him in our 'pen. He can be in the back end of our rotation, because he's better than some of the guys we already have,’ and then you cut corners, so I think that probably plays a role in it.”

Not everything is circumstantial, though -- or a deflection. 

“And sometimes we don't make the right decisions, either, when we're making draft selections and signings and stuff like that,” Cashman continued. “On top of it all, playing in New York is a lot different than playing anywhere else.”

We’ve heard that last part about Boston too, here and there.

Cashman was complimentary of his current Sox counterpart, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, whose team Cashman has compared to the Golden State Warriors.

On his feelings when he first heard the Sox were getting Chris Sale:

“When that trade was consummated, that was the first thing I thought about, which was, 'Wow, look at what they've done,' ” Cashman said. “I know how it's going to play out for them. Listen, Steve Kerr does a great job managing that team -- oh, I mean John Farrell. It's a lot of talent and with talent comes pressure to perform. I think Dave Dombrowski has done everything he possibly can to provide that city with a world championship team. They've got 162 games to show it.”