Francona will not manage in 2012

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Francona will not manage in 2012

MILWAUKEE -- Although his name continues to be linked to the still-vacant managerial opening with the Chicago Cubs, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona has come to a realization.

"I'm not going to try to manage next year,'' said Francona by phone Wednesday, "for my benefit.''

Francona parted with the Red Sox two days after the season ended following a disastrous month of September which saw the team go 7-20 and blow a 9 12 game wild card lead on the final night of the year. Worse, the collapse was followed by a slew of stories detailing player behavior in the Boston clubhouse.

Francona interviewed for the St. Louis Cardinals' job last week, but the Cardinals hired former catcher Mike Matheny, who has no previous managerial experience, last week for the position.

"When I interviewed in St. Louis, I was genuinely excited about it,'' said Francona. "St. Louis was such an exciting opportunity. But we were all beaten up at the end of the year, and after (interviewing) I took a step back and began to look at things realistically.''

Theo Epstein's presence in Chicago as president of baseball operations has stirred recurring speculation that Epstein and Francona would re-unite. The two have kept up an
open dialogue, but Francona isn't a candidate for the Cubs' opening.

"I've talked to Theo numerous times,'' said Francona. "We both know each other well enough where we can can be honest with each other. I don't think it's the right opportunity.

"I need to take a step back and re-energize. That's probably in my best interest right now. In fairness to myself, it's the best thing to do.''

The 2012 season will mark the first time since 2001 that Francona hasn't been in uniform since his playing career ended and will be the first time he doesn't draw a paycheck from a team since coming out of college.

"I worked for Cleveland (in an off-field role as scout) in 2001 and it ended up being good for me,'' said Francona. "After a while, your perspective can get blurred. I think maybe this will be valuable (to take some time off).''

Instead, Francona may explore some broadcast opportunities. He's been contacted by representatives from Fox, ESPN and the MLB Network.

"I'm going to explore some things in broadcasting and see where it leads,'' he said. "It may be a way to stay in the game, enjoy it and also be able to step back and look at things.''

Francona filled in for Tim McCarver for the first two games of Fox's ALCS coverage and earned universal praise, prompting the interest from networks.

"That surprised me, because I was terrified,'' he said. "I'm not deluding myself, thinking I'm the next coming of John Madden. But I did enjoy it. We'll see. Baseball's what I know. Maybe there's a place out there that makes sense for me. I'd at least like to look.''

Having been around the game for 30 years, Francona has also heard from lots of friends in the game, with offers to get back into baseball in a non-managerial capacity. For now, however, he'd prefer to take some time off.

It will take a while, he knows, to adjust.

"I'm sure that will be really difficult for me,'' he said. "Not going to spring training will certainly be a huge void, but I guess I'm glad. I want to get myself re-energized and if and when an opportunity arises (to manage again), I'll be ready.''

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”