Owners thank Francona, prepare search for successor

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Owners thank Francona, prepare search for successor

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON -- When he met with the media a little over an hour earlier on Friday evening, now-former Red Sox manager Terry Francona expressed his uncertainty in the degree of support he received from the teams ownership.

But, CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner, in a separate meeting with the media, expressed their surprise at those sentiments. (Principal owner John Henry was not in attendance, after suffering an injury on board his yacht in the afternoon.)

"I was actually puzzled by that comment, Lucchino said. We have done nothing differently this year than we have done in previous years. I think its a question you'd probably have to ask him. I thought he did an exceptional job in conveying the strength of his feelings and his frustrations and his fatigue with the situation here in Boston. But I must confess to being a little puzzled by about what was different this year from previous years.

Lucchino, Werner, Henry, general manager Theo Epstein, and assistant GM Ben Cherington met with Francona on Friday morning. Early Friday afternoon the Sox released a statement from Epstein saying there are no immediate plans for an announcement on Franconas future. By early evening that had all changed.

Francona said it was his decision to part ways with the team.

Just speaking for myself, said Werner, we came to this meeting today really wanting to hear Terrys point of view about what went right this year, what went wrong this year. And he expressed the feeling when we asked him that he felt that we did need a new voice. After that we tried to slow the train down a bit and just asked Terry to think about it over the weekend. But as he said in his press conference, I think he made up his mind and so thats how this was resolved."

Francona felt a change of culture was needed on the team and in the clubhouse, with Epstein asking Francona if he could be the person to bring about that change.

He said that he thought it was time to move on, Epstein said. He thought it was best for a new voice. Sometimes, he said, after youve done it for eight years, sometimes the players just need to hear a new voice. And I think it takes a lot of maturity and perspective to actually come to that conclusion.

I was disappointed. I think he was disappointed. But the reality is I think he felt that somebody else might do a better job of reaching the players and improving that clubhouse culture.

Asked how that culture can be changed now, with Franconas departure complete, Epstein replied:

I think some new leadership. I think that certain players we have that are leaders can step up and raise the level of their leadership even more. With a new manager its going to be an opportunity for new leadership in the clubhouse, too. I think we could have more accountability down there. We could, its our goal to have the best prepared team the best conditioned team, the team thats ready to go out, take advantage of the opponents' weaknesses, go out and play fearless baseball night in and night out.

I dont think we accomplished that across the board this year. So there are going to be some systemic changes in areas that we can make improvements. But it's also going to take some new leadership. A new leader whether its in the form of a player or a new manager will get people to follow him and will raise our level and meet those high standards that we have."

Now, the Sox must fill the managers job for the first time since 2004 the season in which they won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Who that person will be remains to be seen.

I also think its premature to answer that question because we havent made any effort to sit down and list qualities, Lucchino said. We didnt anticipate at this point we were going to be in this exact position. We made no efforts to discuss alternatives at this point. So its not happened yet. But well sit down and have that discussion.

Franconas departure leaves the future of the coaching staff in question.

You always want to make sure the manager has ability to bring in some of his own guys, Epstein said. I told the coaches how much I appreciate their effort and theyre going to get my strong recommendation in many cases to the new manager, but that we cant have final resolution on the coaching staff until we get the new manager in place.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

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.”