Now a full season removed from his time with the Red Sox and set to start a new gig as Cleveland Indians manager after a year of announcing, Terry Francona is set to release a tell-all book about his time with the Red Sox.
Titled Francona: The Red Sox Years, the book was co-authored by Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy and is set for publication on Jan. 22.
Though that release date is still a week away, some excerpts have already leaked out, and ESPN took a look at some of the more interesting ones in a piece published Wednesday. Here is a look at some of the more notable ones and my thoughts on the matter:
On Nov. 2, 2010, a group gathered at Fenway Park to review results of a $100,000 marketing research project the Red Sox had commissioned in response to the drop in TV ratings.
The book stated the marketing report said: "(W)omen are definitely more drawn to the 'soap opera' and 'reality-TV' aspects of the game ... They are interested in good-looking stars and sex symbols," parenthetically citing All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia as an example of the latter.
"They (the consultants) told us we didn't have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle," Epstein is quoted as saying. "We need some sexy guys. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We'd become too big. It was the farthest thing removed from what we set out to be."
It's never good when ownership starts interfering with the makeup of the team based on things like TV ratings and sex appeal, and the fact that the team shelled out $100K on a research report on dropped TV ratings is absolutely ridiculous.
It's a tough spot for Epstein to be put in, because this was coming from majority owner John W. Henry, chairman Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino, so he couldn't just laugh these requests off like I'm sure he wanted to. As a result, the team spent big to get the above-mentioned "marketable players" that offseason.
"In direct response to the pressure from his bosses and the sagging ratings,'' the excerpt says, "Epstein went to work to build a sexier team for 2011."
That "sexier" team went on to have one of the biggest collapses in baseball history, losing 18 of its final 24 games and missing out of the playoffs on the last day of the season. Gonzalez had a terrific first season in Boston, but Crawford was a disaster.
Francona took the hit for the team's failure, as he was fired at season's end following a meeting with the team's brass.
"It was at that meeting that he said that he had lost control of the clubhouse," Werner is quoted as saying, "that he was not the right person to continue as manager."
Francona recalled the session differently: "I never said I lost control of the clubhouse. I said I hadn't been able to reach some of the guys."
Bobby Valentine was brought in to pick up the pieces of the 2011 collapse, but he was no better an option and the team wound up selling big in August when they shipped Gonzalez, Crawford and clubhouse-issue Josh Beckett to the Dodgers in a major cost-cutting move.
It was a move that seemed to suggest the Red Sox were looking for a fresh start after Epstein had moved on to the Chicago Cubs in the offseason and Valentine had been a major flop as team manager. It was a move that likely would not have needed to be made in the first place had the team not spent big to placate the higher-ups.
In the end, one has to question where owners' loyalties and concerns really lie, as the game appears to be more of a business than a genuine passion to them based on what Francona says.
Francona questioned the depth of the owners' passion for baseball. Henry's sporting interests have expanded to include the Liverpool soccer team, the Roush Racing Team, and a marketing deal with basketball star LeBron James.
"They come in with all these ideas about baseball, but I don't think they love baseball," he said. "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."
It is easy for a former player and manager to take the stand of "baseball is my life," as that is what is expected out of someone in that position.
The fact of the matter, however, is that baseball is a business. Why not dabble in soccer and NASCAR ownership and a marketing deal with one of sport's biggest names if you are interested and have the money to do it?
Does a team benefit from having a passionate owner who bleeds baseball? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, that is why they hire a GM and a manager to run their team. Blaming the ownership group for spreading themselves too thin and not focusing 100 percent on the team feels like a bit of a cop-out.
Overall, it should be an interesting look at what went on behind the scenes in Boston over the past few years. I'm never a big fan of tell-all books, as I think certain things, especially in the world of sports, are best left untold. However, it promises to be an interesting read and the above passage should only scratch the surface of what promises to be an eye-opening account of Red Sox baseball over the past few years.
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