Tito Refuses Red Sox Invite, Cites Hypocritical Ownership

We’ll recap the Daniel Bard start a little later on today (the good news: he pitched well, or at least, better than the box score showed; the bad news: the Sox lost).  But first, I just wanted to touch on a pretty inflammatory article that showed up in this morning’s Boston Globe.

Dan Shaughnessey – who admittedly, around these parts, is known more for his caterwauling, pessimistic histrionics than he is for his baseball knowledge or the purity of his reporting (Curt Schilling used to have a field day with this guy) – nevertheless wrote an eye-opening piece that gives us a glimpse into the relationship between former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and the Red Sox ownership.

One word to describe that relationship: broken.

Terry Francona (Keith Allison, c/o flickr.com)

The background: the Red Sox have been planning their pregame ceremonies for next Friday’s game, which falls on the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park’s opening.  Day game, playing the Yankees, lots of pomp and circumstance, the whole bit.  As part of the ceremony, the Sox invited back every single living Red Sox player and manager, including Francona.

It appears, though, that Francona not-so-politely declined the Red Sox invitation.  I would have loved to see that RSVP card.  Quotes Shaughnessey:

“Somebody went out of their way to make me look pretty bad,’’ Francona said, referring to a story by the Globe’s Bob Hohler that cited unnamed club sources expressing concerns that Francona’s job performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication. “It’s a shame. I’m sure they’ll have a great event and I was part of a lot of that stuff there, but I just can’t go back there and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a little bit hypocritical.’’

That Hohler story, which we discussed here when it broke, cites anonymous sources as saying that Francona lost control in the clubhouse last year, in part, because he was having issues with painkillers that affected his job performance.  Pretty great, right?  I love those anonymous sources that lurk in the mist to stab you in the back when you’re on your way out anyway.

According to ownership, they invited Francona back in all good faith, and had NO IDEA that Terry’s not exactly feeling warm fuzzies towards the organization right now.  Larry Lucchino explained to Shaughnessey:

“I thought there was some uncertainty as to whether he had actually gotten the invitation,’’ said Lucchino. “He’s going to be here on the 22d for the Sunday night game [for ESPN] so I called him and invited him and he declined. It was a sincere invitation for him to come back. He has an exalted place in our history and we were hoping it would be convenient and comfortable for him to come back and we were hoping it would be.’’

According to Francona, though?  This pleasant conversation that Lucchino cites was actually an argument that took place, on Francona’s end, at a phone store in Arizona:

I had three people standing around me. I was at a little bit of a disadvantage. He got a little perturbed at me, telling me I was being unfair to them. I called him back last night and left him a message. He called me back and we ended up getting into an argument. I just feel like someone in the organization went out of their way to hurt me and the more we talked I realized we’re just not on the same wavelength. They’re probably better off going forth and leaving me out of it.’’

Apparently, also according to Francona, he had tried to reach ownership for months after his termination from the Red Sox, with no effort made to return his calls.  John Henry finally called Francona back in February (he was fired in September), which Francona termed “five months too late”:

“It was pretty raw at the end of the year. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of moving on from that. At the same time, I’m never going to forget that. For me to go back and start waving and hugging, I’m just not comfortable doing that. I made it pretty clear to John Henry. When I told Larry that, he said, ‘Well, I haven’t talked to John about it.’ I said, well then how [expletive] important could it be?

Oof.  Good point, Terry.  If ownership couldn’t even be bothered to return their manager’s phone calls after firing him, after blaming him and a supposed addiction to painkillers for last year’s late-season collapse, then why on earth should Francona help them out by putting on a happy face and showing up for the biggest Red Sox public relations festival this side of 2004?  There’s a lot of rumbling lately about how ownership is slipping, how the Red Sox are slipping down the priority ladder (hello, Liverpool soccer team), and how something’s just not right these days, on the field or off.  It sounds like Francona knows this, knows that public opinion’s on his side, and that he feels like twisting the knife a little bit while he can.

5 thoughts on “Tito Refuses Red Sox Invite, Cites Hypocritical Ownership

  1. Stacy Johnson says:

    What a mess. And a complete fail on the part of ownership. But it really doesn’t surprise me since I don’t think they own a full set of balls between the 3 of them.

  2. Rebecca Binder says:

    Either (a) the ownership really thought nothing was wrong, and they completely missed the whole point of why Francona wants nothing to do with them; or (b) they thought that Francona would be happy to come back, smile, and wave his little hat in the air for them. Either way, the insensitivity and obliviousness here sort of blows my mind.

  3. Amanda says:

    Tito was a great manager and a stand up guy, its a shame it comes to this – he is such an important part of Red Sox history. Owners are ruining baseball. They should start a help group for managers. I think between the Mets and Red Sox and Rachel Phelps, owner of the Cleveland Indians in Major League they could have a good foundation.

    1. Rebecca Binder says:

      Great idea! Not to mention, this support group should also include the McCourts in Los Angeles… if they still own the Dodgers, that is, which nobody seems to be quite sure of.

      The Sox are different though, because they can’t blame their ownership woes on money issues like the Mets and Dodgers can. This is weird, because the ownership’s structure and resources haven’t really changed since the Sox started to win games in the early part of the 2000s. I can’t tell what the change comes from – players come and go, but the only real changes have been general manager (Theo-Ben) and manager (Tito-Bobby). Have those changes really been the catalyst for whatever’s happening?

      You could also blame the players themselves – maybe they are too wealthy, too entitled, too comfortable with thinking they’ll always play for a 90-win team. But that’s an attitude that you see all around baseball – I dare say that the Yankees have a similar payroll and similar high-profile players with long, comfy contracts, but they don’t really seem to have the same issues.

  4. When you expect success, your mind focuses on success.

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