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March 19, 2010

Prospectus Q&A

Terry Francona

by David Laurila

There is a lot of wisdom in baseball, and for Terry Francona, much of it can be linked directly to accountability.  The Red Sox skipper preaches it on a regular basis, and he did so when asked for his interpretations of notable quotes from some of the most-storied managers in baseball history.

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David Laurila: The first quote is from Earl Weaver, who once said, “A manager's job is simple: For 162 games, you try not to screw up all that smart stuff your front office did in December.”

Terry Francona: Yeah, I mean, everyone is going to have a way of saying things. Some guys are a little more open, some guys are a little more flippant. It sounds to me like what he was trying to say is that they had a good team put together and he wanted to keep it that way by not overdoing [things]. We can all say it a million different ways, but you want to keep your team healthy and productive.

DL: Simple as that?

TF:  Probably not that simple, but that's about what it is.

DL: The next one is from Tommy Lasorda: “Managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold it too tight you'll kill it and if you hold it too loose you’ll lose it.”

TF: Makes sense. Again, it sounds like you're talking about communication. You know, you want guys to…I think that's maybe what we talk about -- the clubhouse kind of running itself. We have rules and everything, but if I have to go out there and have a meeting every day, that's not going to work. Guys take care of themselves and they make themselves accountable, which is important. Then you don't have to squeeze too tight. You can let them have some fun and try to play the game right.

DL: Here’s one from Casey Stengel, which ties into spring training: “Son, we'd like to keep you around this year, but we're trying to win a pennant.”

TF: I think that what we tell our guys pretty honestly, up front, in the first meeting, is “Hey, we know there's some competition, but we're the Boston Red Sox and we’re not supposed to show up with twelve openings, or the winter didn't go very well. So look around. You show what you can show, you might not be on your time table, but if you can really play, there'll be a place for you.”

DL: Billy Martin said, “Everything looks nicer when you win. The girls are prettier, the cigars taste better, and the grass is greener.”

TF: That's why we show up. We show up every day to win. And I agree with that. It’s amazing when you win, and you go home, your step is a little bit lighter. When you lose, you certainly don't want to drag your tail into the next day, but we showed up to win. Everything's better, I agree.

DL: Tommy Lasorda again: “If you start worrying about the people up in the stands, before too long you’ll be up in the stands with them.”

TF: I’ve said that a lot. Being a fan is different than being [a manager]. If you manage like a fan, you're going to be a fan. Fans might come to one game a week. They want to see Papelbon; they don't realize he might have pitched three days in a row. You do what you think is right, you have enough confidence in what you're doing, and then you answer the questions and move on.

 Baseball's a little different than football, because pretty much everybody has played baseball and they all feel like they know what's going on. And again, sometimes guys are hurt or sometimes a guy in the bullpen needs a day off. Fans are clamoring to see Okie [Hideki Okajima] or Pap, so again, you do what you think is right, and then answer the questions and go home. If you get caught up in the emotions of the game, you can make mistakes.

DL:  Another from Casey Stengel: “I don't like them fellas who drive in two runs and let in three runs.”

TF: I think we're a good example of that. It's a hard way to play the game. If you play clean baseball, and you have good pitching, you're always in the position to win. Even when you're not hitting, if you look up and it's 2-1 or 1-0, and you don't see the sloppy games—you always like to give yourselves a chance. When it's 8-1, those games are tough games to come back to win.

DL: Stengel also said, “Sure I played. Did you think I was born 70 years old, sitting in a dugout trying to manage guys like you?”

TF: I'm not sure where to take that one. I don't know that... I don't think it's important that you have played the game. I think what's important is that whatever you've done, whether you’ve played, coached, didn't play—it’s how you express that to the players. Players don't care if you've played, I don't think. They don't want to hear about your career. This is their time; that's why we're here. I think that's what's important.

DL: Even so, how much does having played impact the way you think on the bench?

TF: Well, I think it has. Every experience you go through, you try to have it be a learning experience. If you don't, you're missing the boat. You try to be able to communicate with every player, and I guess that's where I feel I have a little bit of an advantage because I did a lot of that. I sat the bench; I got released; I got sent down; I know how they feel. When guys are going good, they don't need a manager—all you're doing is patting them on the back. When things are getting a little crazy, that's when they need help.

DL: One more from Stengel: “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate you away from those who haven't made up their minds yet.”

TF: Again, we try real hard to... It's not a popularity contest, but we try real hard to have a clubhouse where guys want to show up and do the right thing. Good players want to try to play the game right because this is a hard game. So that's kind of how we feel. It's not about me or one coach; it's an atmosphere where we want guys to want to do the right thing.

DL: Earl Weaver once said: “Coaches are an integral part of any team, especially if they are good pinochle players.”

TF: We all feel smarter when we have guys like [Josh] Beckett out there, and [Jon] Lester. We laugh about that, but we also... the coaches take their job very seriously. And I think you sort of notice coaches when things aren't going well. When things are going the way they're supposed to, I think coaches get taken for granted.

DL: Another from Tommy Lasorda: “Pressure is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking about pressure, it’s because you’ve started thinking about failure.”

TF: Yeah, I agree with that. I get asked that all the time, about getting picked to win the [American League] East or whatever. I'd much rather have somebody feel that way than say, “Hey, if everything goes well, you got a chance to be .500.”  That's not what we're shooting for. The fact that people think we have a chance to be good means our front office and ownership did a good job in the winter. Now it's our responsibility to go out and get it done. But I don't think that's pressure. I think it's opportunity.

DL:  I assume that you want your players to think the same way?

TF: Oh, of course, of course. I think young players fight through that at times, but you want guys to just... Again, that's why we talk about playing the game correctly, because you want players to just play the game. You start thinking about their at-bats, and they lose sight of what we're trying to do.

DL: The last quote is from Gene Mauch: “I'm not the manager because I'm always right, but I'm always right because I'm the manager.”

TF: I don't think I feel that way. We try to do the same thing we ask of the players. We ask the players to try hard to do the right thing and that's what we do as a staff. Never fails. It's not always right, but we try hard to do the right thing.

10 comments have been left for this article.

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