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Terry Francona on Indians’ September success: ‘We stayed away from chicken and beer’

One month ago, the Cleveland Indians may have seemed like a longshot to make the playoffs. Things changed in a hurry. Terry Francona led his team to a 21-6 record over the month of September. The Indians have clinched one of the two American League wild card spots by getting hot at the perfect time. So what was the secret, Skip?

Terry Francona IndiansAh, yes — it was only a matter of time. The September Francona enjoyed with his new team this season was one that ended with 10 straight victories. It was the complete opposite of what happened in his last season as the manager of the Boston Red Sox, when Boston’s pitching staff was accused of caring more about beer, fried chicken and video games than winning. Some even blamed Francona for losing control of his team.

Most people believe the Red Sox tried to smear Francona’s name on his way out the door, and it’s hard to disagree with that. He was one of the most successful managers in franchise history and he had his name sullied by a few morons who obviously didn’t care about anything other than their paycheck.

Good for Tito. He inherited an Indians team that went 68-94 last season and led it to the playoffs in his first season in Cleveland. John Farrell did the same in Boston with a team that had 69 wins in 2012. The situation appears to have worked out for everyone. It’s now officially safe to joke about it.

H/T CBS Boston

Terry Francona has great strategy for defending Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder

Terry Francona IndiansTerry Francona has led the Cleveland Indians to a strong start to the season in his first year as manager of the team. The Indians are 20-15 and tied for first in the AL Central after taking two of three from the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. The series didn’t start off so favorably, though, as Detroit won 10-4 on Friday after getting home runs from Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. The homers led to some funny comments from Francona about how to defend against possibly the best 3-4 combination in baseball.

“They’ve very dangerous. It’s a lot like when we had David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in Boston. … You can shift [the defense] all you want, but unless you put someone in the bleachers, you’re not going to have the field fully covered,” Francona joked, via The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Cabrera went 2-for-5 with a 3-run home run on Friday, and he was 3-for-9 the next two games. Fielder hit a solo home run on Friday and went 1-for-7 the next two games. Both sluggers are crushing the ball this season.

Fielder has posted a .974 OPS, while Cabrera’s 1.052 mark is fourth in MLB. No surprise, the Tigers have produced the second-most runs in the league this season and are tied for first in the division. As long as those two are in the lineup, Detroit is going to have a competitive team.

Terry Francona got lost walking to the Indians home opener

Terry-Francona-IndiansTerry Francona took a season off from managing last year before being hired by the Cleveland Indians this past offseason. Prior to that, he spent eight seasons as the manager of the Boston Red Sox. During that time, Francona likely became very familiar with the path he had to take in order to report for work at Fenway Park.

Joining a new team takes some adjusting. Francona was reminded of that on Monday when he had trouble finding his way to Progressive Field for Cleveland’s home opener.

“I got lost three times,” Fracona said, via ESPN.com. “Even when I got to the garage two people who work here said, ‘Hey, do you know where you’re going?’ I was like, ‘Nope.’”

To make matters even more humorous, Francona lives just a few blocks from the ballpark in downtown Cleveland. He is planning to ride a scooter to home games this season, but he felt like walking to the home opener. He supposedly got relatively close to the park and an Indians employee picked him up in a golf cart.

“Cleveland is officially the nicest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “Everybody I did walk by said, ‘Hello.’ That’s a little different than I’m used to.”

You mean the people of Boston aren’t friendly? That doesn’t sound right. Anyway, Francona was able to make it to the game on time and will likely be set from here on out. As long as he avoids texting while he’s riding his scooter, he won’t end up like the manager who replaced him last season in Boston.

Terry Francona sheds some light onto just how insane Manny Ramirez was

Terry-Francona-Manny-RamirezWhile Terry Francona likely could not have won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox without a slugger like Manny Ramirez, it is a known fact that the former All-Star is the most difficult player he had to deal with during his eight years in Boston. Ramirez wore out his welcome with the Red Sox in 2008 when he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In his new book, “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” Francona tells a few interesting stories from the “Manny being Manny” era.

In 2008, Ramirez threw a hissy fit and shoved 64-year-old team traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the ground when he was told a late request for 16 tickets to a game against the Houston Astros would not be fulfilled. The now-infamous incident quickly made the rounds through the media after it happened, but Francona gives readers an inside perspective on what went down.

“It took me a few seconds to realize this wasn’t in fun,” Francona said, via Chad Finn of the Boston Globe. “There were not a lot of guys around when I got out there, and I saw Jack leaning against a table, kind of dazed. I grabbed Manny and said, ‘What the [expletive] are you doing?’ I was hoping he wasn’t going to hit me.”

That’s Manny at his worst. Obviously the guy had some issues with his temper. As we know, he also had issues with his effort at various times throughout his tenure in Boston. Like that time in 2006 when he removed himself from a game against the Yankees in the fourth inning.

“I’ll never forget that,’’ Francona said. “He came off the field, walked down the dugout steps, yelled over, and said, ‘Hamstring!’ and I said, ‘Manny, which one?, and he pointed with both hands to both hamstrings. He was like, ‘You pick. [Expletive], I’m coming out. It was funny later, but it wasn’t funny at the time. I had had it with Manny at that point.”

Shoving old guys and faking injuries? Sounds a lot like Manny to me. Francona’s book has already produced some interesting stories about what his life was like in Boston, and there’s likely more to come.

Fist pound to Hardball Talk

Theo Epstein takes exception with his quotes in Terry Francona’s book

Terry Francona has co-authored a book, “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” and from the sound of it, the former Boston Red Sox manager is seeking a bit of revenge in the wake of the team smearing his image on his way out the door.

Earlier this week, we shared one of Theo Epstein’s quotes from the book in which the former Boston general manager talked about John Henry, Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox ownership group wanting “sexy” players.

On Wednesday, Epstein told Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com that the quotes were taken out of context.

“My quote about how ‘they told us… we needed sizzle’ was in response to a question about the meeting to discuss the consultants’ study on NESN ratings,” Epstein, who is now with the Chicago Cubs, said. “It was specifically about the consultants’ meeting; it was not about ownership.”

Epstein insists that it was marketing consultants that said the team needed to bring in “sexy” players — not Henry and company. He also took exception with the book’s assertion that he was pressured into trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford prior to the 2011 season.

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Theo Epstein: Red Sox owners wanted ‘sexy’ players

Former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona has co-authored a book, and as expected there are parts in it that paint an unflattering picture of the way the team’s owners operate. As many of us already suspected, John Henry and company care more about the image of their team than they do about putting a winning team on the field.

In his book, “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” Francona talks about how Henry, team chairman Tom Werner and team president Larry Lucchino were always worried about television ratings. Former general manager Theo Epstein, who is now with the Chicago Cubs, also weighed in.

“They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle,” Epstein said. “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.”

In 2004, Epstein was able to break an 86-year World Series drought with little-known players like Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar. David Ortiz was hardly a household name when Boston brought him over from Minnesota, but he was a “small” acquisition that wound up becoming huge. On the other hand, trading for Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford two years ago brought fireworks in the media, but it led to one of the worst results the team had seen in years.

Francona even went as far as to say he doesn’t think the current Red Sox ownership group loves baseball.

“They come in with all these ideas about baseball, but I don’t think they love baseball,” Francona 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.”

After Francona was fired following Boston’s epic collapse in 2011, Henry had to defend himself against accusations that he leaked information to the media to smear Francona’s name. Tito seems to think it happened that way, and who can blame him? The quotes in the book simply confirm what Red Sox fans have come to know so well — it’s all about image for Henry and the boys.

Carl Crawford: I didn’t feel like Terry Francona had any confidence in me

It didn’t take long for Carl Crawford’s first season with Boston to get ugly. After inking a massive contract that highlighted a huge offseason for the Red Sox last year, Crawford brought virtually nothing to the table. It was no secret that he lost confidence as the season went on, but it may come as a surprise to some people to hear that Crawford did not feel that Terry Francona had his back.

“I didn’t feel like I had the manager’s confidence,” Crawford told Rob Bradford of WEEI during a recent interview. “I don’t know about the organization, but I don’t try and look past the manager, so I feel like I didn’t have the manager’s confidence, therefore I started to think something was wrong with me, and it just snowballed after that. It had a trickle-down effect, and it just got worse and worse as the days went by.”

Francona has always been known as a player’s manager. By dropping Crawford down in the lineup for most of the season, he was probably trying to take pressure off of him and allow him to get back on track. Apparently Carl did not see it that way. Considering Red Sox owner John Henry basically admitted he didn’t want to sign Crawford, it’s interesting to hear the outfielder talk about his former manager that way.

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