Epstein: Nobody blames Francona

September, 29, 2011
BOSTON -- Terry Francona has been the manager of the Boston Red Sox for eight seasons. He won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. There have been some great moments during his tenure, and some not so great moments.

Francona sat alongside general manager Theo Epstein in the interview room at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon and tried to dissect exactly what happened to the once-promising 2011 season. Entering the year, the Red Sox were the odds-on favorite to win the World Series.

As Francona sat at the rectangular table, he looked tired. He looked beat up. He’s probably nervous as to whether he’ll keep his job.

The Red Sox have until a week from Saturday to pick up club options for one or both of the next two seasons, but Epstein said the upper management and ownership will take a breather and reassess everyone in the organization in the next few days, including Francona. His options are worth $4.25 million each.

“Tito and I spent some time talking today, just catching up on the season and talking about what the next few days will look like,” Epstein said. “We’re going to get together, all the ownership, Larry (Lucchino) and I and Tito over the next several days and talk about the season and talk about the future.

“We’re less than 24 hours removed from the end of the season, so we need some time to calm down and get objective and look at ourselves, look at 2011 and look ahead and make the best decisions for everybody.”

Epstein made it a point of not blaming Francona for the club’s collapse in September, when the Red Sox went 7-20 and lost a nine-game lead in the AL wild-card race to the Tampa Bay Rays.

“We’ve already talked about it, John (Henry), Tom (Werner), Larry and I, and nobody blames what happened in September on Tito,” Epstein said. “That would be totally irresponsible and totally short-sighted and wouldn’t recognize everything he means to the organization and to all of our successes, including at times during 2011, so we take full responsibility for what happened, all of us and collectively as a failure.

“I’m the general manager so I take more responsibility than anybody. I know we don’t believe in scapegoats, in particular nobody blames Tito for what happened in September. We all failed collectively. We all failed in this one and we have to live with that. We’re not going to point the fingers at any one person in particular, we’re going to be identifying issues, finding ways to address those issues, and in some cases getting the right people to help address those issues.”

Francona also said he would like to give it a few days before making a decision whether he would want to come back as Red Sox manager.

“I think we’ll to talk tomorrow,” Francona said. “I think maybe it’s best for today to stay where we’re at. It’s still pretty fresh and pretty raw. It’s a fair question, but I would rather focus on the other stuff today.”

Francona said he would identify the collapse of the 2011 season as the toughest moment of his career with the Red Sox. But said part of that is because it just happened. There have been other hard times.

“Only because it’s now. It’s easy to forget,” Francona said. “There isn’t a whole lot here that isn’t trying, even in the best of (times) because everything is so important to people here, and that’s good. Because it’s fresh and raw it seems that way, but there have been a lot of trying moments here, we just fought through them a little bit better.”

Joe McDonald

ESPN Staff Writer



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