Tito: 'Trying to stop the bleeding'

March, 22, 2012

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Wearing an ESPN polo jersey instead of the Red Sox warmup shirt that he had sported for the last eight springs, former manager Terry Francona paid his first visit to the Red Sox since parting ways under duress last October.

Francona left little doubt that the circumstances of his departure, especially the public humiliation he endured because of a front-page Boston Globe story that discussed his marital issues and raised questions about his use of pain medication, have left lasting wounds.

Francona, who was here as part of the ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" team televising Thursday night’s game between the Yankees and Red Sox (which will be blacked out in Boston), was asked whether he planned on attending the 100th anniversary celebration of Fenway Park next month.

“I didn’t know about that,’’ he said. “I don’t know, I wouldn’t anticipate it at this point. I’m not quite ready for the hugs yet. I’m trying to stop the bleeding.’’

Francona later said that he was “teasing” about the bleeding, but his further remarks on the subject appeared to belie that position.

“You know what, when you go 7 and 17 (the Sox actually went 7-20 in September), especially as manager you open yourself up for criticism,’’ Francona said. “I think you probably deserved to be criticized.

“I tried to take responsibility in that last press conference. I thought there were things that needed to be done where my voice necessarily wasn’t the one that was doing the best job at that point. I thought I was pretty open and honest about that.

“After that when I left I thought I would just leave. What happened after that really hurt me a lot, and it probably always will. But the best thing to do is try to move on. I mean, carrying grudges and stuff like that is not real healthy. I spent eight years there, we did a lot of good stuff, and so that hurt me a little bit.’’

Francona was asked about the phone conversation he had with Red Sox owner John W. Henry this spring after he’d mentioned that he and Henry had not spoken since he left. Francona was asked if the conversation was therapeutic.

“I don’t know, it was probably five months too late,’’ Francona said. “We talked. It doesn’t matter anymore. That’s what I told him, we should have had this conversation a long time ago because anything you say now doesn’t matter. But he was good.’’

Francona said he had been “real excited” about the St. Louis Cardinals managing job, a position for which he interviewed but was passed over in favor of newcomer Mike Matheny. The only other managing vacancy was with the Chicago Cubs, where his former boss, Theo Epstein, had just been named president of baseball operations.

“The Cubs’ job, Theo and I both knew it wasn’t the right thing for either one of us at the time. Nothing against Theo, or I don’t think me, either, but the timing wasn’t right.’’

Francona said his “passion” is to be on the field, but that he decided it would be “really healthy” to step away for a time, “and look at baseball without so much emotion.

“I think that will be good for me,’’ he said. “I was pretty worn down by the end of last season.’’

It didn’t help that a reputation unsullied during his time in Boston was shredded in the days after he left.

“I got out of town quick,’’ he said. “That was helpful. I didn’t want to sit and read everything, hear everything. It was pretty raw. When you part ways, it’s hard. I spent eight years of my life there, and I didn’t really have a chance to go through those emotions, because three days later all hell broke loose.

“It was weird, difficult. It wasn’t like the normal, ‘OK, you’re going to pick up and move on,’ because all of a sudden all kinds of things were flying around, so it wasn’t the normal circumstances.’’

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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