In this morning’s Boston Globe, Dan Shaughnessy reported that Francona wants nothing to do with the 100-year celebration of Fenway Park, declining multiple invitations from team owner John Henry and CEO Larry Lucchino. Francona told Shaughnessy that he “just can’t go back there and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a little bit hypocritical.”
To refresh your memory, Francona is referring back to the October story in the Globe by Bob Hohler that blew the lid off of the “fried chicken and beer” scandal, leading to massive organizational changes in the offseason.
In the story, Hohler cited anonymous sources as saying Francona “appeared distracted during the season by issues related to his troubled marriage and to his health” and that he “may have been affected by his use of pain medication.”
These salacious details may have made for an interesting story, but they also have led Franconca to rightfully distrust anyone in the organization. He gave this team stability and strong leadership in the wake of the Grady Little disaster and became the second-longest tenured manager in Red Sox history from 2004-11, trailing only Hall of Famer Joe Cronin.
Oh, and there’s those two World Series wins in 2004 and 2007 too.
The fact that, to date, Francona has taken the high road when asked about his time with the Sox is a testament to his character. He was always one to protect his players and the organization, and here he is showing his continued loyalty even after he no longer works there.
The problem is that the organization is not showing the same loyalty back.
After October’s character assassination and Francona’s dismissal (technically his contract was not renewed, but who are we kidding? He got fired), the former manager tried to reach out to Henry in order to clear the air. He was ignored for five months.
Henry finally returned Francona’s call in February, and then had the gall to invite him back to Fenway for the anniversary party. While he would have been justified in hanging up on Henry right then and there, Francona again took the high road and simply declined due to his lingering questions over who wanted to hurt him by speculating to the Globe about his problems.
When Lucchino tried again last week, he got the same “no” response. Not one who likes to be denied what he wants, Lucchino threw a hissy fit. According to Francona, Lucchino “got a little perturbed at me, telling me I was being unfair to (the Red Sox).”
This type of childish behavior on ownership’s part has become a troubling trend. When Lucchino called the Yankees the “Evil Empire” in 2002, it was all fun and games. Now, the name-calling has gotten a bit more serious, with people’s lives and careers are being affected.
It would be a big step, of course, to assume that the owners understands the consequences of what they have said and done.
While they’ve always been self-centered, their thinking has now become so warped that they actually think Francona is insulting them. They seemingly believe that they’re completely innocent in the leaking to the Globe of the rumors of pill addictions and marital problems.
They have always, to a degree, acted like spoiled little children. They have now taken it way too far.
Francona gave eight years of service to this team without once publicly griping about a problem. He kept his mouth shut about problems that arose he would have been justified complaining about. No matter how unlikable last year’s team got, Francona was always there defending his players and putting a positive spin on the situation.
For an organization to take someone like that—someone who believed in chain of command and who was the quintessential “good soldier”—and to try to villainize him among media and fans is an outright travesty.
For an organization that receives more loyalty from fans and players than any in baseball, it’s a shame to know it gives none in return. In refusing to come to the Fenway anniversary celebration, Francona is taking a stand not just for himself, but on behalf of all of Red Sox Nation.