Former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona has a new book entitled Francona: The Red Sox Years, and it hits shelves on January 22.
Co-authored by Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy, the book sheds light on a number of topics, including the circumstances leading to Francona’s departure from Boston in 2011.
Francona makes several bold assertions, stating in an excerpt released to the public that the Red Sox owners were not passionate about the game of baseball. The front office has also been criticized by fans over the years for being more concerned with marketability and expanding revenue streams rather than running a successful franchise.
“I think they like baseball,” writes Francona. “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.”
While Francona recognizes baseball is a business and must be treated as such, the front office said and did some things that rubbed him the wrong way during his tenure in Boston.
He recalls almost walking out of a lunch meeting with principal owner John Henry, CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner in 2010. Werner complained about dwindling television ratings, claiming the Red Sox needed to start winning in a more “exciting fashion.”
In an ESPN E:60 interview with Jeremy Schaap, Francona said, “I definitely think [the Red Sox front office] wanted to win and they also wanted to sell the product.”
In order to sell their product, the owners allegedly devoted $100,000 toward a marketing project directed at enhancing the female demographic. According to the book, the results showed that women "are definitely more drawn to the 'soap opera' and 'reality-TV' aspects of the game. ... They are interested in good-looking stars and sex symbols.”
Former Red Sox VP/general manager Theo Epstein explains in the memoir that he was told by ownership to build a “sexier team.”
“[Ownership] told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle,” he said. “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.”
That offseason, the Red Sox traded for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and signed outfielder Carl Crawford to a megadeal worth $142 million over seven years.
It should come as no surprise that the image-crazy front office continues to perpetuate a fraudulent home sellout streak that should have ended years ago. The fans and media are not dumb, nor are they blind. They can see the hundreds of empty seats at Red Sox home games over the last two-and-a-half seasons.
Let’s not forget the flurry of celebrations during Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary, amidst yet another tumultuous season with Bobby Valentine at the helm.
By the way, have you bought your commemorative brick yet?
Terry Francona’s book will offer a breath of fresh air. It will expose the Red Sox front office for what it really is: greedy, money-grubbing, enterprising businessmen who care more about the team’s image and sex appeal than wins and losses.
If winning baseball games is no longer a priority for John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner, then their decade-long stay in Boston has run its course.
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