Terry Francona: “I had a responsibility to get something done and it didn’t get done. So I need to wear that, and I do.”

October 6, 2011 – 11:15 am by Michael Bean

Pretty honorable stuff here from Terry Francona, the recently fired manager of the Boston Red Sox. Francona is all class in his lengthy, 40-minute interview on WEEI in Boston Wednesday. Even though his players cost him his job with their historic collapse, Francona takes all the blame for the team’s shortcomings. At just 52 years of age, Francona has plenty of years left to manage elsewhere before calling it a career, so it’s probably a wise move for him to not have thrown his players under the bus in any way, shape or form. Still, it’s got to be hard to bite your tongue like that and take all the blame so directly when there’s absolutely no denying that he was not the root cause of Boston’s failures.

Francona joined WEEI in Boston with the Big Show to talk about this past week for him personally since being fired, his comments about everybody not being ‘all in’ during his final press conference, whether he would have stayed on as manager had he been asked to, his thoughts on the Red Sox not picking up the options on his contract at the start of spring training this year, how he’d characterize the changes in his time in Boston from year one to his final season in 2011, questions regarding leadership on the team, what frustrated him most about this season, whether he’d like to manage again in 2012, the Red Sox’s historic collapse at the end of the season, and the most important lessons and memories he’ll take away from his time as manager of the Red Sox.

How this past week has been for him since being fired:

“Wow, a whirlwind I guess. A lot of swirling emotions. As you can imagine, a lot has happened in eight years, and a lot has happened in a week. I’ve tried to sit back and look at everything and gain some perspective, that’s not always the easiest thing to do.  But I always try to look at myself, think, ‘All right, what could I have done better?’ It’s probably not the easiest time to do that, but I’m trying to do the best I can.”

What he meant by his comments about feeling like not everybody was ‘all in’ in the organization:

“Well, I guess I was a little general, and I probably shouldn’t have been general in a situation like that because it led to a lot more then there needed to be. First of all, the ownership group is probably second to none. I haven’t been to all places, but I’ve been to a lot of places. They do a fantastic job here. And I know that, and I respect these owners. When I was talking about the all-in, I was probably talking about myself. If things bother you that didn’t used to bother you, than that was my responsibility to figure it out or maybe get a different job. And things that didn’t used to bother me in the past started to bother me. Theo and I had this conversation all the time about me staying, was it healthy for me to stay, could I be an effective leader if I did stay? That wasn’t just the last week, Theo and I had these conversations from time to time just because we were together so much.”

Whether he would stayed had he been asked to return as manager:

“I don’t know guys to be honest with you, and that didn’t happen. And again, there was a reason I was up in that office having some meetings. I have to own a lot of the responsibility for what happened, because it was my responsibility to not let happen what happened. So regardless of how ownership feels or how Theo feels or how you feel or the fans feel, I had a responsibility to get something done and it didn’t get done. So I need to wear that, and I do. Maybe it was just time. Certainly it hurts — you can’t just leave eight years especially in this place. But some things I was able to get done in the past, I wasn’t able to quite get done this year, especially at the end. And it bothered me a lot. And I have to live with that one.”

On the difference between his first year in Boston and this past season:

“Well when you first start you have that honeymoon period. I think the fact that Theo and I made it through eight years in this environment I think shows in itself how strong our relationship was. I think there were days when he wanted to wring my neck, and I don’t blame him. You’re together so much, and you’re in a situation where you have to give your opinion. And it was always afforded. I’m actually proud of our relationship; we butt heads sometimes, I think you’re supposed to. I did know when things were rough I knew where I could go, and I did that to the very end. And I’m very proud of the way we worked together.”

After talking about his leaving being in some ways mutual, he was asked if he would have stayed on in Boston if his option had been picked up by the Red Sox:

“No. But again, some of these are personal conversation and I hope you respect that. Eight years together is a lot, and I have a lot of respect for them and what they do. Again, there are just some things that were voiced in meetings that I viewed maybe as not being supportive. Maybe they didn’t. Everybody has their own opinions. Now, I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus here, because that’s not how I feel.”

Whether he thought there was a leadership void on this year’s Red Sox team:

“I don’t know, I think we had some outstanding leaders. I think it’s more as a season progresses, teams take on a certain personality and an identity. And we didn’t seem to be doing that, and I thought we had opportunities to do it. Sometimes when you get beat up, teams come together and they form a bond. And I didn’t see that as much as I wanted to. I thought we were capable way of slugging our way through this, and then turning Beckett and Lester loose in the playoffs and going on one of those runs. I mean, I knew we were beat up and we weren’t playing very well — I saw that, but I thought we were capable of getting through it and regrouping.”

On what one thing frustrated him the most about his team:

“Well I think it’s just I wanted us all to be going in one direction. There were many challenges — our pitching staff was struggling mightily at the end, they knew that, no need to point fingers at anybody. It’s not pointing any fingers. It was our hitting was inconsistent, we at times tried to do too much on the bases, we got careless there. There were a lot of mistakes made and again that falls on me. I just wanted us to do a better job meeting that challenge, and spend our energy trying to protect each other as opposed to maybe saying ‘this guy could do this.’ And that bothers me.”

Whether he would like to manage in 2012:

“I don’t know guys, I really don’t know. I think I would certainly love to stay in the game. I have no ambition to ever leave the game. I just love it so much and it’s been so good to me. I don’t want to try to manage in the wrong situation, because that wouldn’t be good for me. To manage again, you have to have somebody who thinks you’re worthy of that. That may never happen, and it may happen some time down the road. Who knows? What I need to try to do right now is have some perspective, because that’s not the easiest thing to do.”

Does he think he might need some time and space before he jumps back into the game:

“I don’t know, I don’t think so. I love this game so much it doesn’t take a lot to get energized, but I also don’t want to go look for a job. It’s not that I’m above that, I don’t mean it like that. But I want it to be a job that I can grab. Like I said, you’ve got to be all-in. You do. Whether it’s a young team you think you can help get better, or it’s a team you think has a chance to win, there’s a lot of ways to get rejuvenated. I’ll just kind of see how I feel — talk to some friends, get some input, and then see what’s going on.”

How many times has he thought about the 7-20 stretch and the final night of the season:

“Not really, I mean, the last night of the season was ‘wow, how do you explain that?’ But it shouldn’t have come down to that, we shouldn’t have been 7-20. We put ourselves in that position. Like I always say, if you make a mistake in the 8th inning and you haven’t built a lead enough, shame on you, you should have built a three run lead instead of a one run lead. We put ourselves in a position where if that happened, we had to own it and we did.”

On the most important thing he’ll take away from his eight years in Boston:

“Oh boy, right now it’s probably a little difficult to get it straight. So many good things happened. I hope that the one thing I take away is I gave everything I had, I really did. I hope that whether it was right, wrong or in-between, I always tried to do what was best for the team, and I always tried to put the team ahead of my own personal stuff. And I hope that was apparent.”

Listen here to Francona on WEEI in Boston

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