May 24, 2013

On Baseball: The visitor in a place once home

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON - John Farrell and Terry Francona both looked chipper Thursday afternoon.

Terry Francona, writers, photographers, bench
click image to enlarge

Yes, there was a game. But the focus Thursday night at Fenway Park was on Terry Francona. That’s Cleveland Manager Terry Francona. Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

The Associated Press

Farrell has occupied the Red Sox manager's office only a short time.

Francona has been away from it long enough to recover.

"Lot of attention and demands that might be different here," Farrell said of the job. "But those are the things you accept. Maybe after 162 (games) I might have a different answer for you. Right now it's a great place to be."

Francona thought that, too, until the end of the 2011 season.

"When you're the manager of the Red Sox, it can take a toll," Francona said. "Toward the end it did take a toll."

Francona, 54, arrived back at Fenway Park on Thursday, his first time as an opposing manager, leading the Cleveland Indians. Francona sat in the visiting dugout before the game, wearing a blue cap and a dark blue top. But instead of a B, they featured Cleveland's Chief Wahoo logo.

"I'm really proud coming here with this hat on, this uniform," Francona said. "That takes nothing away from the eight years I was here. It makes it easier to look back on the fonder memories."

That was Francona's theme Thursday: Enjoyed some good times in Boston. Thrilled to be in Cleveland.

But of course there's more to the story.

Francona, as he detailed in a book co-authored with a Boston Globe columnist, Dan Shaughnessy, rarely felt he had the backing of the Red Sox ownership at the end.

When Francona believed his contract wouldn't be renewed after the 2011 season ended in an epic collapse, he resigned.

Then came a story in the Globe, quoting anonymous sources, questioning Francona's focus because of personal problems.

Francona, possibly the best manager in Red Sox history, went out bitterly.

"I wish the ending would have been different. That isn't the script I would have written," he said.

"I don't think I'll ever change my feelings about that."

But as badly as ownership handled Francona's departure, maybe he did need to leave, or at least take an extended break. After departing Boston, Francona interviewed with St. Louis but wasn't offered the job.

"When I didn't get the job, I sat back and thought I maybe need to re-evaluate things," Francona said. "It's not an easy ting to do because I love being in the dugout."

ESPN offered Francona a job as an analyst. He could stay close to the game but relax.

"When you're the manager you feel responsible for everything," he said. "To not have to be responsible for a while was good for me.

"As the season progressed, I started missing the game."

After the season, Francona received a call from Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti.

"When he called I was like, this would be a landing spot for me," Francona said.

Francona worked for the Indians in 2001, after he was fired by the Phillies.

Mark Shapiro, now the Indians' president, was the general manager and Antonetti was on his staff. The Indians are known for loyal employees. Farrell pitched for and worked in the Cleveland organization.

"Working in Cleveland, in that environment, they take specific interest in their people and not just the players on the field," Farrell said.

In Cleveland, Francona was back with friends, with a team building to contend. He was ready.

"Taking a year away allows you to recharge, re-evaluate yourself, get a fresh start," Francona said.

He dismisses the notion that he chose Cleveland because it was less pressurized than Boston.

(Continued on page 2)

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