The heart may beat for Ryne Sandberg as the next Cubs’ manager, but the head should give the nod to Terry Francona.
In a perfect baseball world anyway. Which is not exactly where one would find Cubs’ nation the last 103 years.
Unless, of course, Francona is on fumes after his very successful and also controversial eight-season stay in Boston.
Peter Gammons described Francona, the man who led the Red Sox to two championships, as a manager suffering baseball burnout. If that is the case, coming to Wrigley Field, home to so much futility, Francona is not the Cubs’ man.
Francona climbed onto the sports radio couch for 45 revealing minutes during a WEEI interview Wednesday.
“I don’t know, guys” Francona said of managing next year. “I really don’t know. I think I’d certainly love to stay in the game. I have no ambitions to ever leave the game. I love it so much and it’s been so good to me.
“I don’t want to try to manage in a wrong situation. That wouldn’t be good for me. Again, to manage again, you have to have so many things to be worthy of that. That may not happen. It may happen down the road. Who knows?”
The thinking here is Francona would still be the Red Sox skipper if general manager Theo Epstein was the one solely making the call. But the same Boston brain trust which sent Francona packing after the Red Sox historic September slide apparently is also ready to allow the Cubs to talk to Epstein.
So it would figure that Epstein would welcome Francona in the Cubs dugout once Tom Ricketts figures what player(s) to send Boston’s way as compensation for Theo.
As for the Red Sox 7-20 month which led to his exit, Francona said September’s slump was on him as much as anyone.
“I have to own a lot of the responsibility for what happened,” Francona said. “It was my responsibility to not let what happened happen. So regardless of how ownership feels or regardless of how (general manager) Theo (Epstein) feels or how the fans feel, I had a responsibility to get something done and it didn’t get done. …
“Maybe it was just time. It certainly hurts. Some things I felt like was able to get done in the past, I wasn’t able to quite get done this year, especially at the end. That bothered me, a lot.”
It got to the point, Francona explained, that he was starting to question himself.
“If things bother you that didn’t used to bother you, that was my responsibility to either figure it out or get a different job,” Francona said. “Things that maybe didn’t bother me in the past were starting 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 a leader if I did stay. That just wasn’t in the last week. He and I had these conversations from time to time just because we were together so much.”
Red Flags ahead, Cub Fans!
Even more damning are reports that Francona was not running the tightest of Red Sox ships. There are allegations of an open bar by some starting pitchers on their off days, according to ESPNBoston.com. Boozing which was going on for more than just this season.
Francona said Wednesday he was unaware of such illicit drinking, though he was “uncomfortable with a lot of the things that were going on” with the team.
“If someone walks around with a cup full of beer … I don’t think it’s the end of the world,” Francona said.
“I don’t think it’s like it’s being portrayed,” he said. “More in general was the idea that I wanted the guys that weren’t down on the bench I wanted them on the bench, I wanted them to support their teammates. Things like that. Whether they had a cup of beer or not wasn’t the end of the world to me. It was more of an attitude toward our team that distressed me.”
Another issue with the team, Francona said, was that players’ personal goals seemed to be coming before the team’s goals.
“I used to say, when a team would come up after the game, if they were mad it was because we lost, not because they were 0-for-4,” Francona said. “I
felt a little bit different this year, especially at the end. The personal goals were outweighing some of the team goals. That’s my responsibility to change that. That falls on me. I was distraught that I wasn’t able to change that all the time.”
Better get Ryno on the phone.
Because he would not stand for what was going on behind Boston’s clubhouse door.
“There are clubhouses I know that have a lot of issues going on that the Red Sox don’t,” Francona said. “They have some spectacular people down there. I also know what we’ve gone through the last eight years and I knew we weren’t on the same path.”
Francona’s style, he said, was to give players the benefit of the doubt and not react to every little thing. That’s a philosophy he’s questioning in the aftermath of his departure.
“Maybe it cost me a little bit in the end,” Francona said. “Theo and I had this conversation too about whether I was the right person for this team going forward. Because obviously there need to be some changes made here, and I don’t think I was.
“If I go on to manage again somewhere else I probably do need to make some changes. I don’t think it was going to be entirely possible with this group that I had already entrusted all this to — I use the word implicit trust and I really meant that — and it’s hard to change that and be a different person with the same group of guys.”
The Cubs can’t wait for Francona to reinvent himself even if he thinks Theo and he can make magic, yet again.
“The fact that Theo and I made it through eight years together in this environment shows in itself how strong our relationship was,” Francona said. “I think there were days where he wanted to wring my neck and I don’t blame him. You’re together that much and in a situation where you have to give your opinion, I’m proud of our relationship. We butted heads sometimes, I think you’re supposed to. I do know that when things were rough I knew where I could go and I did that to the very end. I’m proud of the way we treated each other.”
What to do if Epstein insists Francona is his guy? Red flags and all?
Your call, Mr. Ricketts.
“I gave everything I had, I really did.” Francona said. “Whether it was right, wrong, or in between I always tried to do the best I could for the team and I always tried to put the organization ahead of my own personal stuff and I hope that was apparent.”“I think I love this game so much that it doesn’t take a lot to get energized, but I also know I just don’t want to go look for a job, not that I’m above that.
“I don’t mean it like that. But I would want it to be a job that I can grab. You got to be all in. Whether it’s a young team you think can get better or a team that has a chance to win, there are a lot of ways to get rejunvenated. So I’ll sit back and see how I feel, talk to friends and get their input and see what’s going on.”
Hope you will join Mully and me when we talk this and all Chicago sports between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.
As always, thanks for listening.