For Francona, Red Sox fit better than O's

Boston GM Epstein is OK with Martinez's comments


World Series notebook

October 28, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS - Three teams had cracks at hiring Terry Francona as their manager last fall. He interviewed with the Orioles and Chicago White Sox before getting hired to replace Grady Little with the Boston Red Sox.

The Orioles wound up picking Lee Mazzilli, and the White Sox chose Ozzie Guillen.

After firing Mike Hargrove, the Orioles were looking to go in a new direction. Francona had spent four losing seasons as the Philadelphia Phillies' manager, and the general feeling inside the B&O Warehouse was that he fell a little flat in his interview.

"I went down to Baltimore, and you tell them how you feel," Francona said. "But I'm not sure I came out of it thinking I was the right person. I had ties in Chicago because I was a minor-league manager there for six years.

"When I came to Boston, I remember leaving there after that first day, and the interview wasn't two hours; it was a long day. ... I came away being exhausted but refreshed in the feeling that this could be an unbelievable place to be a manager."

Francona has often said he felt his experience doing all that losing in Philadelphia prepared him for what he's faced in Boston, where the Red Sox had played 85 straight seasons without a World Series title.

"I was kind of blown away [with Francona]," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "I thought he was well-rounded, and he brought a tremendous amount of knowledge to the job.

"I also thought he'd be a great fit for Boston. And I never really realized how much that last attribute would mean. We have the smallest clubhouse in baseball, and the biggest media corps covering the team. We have 35,000 in the ballpark every night waiting for you to screw up.

"We have a lot of historical baggage. And you're going to have a hard time succeeding there if you sweat the small stuff. Tito doesn't."

Positive Pedro vibe

Epstein said he wasn't bothered in the least by the tone of Pedro Martinez's comments after he won Game 3. Martinez, a free agent at season's end, spoke in the past tense about his seven-year career in Boston.

"It's been a great ride," he said. "I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as I did. I hope I get another chance to come back with this team, but if I don't, I understand the business part of it. I just hope that many other people understand that I wasn't the one that wanted to leave.

"If they don't get me, it's probably because they didn't try hard enough. My heart is with Boston. If it doesn't work out, I'll go away with respect for management, for the team, for everybody."

The Red Sox will face one of their biggest decisions in franchise history when they determine what to offer Martinez in free agency. At 33, the three-time Cy Young Award winner will have other teams lined up for his services.

"I don't think Pedro's comments were inappropriate at all," Epstein said. "I think they were heartfelt. If he wants to come back, we want him back. That said, we're going to build the '05 club they way we did in '04 and '03, and not put one individual ahead of the team."

Cardinals shuffle

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa shook up his lineup a bit before Game 4, inserting Tony Womack in the leadoff spot, and moving Edgar Renteria down to sixth. John Mabry started in left field.

Womack was the team's regular leadoff hitter this season, but he's been hampered with back spasms and a bruised left collarbone. Scott Rolen, hitless in 11 at-bats in the first three games, remained in the cleanup spot.

Rolen missed time late in the season with a calf injury but hit well through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

"I don't think there's anything about his rustiness that he would want to make an excuse about," La Russa said. "I think physically his calf is bothering him some, but he's definitely playable. He's definitely better than he was when he started playing [in September]."

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