July 12, 2005

BETTER COWBOY UP:

In heavy duty, a light touch: Humor helps Francona manage the Red Sox (Gordon Edes, July 12, 2005, Boston Globe)

Terry Francona, at the podium to announce the starting lineup for the American League All-Star team yesterday, gestured toward Bill Giles, the former president of the Phillies who was serving as the honorary captain of the National League team.

''One more thing," Francona said. ''They talked about 1918 [and the Red Sox winning the World Series]. I think the only person up here that might have actually sat through that was Bill Giles."

After the laughter died down, Giles had his chance to fire back. Noting that the National League has yet to win while he has held his ceremonial position, Giles said, ''I feel good this year because we're going to outmanage the other guy [Francona]. He worked for me for three years."

It's easier to take a joke when your resume lists you not only as the failed manager of the Phillies but as skipper of the defending World Series winners. But humor always has been an important component of Francona's approach to his job. In the anything-goes culture that exists in the Red Sox clubhouse, it's also a survival mechanism.

Imagine how a less-secure person might have reacted when David McCarty, the former Sox infielder who had returned to Boston for a weekend broadcasting gig for NESN, strolled into Francona's office on a recent afternoon, hours before the Sox were to play the Toronto Blue Jays.

''You must have pulled names out of a hat to get that lineup with [Doug] Mirabelli hitting third," McCarty said.

''You know what?" Francona said. ''I knew you were coming in today, I wanted to give you something to [expletive] talk about."

A few minutes later, Bill Mueller, the soft-spoken third baseman, poked his head inside the door.

''Did you know there's a lineup card out there that says Mirabelli is hitting third tonight?" Mueller asked.

''They called me and said it was an exhibition game," Francona retorted.

''I love the fact we have a pretty special thing going here," Francona said after Mueller left. ''And it's everybody. [Curt] Schilling comes over here, and these [expletives], they hammer him. It's great, and he loves it. It works. It just works. Once you step through the door, the gloves come off -- with me, with the coaches, everybody. You better not have thin skin. But they care, as soon as something happens. It's a pretty good situation."


On his pre-game show this Sunday he said he decided to walk to the hotel in Baltimore after losing the day before and it was just brutal. Fans razzed him the whole way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 12, 2005 10:46 AM
Comments

As long as he wins, it'll be "humor." Once he starts losing, it'll be "flakiness" and he'll get fired.

Posted by: Casey Abell at July 12, 2005 12:06 PM
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