If you're Terry Francona, what do you do when your star player allegedly leaves the ballpark before the end of your first official game as manager of the Red Sox? In a 7-2 loss to the Orioles to boot?
The answer might come today. Attempts yesterday to reach Pedro Martinez were unsuccessful. His agent, Fernando Cuza, did not return calls.
Francona is a self-professed players' manager; that's the perception of the players, as well. Several said in spring training they appreciated the way Francona treated them, and that they never would test him or take advantage.
Now the public is waiting to see how Francona handles this, just as it waited to see how Grady Little handled Manny Ramirez's situation last season. A couple of Sox players were also interested in how their new manager would handle the situation, one indicating, "I don't think it's a big deal, but right off the bat Terry has to handle a situation. I know he'll handle it and be fair because that's the way he's been so far."
Francona was content not to pursue the issue with Martinez yesterday. "No, not today," he said. "I wouldn't do that on an offday. That can wait until tomorrow."
Francona indicated he had a policy on players staying around for the whole game, but "in fairness to him [Martinez] and everybody else, that wasn't conveyed correctly on my part and I take responsibility for that."
Does something as basic as that have to be conveyed?
"It's my responsibility to do that, yes," Francona said. "I don't think he was trying to do anything, well, it's not malicious, but that's more my responsibility to make sure it's conveyed."
An associate and friend of Martinez who did not want to be identified said yesterday, "In no way was Pedro disrespecting Terry Francona. Pedro has a lot of respect for Terry. I think Pedro was so disappointed that he didn't pitch better on Opening Day that he was very frustrated at himself. This was in no way something against Terry or anything to do with [Martinez's] contract. He has a lot of pride and he puts a lot of pressure on himself. People just don't understand how much he cares about his performance on the field."
A team source said Francona likely would sit and talk with Martinez before today's game to make sure the situation never occurs again. According to a source at Channel 4, Martinez did some long and short tossing for about 10 minutes yesterday at the park.
Much has been made of Martinez's contract talks with the team, which to this point have yielded no answers to the pitcher's future in Boston. Could it be he does not feel respected by the organization?
"I really don't [think that's the case]," Francona said. "I hope that . . . I don't know what his relationship is with you guys or anything like that. I know I was real pleased to give him the ball on Opening Night. That's a pretty big respect thing right there."
Was Martinez unhappy, sick, cold?
"No, I don't think he felt like talking to you [media] guys is the way I took it, but I don't know," Francona said. "I don't get real caught up in [it]. Like somebody asked me about his mood . . . I'm not sure that that's all that important. I want us to win. He was OK. He was fine."
Francona said he was grateful Martinez settled down after a rough second inning, which enabled him to extend his outing to six innings.
"Ninety-three pitches . . . that was just about right," Francona said. "He had an eight-pitch inning and an 11-pitch inning. He really buckled down and he got real economical."
It appeared as if Martinez had problems getting acclimated to the cold weather. Temperature at game time was 43 degrees, and it fell into the 30s with a biting wind. Martinez was seen blowing into his hands and flexing his hands to get a better feel for the ball. His throwing error in the second inning seemed to indicate his inability to grip the ball the way he would have liked, at least early on.
Eyewitness accounts of when Martinez left the park varied slightly, ranging from during the eighth to the ninth innings, but the team acknowledged Martinez did not wait until the final out was made.
"Nobody said anything about it [Martinez's departure] that I know of," claimed one player. "I think after a game like that, when we played so poorly, that you're just thinking about showering, getting out of there, and looking forward to the day off and then starting all over again. I don't think it's a big issue, but I'm sure it will turn into one."
Schilling won today, so we don't care about Sunday anymore. I have more problems with Francona's in-game moves over the first two games than with l'affaire de Pedro (with, my only concern over that being when Manny leaves early as he emulates Pedro. See, pre-All Star Game last year, and last August with sore throat). Damon can't hit (can he maybe shave, get a hair-cut and drop 15 lbs?), so down 5 in the 8th he leaves him up in the 8th while Burks and McCarthy are on the bench. Damon hits into force play, rally gets killed, and to top it off, he puts Burks up to hit for Ortiz in the 9th. Then, today he takes Ramirez out for defensive purposes in the 8th while leaving Millar, who is worse than Ramirez defensively, in the field. Naturally, Millar gets into a collision and has to leave the game, thus taking your 4 and 6 hole bats out of the line-up.
(edited by redsoxnation on 6.4.04 1832) I want you to know, I agree with everything I just said.
In Philly, Francona was one of those guys you root for because he was a nice guy, but some of his moves were very boneheaded. He's also known as a pushover in the locker room and "one of the guys". The team overachieved under him for a while, but he wound up managing himself out of a job.
This is why Larry Bowa conflicted with so many players when he first came to Philadelphia. His loud mouth and ability to tell you how much you suck really pissed off people like Scott Rolen (though Rolen also got pissed cause Bowa wanted him to be a leader, and he didn't feel like it) and others in the locker room. If you have a bad game under Bowa, he'll tell you to step up and criticize you if he thinks you are dogging it. If you have a bad game under Francona, he'll tell you that you'll get them next time and not to worry. I can guarantee Pedro gives him trouble all year long, just to see what he can get away with. I don't buy the "we won't take advantage of him" stuff.
I really feel like Francona was hired to make Schilling happy, since Schilling got away with whatever he wanted under Francona, including calling out management every other week. The two are close friends, and if Francona thought that Philadelphia fans were tough, wait until the Sox get swept by the Yankees.
(edited by Roy. on 6.4.04 1959) Gravity is a contributing factor in nearly 73 percent of all accidents involving falling objects.
I don't really want to debate his hall of fame merits right now ... but if he gets in, I will wish then that it had happened this year. Wright Thompson at ESPN has a nice column (sports.espn.go.com) up about O'Neil that I would point anyone to.