The author: Terry Francona, with Dan Shaughnessy
The vital stats: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 368 pages, $28
The pitch: It’s a whole new set of circumstances with the Boston Red Sox visiting Francona in Cleveland this week. Maybe that’s just how things work out.
It’s already been a strange couple of years for Francona, who went from Red Sox skipper, out of a job, working for Fox on their MLB package, then getting hired by the Indians — a job that opened when John Farrell left to fill the vacancy after Bobby Valentine lasted one year in Boston.
Maybe stranger for Francona is what he writes in his acknowledgement: “If you had told me on September 1, 2011 that (two months later) I would be jobless and writing a book with Dan Shaughnessy, I would have told you as eloquently as only I can do that this would happen as soon as a 200-pound hog jumps out of my ass. It turned out to be not only fun but very healthy for me to look back at the eight years of whirlwind ups and downs.”
Thankfully, the hog didn’t roll out, and this came out in mid-January, time for Red Sox fans to digest it, connect dots, pinpoint defining moments and finally decompress during the dreaded snow drifts.
Aside from Francona going all over the promote the book (i.e., a sit-down with Bob Costas, countless radio interviews), the only real link to Southern California is looking back at how he tried to set Manny Ramirez straight before he was finally traded away to the Dodgers.
With that, the best photo in the book comes from Game 4 of the 2004 World Series in St. Louis – the one where the Red Sox would eventually clinch their first championship in a bazillion years – where Francona is talking to Ramirez as he stands in the batters box with both Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and umpire Chuck Meriweather looking on.
The story goes that Meriweather had called Francona out after Molina and Ramirez got into an argument. Molina accused Ramirez of stealing signs.
Francona explains on page 123 what happened, as the Red Sox held a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.
“Francona chuckled, looked at Meriweather, and said, ‘Chuck, Manny doesn’t even know our signs.’
“The manager looked at Manny for verification.
“ ‘You don’t know our signs, do you, Manny?’
“ ‘No’ Ramirez said, grinning sheepishly.
“Case closed. Play ball.”
From that excerpt, the reader realizes it’s not so much a first-person account because Francona is more a character in the narrative rather than quoting verbatim about all that happened. Shaughnessy explains in the acknowledgements that his decision to write it this way “represents Terry’s perspective and his recollections … fortified by my own thousands of hours behind the scenes with the 2004-12 Red Sox.”
And it probably gets Francona off the hook in a lot of ways.
It leads one to wonder, though, when there’s a discussion about the end of Francona’s tenure in 201l, when Peter Gammons was reporting that he was “sensing an increasing disconnect between Theo Epstein and Terry Francona.”
“It was a telling remark, given Gammons’ close relationship with Epstein. By the end of the 2011 season, Gammons was established as a virtual mouthpiece for Boston’s baseball operations department.”
So who should Gammons be upset with, Francona or Shaughnessy? Maybe Gammons will pick someone when the Indians finally travel to Boston starting May 23.
More to know:
== Don’t expect the Red Sox to be selling this in the Fenway book store. The ownership would agree.
== A Boston Globe book excerpt.
== A review from MLB.com.
== A review from the Deseret News in Utah