Red Sox Rule

Red Sox Rule

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by Michael Holley

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The story of the changing face of baseball and the inner workings of its finest organization

After a hundred "cursed" years, the Boston Red Sox rose gloriously to baseball domination. Under the leadership of manager Terry Francona, an extraordinary team of wildly disparate personalities—from the inscrutable Manny Ramirez to the

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The story of the changing face of baseball and the inner workings of its finest organization

After a hundred "cursed" years, the Boston Red Sox rose gloriously to baseball domination. Under the leadership of manager Terry Francona, an extraordinary team of wildly disparate personalities—from the inscrutable Manny Ramirez to the affable David "Big Papi" Ortiz—pulled off two improbable post-season comebacks to make it to the World Series twice in three years . . . and ultimately emerged victorious. In Red Sox Rule, Michael Holley, bestselling author of Patriot Reign, provides a fascinating, insightful, and surprising inside look at how it all happened.

With the exclusive cooperation of Terry Francona and stories from the clubhouse and the conference room, Holley reveals the private sessions and the dugout and front-office strategies that have made the Red Sox a budding dynasty, overtaking their archrivals, the powerful New York Yankees, as the American League's elite team.

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Library Journal

Holley (Patriot Reign) was granted inside access to the 2007 Red Sox and especially to manager Terry Francona.

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Red Sox Rule
Terry Francona and Boston's Rise to Dominance

Chapter One

Blame the Manager

On the October night when most of New England directed its rage at Grady Little, Terry Francona was in suburban Philadelphia, halfway paying attention.

First he watched one of his three daughters play in a high school volleyball game. Then, grudgingly, he went home and tuned in to the final innings of the playoff series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. He certainly wasn't excited about spending his time looking at the Red Sox, so he increased the volume on his TV. That way he could travel from room to room and listen to the game when it became too frustrating to watch. He was the bench coach for the Oakland A's, the team the Red Sox had eliminated from the postseason, so it was hard to see Boston where he thought Oakland should have been. I still think we're better than the Red Sox. Hell, we were up two games on them. If we had just run the bases a little better . . . Talk about impact TV: at no point did he imagine that the broadcast was about to show him something that would land him a job in Boston.

The winning team on that night would represent the American League in the 2003 World Series. Through seven and a half innings at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox appeared to be that team. They held a 5 to 2 lead, a cushion that would allow Little to leverage his bullpen and get the final five outs of the game. The Boston manager had his best pitcher, Pedro Martinez, on the mound. But Martinez was tired. He had allowed a one-out double to Derek Jeter in the eighth, and he clearly didn't have areservoir of brilliant pitches remaining, at least not enough to get through the muscular Yankees lineup.

The way Little's bosses saw it, the manager had several favorable options among his relief pitchers. But John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Theo Epstein, all men Little reported to, knew that the real issue wasn't solely about a bullpen that had given up just 2 runs in its previous 25 innings of work. The issue was that in need of five outs, Little was more likely to choose instinct over science. So as the Fox television cameras were focused on the drama before them on the field, few people realized that there was also a philosophical clash coming to a head at the same time.

It was Feel versus Numbers, Tradition versus Something New, Acoustic versus Electric, Jocks versus Geeks. And it had been simmering for two seasons. Little didn't believe that he had to apologize for his style. He was a friendly Southerner who was always ready with a story and a joke. He knew how to talk to players and tap into whatever it was that either motivated them or brought on insecurity. The numbers packets and various reports from the front office were all right, but if he had to make an in-game decision that was the difference between winning and losing, he was usually going to side with flesh and blood.

Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox, wasn't nearly as emotional as Little. In fact, Henry became a billionaire by creating a mechanical trading system based on following trends. He believed that no one could predict the future in any industry, hedge funds or baseball, but that there were always data that could help one make informed choices. Little's homespun style was fine with him, but he would have liked it more if that style had come with more solid reasons for baseball decisions.

The two men were as different as their baseball backgrounds: whereas Little's vision was shaped by managing hundreds of personalities and 2,000 games in the minor league sticks, Henry was drawn to the sport as an owner, a fan, and a lover of computer-simulation games. He was so taken with the inventive formulas and original writings of Bill James, a true baseball outsider, that he hired him to work for the Red Sox.


Eighth inning. The score was 5 to 3 after Bernie Williams singled home Jeter. There was still the bullpen option. Still one out. Still Feel versus Numbers. Several members of the Boston ownership group and baseball operations staff were nervous when Little jogged from the third-base dugout to talk with Martinez. If they had to pinpoint one reason he had been a good hire, they would choose what they called his "social intelligence." They knew he had a politician's gift for canvassing a room and a preacher's for bringing people together. Frankly, they weren't sure how much he was willing to apply what they deemed important.

They even had a meeting about him earlier in the season. The agenda: how to best manage the manager. The conclusion: allow him the flexibility, for the most part, to manage in that folksy style of his. It couldn't be all bad, could it? They were on their way to 95 wins and the playoffs, and the manager deserved some credit for that. But they had to let him know, emphatically, that certain things were required of a Red Sox manager. The list wasn't long, maybe two or three things, but the list was nonnegotiable.

The necessity of the meeting was a clue that the relationship was doomed. They had to tell him to consider all the available information and use some of it? That was trouble, long before October in New York.

Little would later explain that he felt he gave his team the best chance to win by placing the ball and season in the wiry right hand of Martinez. As he looked into Martinez's eyes, Little didn't just see a pitcher who on average gave up the fewest earned runs, 2.22, in the league and would one day be in the Baseball Hall of Fame; he also saw an artist. The Geeks were fine with that. Their point was that after Martinez threw over 100 pitches, he was indeed an artist—but the art was more paintball than Picasso. Martinez, with talent and competitiveness to burn, was dramatically easier to hit once his pitch count exceeded 100.

Red Sox Rule
Terry Francona and Boston's Rise to Dominance
. Copyright © by Michael Holley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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