FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said GM Ben Cherington told him Monday morning that the team’s alcohol ban had been called “a PR move.’’
“Ben did say something,’’ Valentine said, “but I didn’t know it was Tito. I should have listened more closely.’’
That’s Tito, as in Terry Francona, his predecessor as manager of the Red Sox and his successor on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.” Francona, appearing on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning show, was asked about Valentine’s announcement Saturday that the club was banning alcohol in the clubhouse and on the last leg of team road trips.
"I think it's a PR move," Francona said. "I think if a guy wants a beer, he can probably get one. You know, it's kind of the old rule ... If your coach in football says no hard liquor on the plane -- I mean, you serve beer and wine -- somebody's going to sneak liquor on the plane.
"If you furnish a little bit, it almost keeps it to a minimum."
As soon as Valentine sat down for his media session, he was asked about Francona’s remark.
“How was it PR?’’ Valentine said.
“You know, I don’t really have a comment on that. You mean 20 teams are looking for PR, that’s why they’re making good decisions?’’
Valentine said he had not heard the program himself. After being asked a question on another topic, he returned to the topic of the alcohol ban, saying he didn’t know it was Francona.
“Remember, you’re getting paid over there [ESPN] for saying stuff,’’ he said. “You’re getting paid over here for doing stuff.’’
Later, in an informal conversation with a small group of reporters, Valentine said: “I think they probably asked [Francona] a question, that’s what he said.
“If they had asked him longer, he probably would have said it was the right thing to do, too, but they probably dropped it at PR move, I would think. Either that, or those other 18 teams are getting it wrong, too. I don’t think they did it just for PR.’’
Valentine later joked: “When they did it in New York, they did it for PR. All bad PR.’’
After Valentine left for the team’s charity golf tournament, Sox media relations director Pam Ganley said she spoke with Valentine and he said that he remembered belatedly that she had told him it was Francona who had made the remarks.
Francona managed the Red Sox for eight seasons, a tenure that ended after the team missed the postseason despite holding a nine-game wild-card lead in September.
"I don't think it's a surprise that they put this in effect, or the fact they announced it," Francona said of the alcohol ban. "It's probably more of a PR move just because, you know, the Red Sox (took) such a beating at the end of the year."
Reports of clubhouse beer consumption by starting pitchers during games in which they weren't appearing became a lightning rod of controversy for the Red Sox after last season. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester met separately with reporters last weekend, expressing varying degrees of responsibility for the team's collapse last September.
"We used to tell the guys, 'You have certain privileges, don't abuse the privileges or they'll be taken away,' " Francona said. "And it wasn't specifically in one area. There were many areas you talk about."