Red Sox deny smear campaign

Updated: October 15, 2011, 2:47 AM ET
ESPNBoston.com

The perception is that Terry Francona was dragged through the mud on his way out of Boston, but Red Sox principal owner John Henry says upper management did not engage in a smear campaign against their former manager.

A team source told The Boston Globe this week that Francona was distracted by marital issues and his use of pain medication this past season, allegations the former Red Sox manager strongly denied.

"Ultimately, if there were team sources involved, they do work for us. Did it come from John (Henry), (chairman) Tom (Werner) or (CEO) Larry (Lucchino)? No," Henry told Boston radio 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday.

Henry said he was driving in his car when he heard the radio hosts accusing ownership of leaking information to The Globe that reflected poorly on Francona.

"It's ridiculous that people would talk about things like that," Henry told the radio station. "(Francona) brought two World Series to this franchise. He's arguably the best manager we've ever had."

Francona, married to his wife, Jacque, for almost 30 years, moved out of their house and lived in a hotel this past season, the newspaper reported.

According to The Globe, team sources also had concerns that Francona's performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication.

Francona -- who left the Red Sox in a mutual decision announced Sept. 30 -- has had nearly 20 surgeries on his knees and used pain medication for many years. He told the newspaper he used painkillers after knee surgery in October 2010 and used them during the season after doctors drained blood from his knee at least five times.

Henry was upset that "team sources" were involved in the story.

"If it's someone with the team, and that's what it says in the newspaper, then I'm very upset about it," he told the radio station.

"It's reprehensible that it was written about in the first place."

At his farewell news conference, Francona said he didn't feel as if he had the full support of ownership, which had a couple of option years on his contract but did not pick them up before or during the season. Henry, who added that both option years would have had to be picked up at once, addressed why those options weren't exercised.

"At one point I sent an email out during the season to the rest of the guys in upper management and said, 'Unless we think we're going to find a better manager we should pick up the options,'" Henry said on The Sports Hub. "Then I was reminded why we negotiated for the options. There are a couple of people in our organization whose pet peeve is picking up options before their time.

"(Francona) negotiated a certain amount of dollars and a certain amount of years. We got the options. ... Tito was great about it. He never said a word about it. I was the only one who said a word about it."

Henry vehemently disagreed with the perception that Francona was fired, saying that the manager instead chose to leave. Henry did say, however, that the options would not have been picked up if Francona had expressed a desire to stay.

"We hadn't had one discussion internally about a replacement manager," Henry said. "Even as of Sept. 30 we hadn't had that discussion. Basically, what we heard from Tito, the things that he said to us (at the season-ending meeting between ownership and Francona), we would not have picked up the options (had he not chosen to leave)."

The Globe story also said that star pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey drank beer, ate fried chicken and played video games in the clubhouse during games on days they didn't pitch. The story cited team sources as saying leaders Jason Varitek and David Ortiz didn't keep players in line as they had in the past.

Henry said he had no idea the clubhouse culture had disintegrated, saying, "If Dustin Pedroia didn't know, how are we supposed to know?"

Henry also denied that he approved spending big money on free agents to boost sagging ratings and stir up public favor.

"I was more concerned that we didn't make the playoffs than what the TV ratings were," Henry said. "We felt we needed to be aggressive in the offseason and we were aggressive. But it wasn't because we needed to prove that we were still going to spend money here."

In the past two offseasons, the Red Sox have signed pitcher Lackey (five years, $82.5 million), outfielder Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million) and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (seven years, $154 million) to contracts totaling nearly $400 million.

"Can you imagine spending $300 million for PR?" Henry said. "I could hire someone for a couple hundred thousand to spend all their time on PR. We don't have that person."

Henry said that he personally opposed signing Crawford, "but I don't meddle to the point of making decisions for our baseball people. This was driven, and Theo will tell you this, by our baseball people. It wasn't a PR move, and neither was the Gonzalez signing."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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