Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined Mut & Merloni Wednesday morning to discuss the Red Sox' possibilities for their next manager, where Theo Epstein will be next season, and his take on Terry Francona's departure.
"I think it was very difficult on Terry," Gammons said of Boston's late-season struggles. "Did it get out of control to some degree? Yeah I guess so. I think he has been portrayed too much as this guy who was cowering in a corner. ... He had been really beaten up. We've talked about it here, we've kidded about it, the tenures of managers in Boston should be judged in dog years. So at the end of 56 years of managing the Red Sox, he needed to move on."
Francona decided to walk away on Friday after much speculation that he would be pushed out by the front office after the September collapse. Gammons said that he believes Francona knew he was out no matter what he did.
"I had a strong implication that ownership was not going to pick up the option no matter what," Gammons said. "Now, when Theo on Thursday talked to Terry and said, 'OK, we want to go in and make your case on how we move forward.' At that point, I think Terry was convinced no matter what he did or said, they weren't going to pick up the option. And I don't think Terry Francona's the type of person who is going to go in and beg for anything, and he shouldn't have to, not with his history."
Following are more highlights from the conversation.
On if Epstein will move to the Cubs or stick with Boston: "I can understand the excitement of being the first guy to bring a world championship to both the Red Sox and the Cubs. It's an exciting proposition. ... I think they say [to the Cubs], 'Go ahead and talk to him.' And then we'll see how it works out. Knowing how rational John Henry is, I think that's a distinct possibility. It's, OK, you can talk to him, but can they offer him more, can they offer him something better than whatever they structured here? One thing that's happened here, that I'm told by a number of people, one thing that's evolved in the last couple of months is that the relationship between Theo and Larry Lucchino has gotten much better. That leads me to believe that it can get worked out better."
On potential compensation the Red Sox might seek from the Cubs if Epstein leaves, including whether the Cubs could be asked to take John Lackey: "No [on Lackey]. I think that unless they're going to do a John Lackey-Carlos Zambrano deal, but I don't think that would happen. I think they would probably go, end up giving up a couple of really good prospects, especially if they're pitchers, because that's something that the Red Sox could really use right now. I think that's the most likely scenario. It's been said many times that [the Red Sox in 2002] actually had agreed to trade Kevin Youkilis for Billy Beane, but that's actually not true. I was going back over this the other day. It was really weird, because Billy was actually negotiating with Paul DePodesta, who was going to take over Billy's job in Oakland. So Billy was acting as the Red Sox general manager and DePodesta was acting as the A's general manager, even though neither one of them was already in his position. And, in the end, he explained, Billy said to Paul, 'Look, there are only three players here at that time in the organization -- Kevin Youkilis, Hanley Ramirez and Kelly Shoppach. I can't give you one of the three real assets in the organization. And if you hold out for it long enough, then you're not going to get the general manager's job. So we have to work it out so we all get what we want.' As it worked out, Billy made the decision to stay closer to his family. He believes it was a life-changing decision not to come to Boston."
On the Red Sox' managerial search: "I was told that their list is pretty close to 40 at some point. You look at it and you say, 'Well, that's the only way to go about it.' You're going through every single name for a week. They don't need to have a manager for a month. ... There aren't guys out there that you're going to say, 'OK, this guy is perfect.' Because you are not going to get those guys.
"Eric Wedge isn't leaving Seattle because he has so much power there and he moved his family there. I think he'd be terrific [in Boston] ... but I don't see that happening, I don't think Seattle would let him go. I think [Don] Mattingly would be a great person here. Someone suggest if they pay Frank McCourt's October MasterCard bill then maybe he'd give him up, but I don't think the Dodgers can let Mattingly go, especially after he stabilized the entire franchise midseason. I see names that make a lot of sense, but the question is, could they come in and deal with this high-priced, high-profile, high-ego team. To me, you need a guy who is really good with pitching and really good with presence.
"When you move forward, to the next manager, you have to think about this: One of the things that happens in baseball is that they don't pay or empower coaches enough. I don't think it should be the manager's job to clean out everything. I look at Arizona and what Kirk Gibson's done, and nobody's going to mess with Kirk Gibson, but on the other hand, you've got Don Baylor and Alan Trammell and Charles Nagy, he's got unbelievable coaches. And they're all paid."