The radio silence has been broken.
Red Sox principal owner John Henry answered questions on sports radio WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan Show” this morning alongside team president Larry Lucchino, nearly one week after former Sox manager Terry Francona said he would not be returning to the club.
The Sox brass would not discuss whether the Chicago Cubs had asked for permission to speak with general manager Theo Epstein about joining their organization. Sources told the Globe this week such a request was made.
“Those things are supposed to be kept private and we have a policy of not discussing whether permission has been asked for X or Y, or Z,” Lucchino said. “In fact every year we get requests from people. We never discuss them publicly. It’s been our policy…
“A few years ago we got a request from another team about Theo Epstein, you heard nothing about that because we didn’t discuss it publicly.”
Henry added: “There is a certain protocol in this game and it is if someone asks permission for a job that’s not lateral, you give them permission.”
Lucchino then reiterated that this was one subject where they don’t think there needs to be full disclosure.
Henry also later suggested that Epstein’s separation from the Red Sox will come at some point, if not soon.
“I think there’s a certain shelf life in these jobs,” he said. “You can only be the general manager if you’re sane. You can only be the manager for a certain amount of time. Tremendous pressure cooker here. 162 games, it’s a long season and the pressure here is 365 days so Theo is not going to be the general manager forever.
“Just as if Tito had come back for the last two years, would he have gone past 10 years? I can’t imagine that he would have. So I think that Theo... he’s the guy now, he’s been the guy, we’ve had tremendous success. We fell apart at the end of the season... we’re upset about it.”
The search for a new Red Sox manager has begun according to Henry and Lucchino, but no interviews have taken place yet.
“We’re actively engaged in that search for a new manager,” Lucchino added. “We’re not sitting around twiddling our thumbs. Theo is actively engaged day-to-day in that search.”
The question was asked about the sudden parting of ways with Francona and why Tito’s contract option wasn’t picked up.
“It was certainly something that we considered during the course of the year,” Lucchino said. “I think you have to go back a step and understand the contract arrangement that we had with Tito which was that we gave him a long term deal and we agreed that we would not talk about options until the end of the fourth year… and we said there would be a 10-day period, the first order of business after the season would be to talk about options but we don’t want the distraction of that happening during the year.”
Henry was asked if it was a fair statement for Francona to describe the divorce from the Red Sox as “a mutual decision.”
”We really didn’t get a chance to make it mutual,” Henry said. “But thinking about it, would we have ended up at the same place he ended up? Based on the things that we heard and things that we saw, there’s a strong likelihood that we would have, so you could say it was mutual but the way it took place in my mind wasn’t really mutual the way it took place.”
Lucchino said that Francona told Red Sox officials he wasn’t ready to meet the challenges of rebuilding what was broken this season.
“He said something like, ‘You need a new voice down there. I’m not your man for next year. I think my time here is up,’ “ Lucchino said. “So in some ways, he took that position and that is a very determinative factor when your manager feels spent or feels like there needs to be a change. He did a fantastic job for us over the years…”
Lucchino also said that even if the Red Sox had advanced to the postseason, the process for evaluating Francona and the season would have unfolded the same way.
The Sox brass said they were not immediately aware of a team meeting Francona called in Toronto following a 14-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Sept. 6, but they did know that Epstein had met with the team on occasion.
“I learned of it much later, but that’s not uncommon,” Lucchino said. “Tito can have meetings in the clubhouse or [there are] things that happen in the clubhouse that we just don’t know about, we’re not included in them because it’s a clubhouse matter. We think the manager has a right to speak to his team and talk to them as he chooses.”
Henry added: “We did know about Theo had had a couple of talks, we knew about that. We heard about the Toronto talk, it may have been after the season.”
The duo was also asked about reports of drinking in the Red Sox clubhouse.
”There are certain principles that are important within the clubhouse culture and I think that’s one of them,” Lucchino said. “It’s not something that we think should be tolerated. There’s a rule about it that should be enforced but it was much after the fact that that point was brought to our attention and we’re still trying to dig in to find out how pervasive it was, how extensive it was, and not try to just superficially conclude that it was major factor in anything.”
Henry said he wasn’t aware that some Red Sox pitchers appeared in a country music video earlier in the year for a song entitled, “I like beer.”
”It’s surprising given everything I’ve heard about drinking recently,” Henry said. “Very surprised.”
The Red Sox principal owner spoke about his feelings during the September downslide.
“We didn’t just hit an iceberg, every day, we went what 7-20, this is a team that was going 20-7 suddenly went 7-20, so it was throughout that process we began to wonder why is this team breaking down,” Henry said. “This is the second straight year that on Aug. 1 we looked great and looked like we were headed for a potential World Series. And second straight year that the team broke down physically. … the biggest concern we had was we’re just not doing well physically.”
The pair did not address issues of specific players’ conditioning, but Lucchino said improving conditioning overall will be a priority.
“Our team has to be in first-class physical condition,” Lucchino said, “and as John said that the last couple of years we have seen a dramatic decline at the end of the season and that is one of a myriad of issues that we have to look at going forward.”
Henry appeared to have been looking more deeply into the conditioning and nutrition issues, and said the organization’s experience with the Liverpool soccer team has been helpful in learning more about best practices.
“Were there nutritional issues? Yes,” he said. “I believe there were nutritional issues and one of the things we learned in getting involved with English football is they have sports science and the science of fitness is very advanced among football teams around the world, at least the top football teams, so we’ve learned a lot just recently. Our people within the Red Sox have learned a lot and I think that there’s much more we can do but to me the most important thing is that this is the third time in six years and certainly the second straight year in which a great team just couldn’t make it through 162 games physically. And it wasn’t just one or two players, we were really banged up. We were really struggling to put healthy players on the field.”