*Above video: Previous story shows Terry Francona’s life is subject of a recent book*
CLEVELAND (AP) — The only time Mark Kotsay ever faced being demoted or released as a player, Terry Francona delivered the tough news.
And he did so with such grace and care, Kotsay remembers to this day how that thoughtful tone made it a little easier to accept in the moment. Those are lessons he now uses himself as manager of the Oakland Athletics.
“Terry Francona, his communication skills are off the charts,” said Tampa Bay skipper Kevin Cash, who played for Francona in Boston and served as a coach on his staff in Cleveland. “I think that’s why he’s been in the game and been successful for so long.”
All these years later, Kotsay still recalls when Francona told him in 2009 that he had been designated for assignment by the Red Sox as a role player at age 33. Kotsay, in his second season as Oakland’s manager, tries to use that same empathetic approach when he has a difficult conversation with a player incorporating Francona’s style of being direct while genuinely caring about the player.
There’s no standard message from Francona — who has hinted this may be his final season in the dugout — when he has those chats with the Guardians. In fact, Francona often lets the player’s reaction dictate how it goes from there. When someone is visibly upset, he might offer the option of talking again in 24 hours, once the information has settled in a bit.
“Sometimes they don’t hear anything after you tell them they’re getting sent down,” Francona said. “Sometimes they don’t hear anything else, so we always kind of check with them like, ‘Hey, do you want to talk more now, do you want to come back later, do you want to come in tomorrow?’ Because we want to help, but sometimes, they’re just not ready to listen.”
“I think there’s a way to be respectful. Our guys always handle themselves. We acknowledge that while we’re telling them something, it’s a big deal, you’re upsetting a part of their life and it’s important to them so we respect that, we tell them that,” Francona said. “But we always tell them the truth, we just try to find a way that’s not just smack somebody in the face, I think there’s a way to do that.”
Largely gone are the days of players walking into the clubhouse the afternoon of a game and checking the posted lineup to see if they’re in it.
Brandon Hyde, Baltimore’s fifth-year manager, makes a point to tell his Orioles a day before if they will be getting a break, whether for rest or simply to give someone else needed at-bats. He understands how much today’s athletes count on regular communication in order to plan their routines.
“You want them to appreciate that we’re trying to put them in the best position to have success,” Hyde said. “Players today appreciate as much communication as possible. I think as you evolve, you want good communication between the coaches and the players.”
Such thoughtfulness matters greatly to players, even if sometimes the information can be hard to hear.