Francona was a guest on The Dale & Holley Show, and the Red Sox manager discussed some of the bigger questions surrounding the club this winter.
Until the Red Sox have left field solidified for 2010, rumors will continue to swirl around the club and some of the big-name bats available this offseason. But the club still has a chance to bring Jason Bay back to Boston next year, and if it's up to Francona, it will.
"I know I?m not in the minority when I say I hope so. I don?t want to make Theo?s job harder than it is. If I?m out there politicking for a guy, that doesn?t help Theo do his job," Francona said on The Dale & Holley Show. "You have to be patient. As fans, as the manager, you want things to happen now. We want to have our team in place now. It?s not going to happen. It?s going to take time."
Bay's decision to test free agency doesn't necessarily mean he won't be back, and Francona respects the slugger's choice to find out how much he is worth on the open market.
"He has earned the right to be a free agent. This is his first time, and he wants to see it through. You know we?re going to be a major player. We always are," said Francona. "Do I hope it gets done? Yeah. I bet you Jason Bay hopes it gets done. But he?s going to have other options, too."
However if Bay does leave via free agency, there is no doubt the Red Sox offense will take a hit if they are unable to secure an adequate replacement or otherwise fill the void left by Bay's 36 home runs and 119 RBIs from 2009. A lot of the offensive burden will fall back on David Ortiz's shoulders, though the manager doesn't think his designated hitter's struggles will continue into 2010.
"What David?s going through is what a lot of guys go through. He?s getting older, he?s a big guy, and he?s been injured," Francona said. "When that happens, your work ethic or your workload has to increase over the offseason or time starts catching up a little bit. That?s just the way it is. It?s not fair. Wake [Tim Wakefield] and I have had this conversation every year since I?ve been here. If you want to keep playing or pitching, you?ve got to work harder because you?re getting older. That?s just the way it is — especially with big-body guys who have been injured.
"To David?s credit, he?s been in the ballpark every day since the season?s been over. He looks terrific. He?s going to have to, because he?s got big shoes to wear. If he can?t, if you have a DH who?s not whacking the ball all over the ballpark, it kind of puts you in a tough spot. We?re so used to David hitting 40, 45, 50 home runs. We got used to that. If he?s hitting 18, it makes us a different team."
With the face of the Red Sox beginning to change from the team that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, Jason Varitek, the heart and soul of those championship teams has become a hot topic in New England over the last few weeks. Varitek decided recently to exercise his option to return to the club in 2010 in a backup role behind Victor Martinez. But while many are questioning the catcher's future in the game, the manager isn't ready to give up on his captain's abilities just yet.
"I saw Tek the other day. I think he?s in a good place," Francona told Dale and Holley. "I think he?s going to do a good job. I?ve said this a lot of times: He has that ?C? on his chest for a reason. Victor is going to catch the majority of games. How much, we don?t know.
"I think Tek can be an unbelievable backup catcher. Because his body can?t handle catching 140 games anymore, that doesn?t mean, if you run him out there less than that, especially from the right side — by the time July rolled around this year, he had 13, 14 home runs. You?re not going to find backup catchers who have that ability, that game-calling experience. He kind of gets run into the ground physically. He?s caught a lot of games. Some of that is my responsibility, too. But I think that in the situation we have, hopefully, upcoming, he can really excel in that."