FORT MYERS, FLA. -- Among the politics of a manager's new contract -- and the specific example, of course, if that of Boston's Terry Francona -- is timing.
Managers hate going into a season with just one year left on a contract because if things start poorly, then the contract quickly becomes the story and they lose authority in the clubhouse. In a place like Boston, you can see where that could be a huge potential problem.
Francona certainly deserved the extension, having helped deliver two World Series titles in the past four seasons, and that he was going to get one really was never in question. He did, though, admit to a couple of nights of worry recently, before his three-year deal was finished.
And amid the relief of finally knocking it off, the first thing Francona spoke of Sunday was the relief he feels that the issue won't be dragging into the season -- or, even, any further this spring.
"None of us wanted this to go into what we're doing down here," Francona said. "There was a lot of hard work and we were able to get it done to where everyone was comfortable and we can concern ourselves with baseball -- which is what we should do."
General manager Theo Epstein said that the club wouldn't have let the talks drag into the season.
He also offered an interesting insight into how he's seen Francona grow into the job since 2004, Francona's first season in Boston.
"Where he's grown, I think, is in dealing with confrontation," Epstein said. "That's one area that doesn't come naturally to him. I've seen him through the years become more and more comfortable saying what needs to be said, especially in the clubhouse to players."
Francona is a nice guy who was genuinely embarrassed -- to a degree -- by the negotiations.
"I'm not very comfortable doing this," he said. "The minute (the negotiations) started, I wanted it to be over, and that's just not practical."
Likes: The Marlins looking for "plus-size" guys (read: fat guys) to form an all-male cheerleading cast (to be called the Manatees) on Friday and Saturday nights. How great is that? ... The Brewers setting a single-day ticket record by selling 98,000 of them for the 2008 season. Nice to see people care about baseball in Milwaukee again -- and nice to see the Brewers give them something to care about. ... Nearly 2,000 folks at Boston's practice facility watching the Red Sox's first day of full-squad workouts the other day. And the 1,500 or so folks who came to watch the pitchers and catchers work out for a few days running. ... No, I don't think the Mitchell Report or steroids has dampened enthusiasm for the game. ... Seeing a Toyota Prius hybrid and a Hummer H2 parked next to each other at Boston's facility the other day. ... Memphis-Tennesee on Saturday night. Great ending. ... The Drift Inn near Bradenton Beach. Met a friend there the other night, and what a wild place that is.
Dislikes: Hey Florida, how about you join many other states and pass a law prohibiting smoking in public buildings (restaurants and bars, especially)?
Sunblock day? Absolutely beautiful here Sunday. Warm sun and 80-some odd degrees.
Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:
"I started as an altar boy
"Working at the church
"Learning all my holy moves
"Doing some research
"Which led me to a cash box
"Labeled 'Children's Fund'
"I'd leave the change
"And tuck the bills inside my cummerbund"
-- Warren Zevon, Mr. Bad Example