Jacoby Ellsbury has taken a beating recently, both physically on the field and metaphorically in the local media and on sports talk radio.
With everyone seemingly jumping on the bash-Ellsbury bandwagon (like this guy, for example), Francona was decidedly feisty and passionate Wednesday in defense of his lead-off hitter.
Francona gave the following explanation of Ellsbury’s latest injury to the media before Wednesday night’s game.
“Jacoby was seen by Dr. Yocum yesterday, took the red-eye home, which everybody already knows. I actually got a chance to talk to Dr. Yocum this morning, probably about 11 with Mike Reinold and Dr. Yocum said that, you know, he’s got a broken rib. You know, it’s going to need to heal, and I said, ‘Can you try and explain it to a layman?’ And he said, ‘The only way you’re going to know the answers that you’re asking are if he had a scan every day.’ That’s obviously not realistic. He said, ‘It really doesn’t matter. It’s broken and he needs to let it heal.’
“My instincts tell me the kid was probably a little more sore than he was letting on. Probably for obvious reasons. He wanted to play and he was catching some heat from a lot of you and all you tough guys. He’s probably a little more tender. Maybe he was more susceptible. Maybe he wasn’t. Nobody really knows.”
The “tough guys” comment was directed at members of the media who continue to insinuate (or, in some cases, come right out and say) that Ellsbury is soft. A clearly frustrated Francona was asked Wednesday during his weekly interview on WEEI if he thought Ellsbury was soft.
“No. And I think for anyone to ever say that, especially for a radio host, is very disrespectful. Talking tough on the radio is a lot different than running into a wall or getting hit with a pitch. It’s easy to be a tough guy when you get away from the field. But if you ever walk down to the field for a minute and feel how hard that baseball is — I mean, this guy’s getting beat up.
“To get to this point in their career, they’ve had to — I know a lot of people think they’re pampered athletes — but they’ve had to work pretty hard, and they’ve had to go through a lot. I guess I probably get a little bit protective of these guys because I think they deserve it.”
Terry Francona is the most successful manager in Red Sox history for a reason. He’ll defend his players to the death, and in return they’ll take a bullet for him.
Is Francona frustrated with Ellsbury? Probably.
Has he privately questioned Ellsbury’s willingness to play hurt this season? Most likely.
Would he ever publicly throw Ellsbury under the bus, no matter how frustrating this season has been? Not in a million years.
Francona’s strong defense of Ellsbury is exactly what he should do. The other players on the team respect him even more because of it. If Ellsbury is still a member of the Boston Red Sox next season, this is the type of thing he won’t forget.