|Francona faces Torre without Red Sox-Yankees rivalry|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 05 March 2008 11:50|
If Francona tried that when both led enemy squads in the intense Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, he risked the wrath of passionate fans who would gasp at such fraternization.
But on Thursday, Torre will be wearing Dodger blue instead of Yankees pinstripes. To add to the switch in sympathies, former Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe will start for Los Angeles in Torre's first visit to Fort Myers since he left New York after last season.
``I'm glad he's in the National League,'' Francona said Wednesday. ``I feel like I can go put my arm around him tomorrow and nobody's going to start yelling at me.''
He wasn't just worried about himself. Francona, who exchanged voice mails with Torre during Boston's postseason run to the World Series championship last year, also was concerned how any public cordiality would reflect on his counterpart.
``I never went out there to the batting cage,'' Francona said, ``not just because of me. I just didn't want to put him in that position. People don't want to see that.''
Now he'll be reluctant to do that with Joe Girardi, Torre's successor, although Francona said he doesn't know him very well.
``I'm not complaining. I love this,'' Francona said. ``You can downplay the New York stuff all you want. You can't downplay it. It's real, it's great. The games are so great. But it's OK.''
And emotionally draining.
``I talk with Terry, and he'll say, 'Aren't you glad to be done with this?''' Torre said. ``As passionate as those games are, every game is a season. The game is over and you are totally exhausted.''
In his first three seasons as manager of the Red Sox, starting in 2004, Francona finished second in the AL East to Torre's Yankees.
But Boston won the 2004 World Series, its first championship in 86 years, after rallying from a 3-0 deficit to win the last four games of the AL championship series. Lowe started and won Game 7 behind Johnny Damon's grand slam and two-run homer, and the Red Sox went on to sweep St. Louis for the title.
``I give (Lowe) a hard time. He got on that Damon express in that Game 7,'' said Torre, who managed Damon the past two seasons.
The Red Sox won the AL East last year, then beat the Angels and Cleveland before rolling over Colorado in another four-game World Series sweep. New York lost the AL division series to the Indians, with Torre watching the deciding 6-4 loss from the Yankee Stadium home dugout, his last game there.
Francona recalled some stirring performances from the rivalry.
On July 1, 2004, Derek Jeter ran at full speed to make a diving catch in the third-base stands that ended the 12th inning against the Red Sox. The Yankees won 5-4 in the 13th to increase their AL East lead over Boston to 8 1/2 games.
``I wish we'd have won.'' Francona said, ``but it's hard to find games better than that.''
The Red Sox and Dodgers also face each other Sunday in Vero Beach. Then they'll play three more exhibition games - two at Dodger Stadium and one at the Los Angeles Coliseum - after Boston's trip to Tokyo for two exhibition games against Japanese teams and two regular-season meetings with Oakland.
``It's fun'' to joke about the rivalry now that he's out of it, ``especially the way people perceive the Red Sox and the Yankees, that they hate each other,'' Torre said. ``As a rule, the players had a great sense of respect for each other.''
Just the way Francona feels about Torre.
``I just want him to be happy,'' Francona said after a stretch of offseason speculation about Torre's future . ``I thought what he's done for the game, I felt bad that he was kind of living through it and everything was so out there.
``I don't think that anybody who knows Joe was really pleased about that. That was what I cared about.''