Mike Barnicle, the plagiarist, fabulist, and all-around journalistic fraud, interviewed Terry Francona and Theo Epstein for a piece about how there's still room in the stats-conscious Boston Red Sox organization for ol' fashioned, gut-instinct, classic baseball managin'. There is, Barnicle wrote, a deep contrast between the two men:
They are characters out of a kind of baseball version of Upstairs-Downstairs the old PBS series about class and expectation. One is Ivy League. The other is Summer League. One grew up dreaming of baseball. The other played it, raised in a house with a father who made a living at it in the major leagues.
Terry Francona is 52 years old, a baseball lifer from New Brighton, Penn., where the median annual family income today is roughly $31,000. The town is 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, and it is a place where men worked factory jobs and women knew how to stretch every grocery dollar, day to day, week to week.
If you check with the Census Bureau, rather than copying the 2000 census numbers used in the Wikipedia entry for New Brighton, the median family income was up to $41,734 as of the 2005-2009 American Community Survey. (That's still far below the national median family income of $61,265.)
But more to the point, the median family income in Hardscrabble, Pa., has nothing to do with Terry Francona's background. Francona is a "lifer"—just like the factory lifers, stretching their grocery dollars—because his dad "made a living" as a successful major-league ballplayer for 15 years.
Going by the available numbers on Baseball Reference, it looks like the elder Francona generally had a salary in the mid-to-upper $20,000 range. Adjusting for inflation, that means he earned between $150,000 and $200,000 in today's dollars, which is much more than the $120,000 median family income Barnicle cites for Epstein's ritzy hometown of Brookline, Mass. (Oh, look, Wikipedia has Brookline at $120,933, citing a 2007 census fact sheet.)
Barnicle is bullshitting with the numbers, because bullshitting is what he does, because he's a bullshitter. Francona does talk like a regular workin' stiff, though. At least as Barnicle presents him, laboring over matchup information on his laptop computer:
"I used to do these by hand," he says. "Did it before all this math stuff and computers got so big. Did it without knowing it. When I managed the Phillies. Did 'em all by hand then. Would sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper and go through opposing lineups. Took forever. Now it's all on these things, computers.
"And I suck at computers," he is saying. "I'm a one-finger guy with them. I can get around on a computer OK using one finger but it's not my favorite thing."
"Now it's all on these things, computers." What an uncannily dialogue-like bit of dialogue, there. Terry Francona is known for being a good talker, but Mike Barnicle is known for stuff too. Such as not worrying too much about the relationship between the words people say and the words he decides to write.
And here's more "Francona":
"But it's about more than numbers," he says. "I remember a few years ago, we're playing the Yankees on national TV and one of the kids in baseball ops - he's not here now - says to me about five hours before the game, 'You got Mike Lowell in the lineup?' And I say, 'Yeah.' And he says he doesn't do well in the matchup with Chien-Ming Wang, who was pitching for the Yankees.
"I say to the kid, 'So you don't want me to play him?' And he says, 'Yeah' and I tell him, 'OK. Look over there. There's Mikey Lowell's locker. He's over there. You go tell Mikey Lowell he's not playing in a national TV game against our biggest rival 'cause your fucking numbers tell us not to play him. See what kind of reaction you get from him and then come back and tell me.' Course Mikey Lowell played that game.
"That doesn't happen a lot, though. It works pretty well, the numbers stuff and us down here."
"It works pretty well, the numbers stuff." If Mike Barnicle can produce an audio recording of Terry Francona speaking the exact words in this article, unembellished, in the exact order he wrote them, we'll pay him $500. Down to the last stretched dollar.