07/03/05 8:54 PM ET
Francona honored, feels pressure
Red Sox skipper honored to lead, hurt by tough picks
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Thanks to the Red Sox winning the World Series last year, Francona is a Major League All-Star himself for the first time.
The process is one that Francona wouldn't dare take back.
"No, because that would have meant we would have lost last year," Francona said. "So I'll take the tradeoff. I hope we're busy next year."
The process for selecting the All-Star team has changed greatly since Major League Baseball instituted a new format in 2003.
That has left the manager with far less decisions to make than in years past. In some ways, that made it easier for Francona and in other ways, it made it more difficult.
The manager, along with input from Major League Baseball, now has say in the final five spots (four pitchers and one position player).
However, with four teams still unrepresented by the time the fan and player balloting was final, Francona's hands were significantly tied in four of those five selections. It has been a long-standing Major League Baseball rule that all 30 teams have to be represented at the All-Star Game.
The one choice Francona had was an agonizing one. Ultimately, he selected Angels right-hander Bartolo Colon, which meant he had to leave two of his own pitchers (Matt Clement and Mike Timlin) off the team.
Colon (11-4, 3.06 ERA) is having a terrific season. Clement (9-2, 3.82 ERA) has been a solidifying force for the Red Sox with ace Curt Schilling gone for most of the first half.
"The process didn't think I'm good enough to be there," said Clement, "so I'm not going to be there. That's it. It's disappointing. You think you work hard enough to deserve to be there and you're not. Obviously, I'm not good enough to be there."
And Timlin, who was hoping to become an All-Star for the first time in his 15-year career, has a 1.58 ERA as Boston's ace setup man.
Out of respect for the process, Francona didn't feel it was his role to entirely spell out why he chose Colon. But he did say that having to tell Clement and Timlin they weren't coming to Detroit with him was a difficult thing to do.
"It crushed me. I'm not very happy about it," said Francona. "I don't expect you to understand everything. I spent so much time on this. The system is what it is, so you make your decisions according to that, but you're seeing a lot of good players that aren't going. And again, out of respect to everybody, I care. But out of respect to our guys, I probably care more. I'm not going to go into everything, because I'm not sure I'm supposed to. But my choice -- our choice -- it's not always the way it works out. I think that's the way I need to leave it."
Timlin, in particular, was disappointed.
"Absolutely I'm disappointed. This is the only time in my career that I've actually had the numbers to go," said the 39-year-old right-hander. "It will never happen for me again, ever. I've got no shot. It doesn't' come around very often for a middle reliever."
Still, Timlin understands that every team being represented makes the selection process a tough chore.
"Every team has to be represented," said Timlin. "To be fair, along with the rules, you have to have everyone there. There's a lot of things you could do to that game to make it better, but that's not how it played. How it's played is to have [someone from every team] there."
While he was disappointed for Timlin and Clement, Francona was thrilled that four of his hitters (Johnny Damon, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek) will be in the American League's starting lineup.
"I think they'll be very honored," Francona said. "And the fact that we have four guys in the lineup, I think, will make them just that much more proud. I'm very proud for the guys that were voted. Like I said, I'm a little bit somber because of the way some of the other things have worked out, I think I owe the players that. When the time comes and we run out four Red Sox, we'll be very honored for that and I know they will also."
Once Francona gets to Detroit, he plans on relishing the moment.
"I think it will be fun," said Francona. "When the time comes, yeah, I think I will be very proud."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.