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After two World Series championships in four seasons, it's hard to reach back into the days of reversing the curse. It seems like something that our grandfathers had to deal with. In fact, the subject never comes up any more.

Instead, Jordan's Furniture came on the air to announce yesterday that if the Red Sox win the World Series in four straight in 2008 you will be reimbursed for your furniture purchases. It sounds crazy, but in 2004 and 2007 the Red Sox won in sweeps.

As I write this, the Red Sox are behind against the A's in Tokyo. Dice-K is all the rage and left with a no-decision.

I picked up Red Sox Rule to help get me into the mood for the new season. I was pleasantly surprised to learn new things about Terry Francona, Boston's championship manager. His job interview with Theo Epstein (the young GM) included two examinations! I also didn't know much about Francona's career as a player . . . nor his experience as manager of the Phillies.

When Francona was selected, I couldn't figure out why anyone would have chosen him. Having seen his work from the bench, I've been impressed by his heart, his discipline, his even-keeled personality, and his defense of the players. Francona is the right manager for Boston.

I had also forgotten that Francona had been Michael Jordan's manager while MJ was a baseball player. It was good to be reminded.

Those are the highlights of the book. Most of the rest is filler.

I found several aspects of the book to be disappointing:

1. The 2004 season is ignored.

2. The 2007 season is described too briefly.

3. You don't get much of a sense about how Francona combines old school instinct and new school statistics although Mr. Holley is fond of repeating the point.

4. Although Francona loves to talk baseball, there's not much of his philosophy of managing in the book. You get a brief reference instead such as how he'll bring team issues to the attention of Big Papi who will take care of things for Francona.

5. There is no index.

6. The focus is on explaining the Red Sox to those who don't know the team. That's weird. Yankee fans aren't going to read this book.

I can't imagine that Terry Francona held back a lot from Mr. Holley. My impression is that Mr. Holley wasn't sure how to write about managing. That is a missed opportunity.

After the next World Series championship in Boston, I hope another writer will take on this subject and do a better job.

As a side point, I would like to warn you that my copy is filled with smeared type as though the pages weren't printed properly. If you want to have a pretty copy, you might want to buy yours at a book store where you can check the printing quality before your purchase.
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on March 25, 2008
There are very few books about the recent history of the Red Sox that I consider must-haves. This book, unfortunately, is not one of them. It took me an hour to barrel through: I am normally a really fast reader, but this book just didn't have much substance. The best parts were the autobiographical sections about Terry Francona as a child and early in his baseball career, periods I really didn't know much about. His pulmonary embolism episode was also a gripping read, and I found the description of his managerial interview with the Sox really fascinating. The rest of the book felt really rushed. As a previous reviewer noted, there was very little on the actual process of managing a game, and the glossing over of the 2004 playoffs and several other memorable episodes, such as Theo Epstein's resignation, was troubling. I also wanted a lot more on the 2007 playoffs instead of some quick summaries at the end. It made me think that Holley just didn't want to take the time to write all of it thoroughly so he could get it out before the 2008 season. Well, he was successful at that, but the price is unsophisticated, incomplete writing that will frustrate many fans and bore others.

Buy this book for the sections on Terry Francona's life, which are indeed very good, and don't expect 200 pages of meat. It's a solid book and an easy read, but hard core fans probably won't be satisfied and I didn't feel I got my money's worth.
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on April 16, 2008
In this book, Michael Holley writes a book that seems unclear as to what it is trying to do. Is it trying to profile the new dynasty of the Red Sox as the title suggests or is it trying to show what type of management style works best in baseball as the work suggest or is it trying to do something else? I find this book to oftentimes be muddled and confusing as to what it is trying to do exactly. I agree with a lot of the other criticism that the book lacks focus and also seems to lack a frame other then when it suites the immediate need of the story

I also find interesting that Holley managed to write this book without hardly a mention of Curt Schilling. Schilling is in there when discussing Terry Francona in Philadelphia and of course when he pitches in the playoffs, but other than that there is hardly a mention of him.
All in all I think Red Sox fans will enjoy this book but in my mind it provides very little insight into the team.
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on July 8, 2008
I've read countless books on baseball, covering everything from the 1919 Black Sox scandal to right this minute - and this book makes my top five. I found myself canceling plans to read it - and I put it away in two days and was sad to be done.

Baseball makes great fodder for writers because the sport is so inherently nuanced - and yet too often writers try too hard and overdo it, lapsing into cliche and clumsily zapping all the magic.

Not Holley. His writing is brilliantly, poetically restrained, letting the rich and riveting facts and analysis shine through. What results is a truly shaded portrayal of a truly compelling man. A digestible read that is not forgotten once the final page is turned. A book that is eminently informative - but also subtly moving.

I learned things I never knew about my favorite team, about Terry Francona, and about managing in baseball generally. But this provocative work also left me thinking about life, love, the passage of time. Just like the sport itself.

Kudos to Michael Holley, whose work I have long admired, for this satisfying addition to the canon of great sports writing.
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on March 18, 2013
I gave this book as a gift to my cousin who would like to play for the Red Sox someday. I heard about the author via a mystery series where he is mentioned as worth reading, if you are new to the world of baseball.
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on February 25, 2014
Second-guessing the manager of the Boston Red Sox is practically the hobby of every fan in New England, but there were signs by 2008 that Terry Francona was starting to get the benefit of the doubt.

Winning two world championships in four years after his team went 86 years without will do that.

Francona has learned plenty of lessons during his time in Boston, but he brought some knowledge with him. One was to stay in the background and keep temperatures around the team down. It can get a little hot in that hyperactive environment. That's worked out pretty well, to the point where Francona stayed put for a few more years.

It's also interesting that Francona let his guard down a bit to allow Michael Holley, a former Boston Globe writer, to spend part of the past year hanging around him in order to research "Red Sox Rule."

The title of the book is a bit misleading, since it might lead to the assumption that this is a book on the entire Red Sox organization. It's essentially a biography of Francona, although not a complete one. Francona was the son of Tito Francona, a pretty good player from the Fifties and Sixties. Terry loved baseball while growing up in Western Pennsylvania and seemed destined to have a solid career as a player ... until a couple of severe knee injuries when he was a young player in the majors ended most of those hopes. Francona hung around for a while as a backup, and he seemed like the type that would fit in as a baseball lifer pretty quickly.

That he did. Francona was best known in the 1990's for managing a certain rookie named Michael Jordan in Double-A play in Birmingham. Jordan was the most watched minor league in the country that year, and Francona obviously learned some lessons about dealing with intense publicity that would serve him well in Boston.

This is not a standard biography, which might be the book's biggest problem. Each chapter handles a section of Francona's life. What's there is very good -- there are plenty of interesting details that aren't public knowledge placed here. But the story jumps around a little bit and feels incomplete. For example, there is surprisingly little information on the 2004 season, which of course changed the lives of every Red Sox fan alive. Portions of the book on the 2007 season deal mostly with the Yankees and the playoff games, which is what you'd expect.

And it's not as if there wasn't room for more material. "Red Sox Rule" checks in at 202 pages of text, and it's easy to breeze through this in a couple of days.

Holley, then, paints a picture of Francona that probably could use a few more details. Still, Francona's management style and his intelligent approach to his job are on display. The Red Sox couldn't have won two World Series titles without good players, but "Red Sox Rule" shows that the manager had a big role in the wins too.

Francona came out with a much better book on the Red Sox era for him in January 2013. That's the one you should buy if you are interested in the subject. This is more for big-time Red Sox fans.
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on April 3, 2014
The book Red Sox Rule by Michael Holley is about Terry Francona and what he went through to get his job as the Boston Red Sox manager. This book talks about when he was the bench coach for the Oakland Athletics and what he went through when he was being scouted and interviewed for the job as manager. Then once he got the job the author describes in depth about what Francona did during the 2004 season and some of the decisions that he made and how the decisions led him and the Red Sox to winning the World Series.

The main character of the book is Terry Francona who becomes the Red Sox's manager. Francona is very laid back, but at the same time he is very good at his job. Another character is Theo Epstein who is the Red Sox general manager. Theo Epstein is a young man but at the same time is very smart. Another owner of the Red Sox is John Henry. John Henry has been an owner of the team for a long time so he is very experienced in his job.

"On the October night when most of New England directed its rage at Grady Little, Terry Francona was in suburban Philadelphia, halfway paying attention.” First he watched one of his three daughters play in a high school volleyball game. He was the bench coach for the Oakland A's, the team the Red Sox had eliminated from the postseason, so it was hard to see Boston where he thought Oakland should have been. I still think we're better than the Red Sox. Talk about impact TV; at no point did he imagine that the broadcast was about to show him something that would land him a job in Boston.

This was the most important passage from the book. It was said by the author in the beginning of the book when he was talking about Terry Francona when he wasn't the Red Sox manager and how much he didn't care for and hated the Red Sox. Then he explains how Francona had no clue that the game he was watching on TV was going to give him a job the next season for the Red Sox.

I liked this book very much, me being a Boston fan and knowing so much about all the teams, it’s always good to learn something you didn’t know and that’s what this book does for you.

This book was very good and was very accurate in the information it gave you. It gave a lot of information and facts that I did not know about before such as Terry Francona's background information, previous jobs in baseball he had, and what he had to do to get the job as the Red Sox's manager and things he had to do once as manager.
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on November 10, 2008
Without question, the Red Sox have been one of the most dominant teams in the past five years, which is coincidentally when Terry Francona took over as manager. Brought to Beantown following the Grady Little incident in the 2003 ALCS, he has managed to step into the fire of Red Sox Nation without burning his feet.

Michael Holley is quick to recognize the apparent connection of Francona's arrival and the success of the Red Sox, and offers 202 pages on the man who has been at the healm of the club since 2004.

This is a good read for Red Sox fans looking to learn a bit more about Francona, both on and off the field. Like many, he's taken an interesting route to get where he is, and like most, it hasn't been a straight or easy path to the manager's chair. Having met Francona on several occasions, I wouldn't say he's the most dynamic fellow I've ever come across, and the book didn't do anything to change my opinion of him. It provides quite a bit of information on him that I didn't know before, but given that he's 3,000 miles away from me, its immediate relevance is a bit tougher to discern.

For non-Red Sox fans, such as myself, the insight into Francona may be a bit more than most folks would like to spend 200 pages on. He's a darn good manager, but it's more of a biopic as opposed to a strategy book, although there are some nuggets scattered throughout about how he approaches the game from a strategic sense. You might read this and end up really liking Francona...or you might get to the end and say to yourself, "ok, nice story - now what?"

By no means is Red Sox Rule a bad read - I'd just want to know your interest in the subject matter before giving it a whole-hearted recommendation. If you cheer for the Red Sox, read it - you'll enjoy it. If you're not a Red Sox fan, proceed at your own risk -- I can't guarantee you'll get that into it.
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VINE VOICEon February 15, 2009
And that's okay. Michael Holley's writing on the Boston sports scene over the past few years has been some of the most important to be found, and I, for one, am glad it comes out in lengthier pieces than occasional deadline-driven newspaper columns. The focus of this book is on "Francona," as Red Sox fans have come to know him, and not the team.

Terry Francona had been around the game of baseball for a long time before he ever appeared on the average parochial Red Sox fan's radar screen, and though some may remember him as an okay left-handed hitter floating around the National League somewhere, his impact on the sports world of Boston had been minimal until 2004. Now that he's a major cog in the Sox Nation machine, with two World Series championships under his belt, his biography is as valid as Carl Yastrzemski's or, dare I say, Ted Williams'. Francona won more World Series with the Red Sox than both combined, as much as those of us who love the team and his history are embarrassed to admit it.

But all managers get fired, or at least very few are given the chance to leave the helm of a baseball team of their own volition. Holley struck while the iron was hot, getting the Francona story out while he's still atop his game in Boston.
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on August 1, 2012
This book takes a unique look at the Red Sox championship run. Rather than focus on the team, or the front office, it looks squarely at the manager Terry Francona. It discusses how he got the managerial job in the first place. It discusses the events in his life that may have influenced his coaching style. It explores the history of the making of a Boston Red Sox manager. The access to Francona for this book is evident, as every detail is there for all to see. This book brings it all together into a seamless story.

This was a great book. It was fascinating to see how past events in Francona's life affected the way he managed the Red Sox. It was amazing how friends he made, or people he met years ago could still influence him. It went from the obvious influence of someone like Brad Mills to the less obvious. What did managing Michael Jordan in the minor leagues teach him about handling Pedro Martinez? How did trying to play through so many injuries in his career prepare him to deal with veteran players? Does being a past first round pick help him to deal with the superstars of tomorrow? Time and time again I found that the success of the Red Sox just made sense. It became obvious that Terry Francona was almost created just for the role. Anyone who ever refered to him as "Francoma," or anyone else for that matter, needs to read this book.
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