On September 13th I speculated that if the Boston Red Sox were to collapse and miss the post-season that manager Terry Francona would be out of a job.
Well, thirty-six hours removed from their nadir, it appears that the Red Sox will not be picking up Francona’s option for next season following a meeting he had this morning with Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. The club held options on his contract for both 2012 and 2013.
However, Francona might not be out of a job for long. In fact, it might only be a question of putting on a new pair of Sox. Now that Ozzie Guillen has left the South Side of Chicago for South Beach to become the new manager of the Miami Marlins, the White Sox are a viable option. Indeed, after the end of his playing career in 1990, Francona began his minor league managerial career with the White Sox organization in 1991 and would remain with them until 1995 before he was hired as the third base coach for the Detroit Tigers in 1996. While with the Chisox organization, Francona managed NBA legend Michael Jordan with the Double A Birmingham Barons in 1994.
If the White Sox were to hire Francona, he would present a stark contrast to Guillen. While both men are comfortable engaging the media their content of their commentary differs sharply. While Guillen doesn’t hesitate to rip players in public. Francona generally maintains an upbeat demeanor and keeps that sort of thing behind closed doors.
There had been discussion about hiring Sandy Alomar, Jr. however he has opted to remain with the Cleveland Indians as their bench coach. Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez has also been mentioned as a potential successor to Guillen in Chicago.
So who might take over the helm of the Red Sox? Former Texas Rangers and New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine seems to be the first name to pop up. But then again he’s always at the top of someone’s list until teams decide they don’t want to deal with his drama. Valentine hasn’t managed in the big leagues since 2002. He spent six seasons managing in Japan before taking a job with ESPN in 2010. Valentine spent this past season on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. He is far from my favorite color commentator but under the circumstances I’d prefer he remain in the broadcast booth.
If Francona has managed his last game with the Red Sox, he will be the second winningest manager in the team’s history with 744 victories over eight seasons. Only Joe Cronin won more games at the helm of the Bosox with 1071 over 13 seasons including the AL pennant in 1946. The Red Sox retired Cronin’s number along with that of Ted Williams in 1984.
It bears worth repeating that during his first year managing the Red Sox in 2004, Francona led the team to their first World Series title in 86 years and proved it was no fluke three years later. But all things must come to an end. It’s not the end Francona would have liked but I’m sure after some time has passed he will appreciate the years he spent here and so too will Red Sox Nation.
UPDATE: It’s official. Tito is out. For his part, Francona says the decision was reached mutually and that the Red Sox need “a different voice.”