Not even forty-eight hours after the Red Sox completed their epic September collapse at the hands of the Orioles, missing the postseason for the second straight season, Boston’s executive brass are making official statements that skipper Terry Francona will not return to manage the club. In their official statement this afternoon, principal owner John Henry and Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said that the decision to decline the remaining options on Francona’s contract was a mutual one between the ownership and the skipper.
“…Tito said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on. After taking time to reflect on Tito’s sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract, the statement read. “ We have enormous respect, admiration and appreciation for Tito and the job that he did for eight years, including two World Series Championship seasons and five playoff appearances. His poise during the 2004 post-season was a key factor in the greatest comeback in baseball history, and his place in Red Sox history will never be forgotten. We wish him only the best going forward.”
Red Sox beat writer Brian MacPherson tweeted the organization’s just-released statement at about 5:30pm eastern time, barely a day after Francona and GM Theo Esptein held a solemn press conference addressing club’s ugly 2011 season. The press conference’s audio, courtesy of WEEI, is embedded below.
Though Francona’s managing style brought two World Series to Boston during his eight year-tenure as skipper, his approach seemed to backfire with his players this past season. During his appearance on ESPNBoston’s Friday radio show, former Red Sox star Curt Schilling explained that Francona’s trust in his veteran players is what helped gave the team the brotherly clubhouse chemistry that helped win two World Series Championships in four years. Schilling then suggested that the team’s veteran presence had dwindled in recent seasons, and Francona was left with a team ill-prepared for the immense pressure they faced during their injury-marred September.
“There was an assumption, right or wrong, that he had a mature set of players that would do what they needed to do to be ready for the season,” said Curt Schilling, on Friday. “I don’t think, in some cases, that happened.”‘
Usually one to deflect any criticism of his team on to himself, Francona admitted in a postgame interview with the Boston Herald earlier in September that many of his players were keeping the club as a whole from “putting their best foot forward.” Amidst reports that the team’s starting pitchers–on the days they weren’t schedule to pitch–were swilling beer in clubhouse, Francona hinted at the growing rift between he and many of his players:
This team I think became challenging at the end…There were some things I was worried about. We were spending too much energy on things that weren’t putting our best foot forward toward winning…We spent a few minutes in the clubhouse that day talking about that. There were some things that did concern me. Normally as the season progresses, there are events that make you care about each other, and this club, it didn’t always happen as much as I wanted it to. And I was frustrated by that.”
Today, Francona released a statement alongside those of Theo Epstein, John Henry and the Red Sox ownership. His statement, graceful as expected, pointed to his recent problems communicating with his team as the major motivator in his decision to depart after his eight-year stint. Francona’s statement read:
We met this morning to look back on the 2011 season and to consider the future of the Boston Red Sox, including my involvement with the club. I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players. After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on. I’ve always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job. I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team. In my eight seasons as manager of the Boston Red Sox, I have developed a tremendous appreciation for Red Sox Nation. This is a special place with some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in all of baseball…I wish the entire organization and all of Red Sox Nation nothing but the very best.
Francona leaves after winning two World Series Championships and two American League Pennants with the Red Sox. A surefire Hall of Famer and one of the greatest managers’ in the games’ history, he posted a 744-552 record in the regular season as Boston’s skipper, and his .529 career winning percentage ranks sixth among active managers with more than a thousand games under their belt. Francona’s 28-17 postseason record ranks second best in big league history (to Joe McCarthy) and he’s the first Red Sox manager to take his team to multiple World Series titles since Bill Carrigan accomplished the feat a century ago.
Where will we see Francona next? A former Chicago Cub during his playing career, Francona could take over as manager for the Chicago Cubs. Chicago’s other team, the White Sox, will likely pursue Francona as well. The Nationals, not-yet committing their future to Davey Johnson, could also have a look. As a team full of young talent and one staring at a bright horizon, Washington could be a surprisingly good fit for an old manager looking for a new beginning.