Two weeks ago, the Boston Red Sox designated a Wednesday night May home game as a night to honor the 2004 team that broke Boston’s 86-year World Series drought. The most notable absentee that night was Terry Francona — the manager of the ’04 Sox — out in Chicago managing his current club, the Cleveland Indians.
Looking at the schedule and seeing a Tribe visit to Fenway was just two weeks away at the time, I wondered to myself why the team couldn’t have waited a couple weeks to hold the ceremony.
Now I still haven’t learned why it was the ceremony needed to go off on that day (it’s worth noting the Atlanta Braves, the Red Sox’ opponent that night, are viewed as a natural rival given their Bostonian roots). But one thing the lack of Francona’s presence at the May 28 ceremony was a reminder of is the way the Red Sox brass has treated the former skipper since his firing at the conclusion of the 2011 season after eight seasons in Boston.
And for anyone who follows the team, it’s embarrassing to see.
The issue has come back to light this weekend, as Francona and his Indians are in town for a four-game series, Tito’s second time back as an opponent.
Naturally, it’s become the talk of the town, as any Francona appearance in Boston has become over the last three years, be it as a manager or ESPN analyst. Francona said Thursday that he has spoken to Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino on multiple occasions since his departure (which Lucchino confirmed) but hasn’t spoken to either principal owner John Henry or chairman Tom Werner, however.
It’s not the first ugly divorce seen between a skipper and his former club in major league history, let alone Red Sox history. That said, it’s disappointing to see.
For eight years, Francona was as good a skipper as any seen in the long history of the Red Sox. He managed the clubhouse like it was clockwork. He managed the players just as well for seven-and-a-half of the eight years. He handled the media well. The execution of the job description resulted in two World Series, five playoff appearances and six seasons of 90 wins or more over the eight-year span. That’s something never seen in the 113-year history of the franchise.
Maybe the biggest element that comes of the Francona years was the severe lack of clubhouse blowups, controversies and firestorms. A club never short on bizarre stories and public feuds, very little left the clubhouse during the eight years.
Given that Manny Ramirez was on the team for five of those years, it’s that much harder to believe.
The laundry list of issues that resided in the 2011 Red Sox clubhouse didn’t emerge until after Francona was fired in the aftermath of the infamous September collapse, when the team blew an 8.5 game lead in the AL Wild Card race in September to miss the playoffs. We were given the details when clubhouse rats leaked stories to the media.
Being the manager of the Red Sox is a job unlike any of the other 29 managing jobs in MLB. And no man has been able to do the job quite like Francona.
I’m sure someday both sides will look past what occurred, and we’ll see Francona have his day at Fenway Park.
Here’s to hoping that day comes sooner rather than later.