Red Sox manager Terry Francona is on his way out of Boston after eight mostly successful seasons. The BoSox brass has decided it won’t exercise Tito’s contract option after his team hacked up the biggest hairball in the history of September baseball. How could a team with that much talent, not to mention a payroll that rivals the GNP of many Third World countries, go 7-20 when the games mattered most?
However, someone with Francona’s track record, including the only two World Series championships the Red Sox have experienced since Woodrow Wilson took up residence in the White House, should have no difficulty landing on his spikes. But where will Tito take his talents?
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Here’s a thought: Maybe Tito should consider donning the orange and black of the Orioles, the team that helped seal his fate on Wednesday night with a frantic ninth-inning rally that sent his Sox home for the winter. If president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail steps down as expected, and Buck Showalter moves into the GM role as is speculated, Francona could assume Showalter’s dugout perch at Camden Yards.
But why would Francona even consider such a move? After all, he’d be taking over a team that hasn’t even sniffed a winning season in 14 years and has what is arguably the most inept and meddlesome owner in professional sports.
Perhaps the biggest reason is that he could finally say “I told you so” to those who believe he can’t win unless he has the talent. Remember Francona’s foibles in Philly? Four seasons of sub-.500 baseball, culminating with a 97-loss fiasco in 2000.
It wasn’t until Francona left town that the Phillies slowly began their steady climb to the top of the baseball world. Maybe Tito would relish the challenge of building the Birds into the American League version of the “Fightin’ Phils.”
Of course, one has to wonder whether he and noted control freak Showalter could coexist. You can almost envision a scenario where, after Showalter second-guesses a late-inning pitching change that leads to a tough loss, Francona would scream, “Oh yeah? How many freakin’ World Series have you won?”
If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see how the annual game of “Managerial Musical Chairs” plays out over the next few weeks. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see a “Tito Bird” land in Baltimore come 2012.