Francona’s next stop could be with White Sox
Daryl Van Schouwen Sun-Times Media September 29, 2011 11:16PM
BOSTON - AUGUST 16: Manager Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox laughs before a game with the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on August 16, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\121246795.jpg
Updated: November 15, 2011 8:43AM
CHICAGO — If the White Sox have designs on making Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona their successor to Ozzie Guillen, one important door has been opened.
Francona has had enough of his eroding Boston experience, a major league source said, and will ask the club not to exercise the option on his contract.
“He has had his fill of the whole thing,’’ the source told the Sun-Times.
Francona, who guided the Red Sox to two World Series championships, decided it was time to cut ties before the Red Sox’s September collapse came to its horrifying conclusion Wednesday night. His contract has options worth $4.25 million for 2012 and $4.5 for 2013, more than double what Guillen was paid this season.
Francona, 52, would have options, of course, including possibly the Cubs or Cardinals. And whether he is the top guy on Sox general manager Ken Williams’ and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s wish list is not known.
Francona has close ties to the Sox, with whom he began his coaching and managing career in the minor leagues. He was interviewed by Williams in 2003, when Guillen was hired and was the manager at Class Double-A Birmingham for three years during the “Michael Jordan baseball experience” of 1994. Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, who received a four-year extension this week, was the Sox minor-league pitching coordinator at the time.
In 1996, Francona was third-base coach for the Tigers, whose manager was Buddy Bell, the Sox’s current farm director. The Phillies made Francona their manager in 1997.
At a Thursday news conference in Boston, Francona and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein were noncommittal about their status for next season.
“It’s a fair question,” Francona said. “Theo and I talked today a little bit and we’ll continue to talk tomorrow. It’s all still pretty fresh and raw.”
With a $161 million payroll, the Red Sox, who lost 20 of their last 27 games to blow a nine-game lead for the wild card, were criticized for lacking heart and complaining about everything from injuries to their schedule. The perception in Boston is that they’re overpaid underachievers.
At worst, Francona is taking heat for having the collapse happen on his watch, and being something of an enabler.
“There were some things that did concern me,” he said. “Teams, normally, as a season progresses, there are events that make you care about each other and (with) this club, it didn’t always happen as much as I wanted it to.”
Epstein said “nobody blames Tito for what happened in September — that would be totally irresponsible and totally short-sighted.”
Williams said Tuesday there is no timetable on a decision but there is a “clear direction as to the way I want it to go.’’ He said it could be done before the World Series, “but we have to wait and see who the players are in the World Series and if there’s someone on a playoff team that I ultimately might want to talk to. It might have to drag a little bit.”
Cleveland Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., who was promoted to bench coach on Wednesday, is thought by many to be high on Williams’ wish list, though major-league sources say the Sox have yet to seek permission from the Indians to interview Alomar. Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is also a top candidate. Both have ties to the Sox as former players.
A source said that Reinsdorf will meet soon with Indians designated hitter Jim Thome, whose playing days appear to be over, to discuss the White Sox. Reinsdorf thinks highly of Thome’s character and baseball sense, and always has dinner with the future Hall of Famer after the season. Reinsforf was said to be insistent on moving up the meeting in advance of making decisions involving the Sox.
Thome wants to stay in baseball, so it’s possible Reinsdorf offers him a job in the organization. The Sox have openings for a hitting coach, bench coach and possibly other coaching jobs.