Terry Francona, who managed the Boston Red Sox to two World Series championships in the first decade of the 21st century, is the new manager of the Cleveland Indians. The Red Sox fired Francona at the end of last season and for the past year he has been an analyst for ESPN. Tito, who is known as an all around good guy and I have always felt was a smart manager, is also the former manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
With the Red Sox
It was in 2004 when the Red Sox made their amazing comeback down 3 games to none against the Yankees that Francona helped the team win its first championship since 1918. With a team that included David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, Kevin Youkilis, Curt Shilling, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, Tito made one move that changed the course of the ALCS.
In the bottom of the ninth trailing by one run and facing elimination, Kevin Millar, who coined the 2004 Red Sox the “Idiots,” walked. Tito then put in Dave Roberts as a pinch runner. Roberts seemed to rattle renowned closer Mariano Rivera and eventually he stole second base. With two out, Bill Mueller laced a single that got Roberts home to tie the game. In extra innings, David Ortiz won it with a walk off homerun. The Sox won the next three and then went to the World Series where they easily beat the Cardinals in four straight.
The Choke Heard Around the World
Tito had out managed Joe Torre, guided the club to the world championship and was part of the team that made the Yankees do something no MLB team has ever done before. Lose four straight in a playoff series after going ahead three games to none. Conversely, the Red Sox under Francona are the only MLB team to comeback when down three to zip.
In 2007, the Red Sox under Tito won the World Series again. This time they beat the Colorado Rockies in four straight, making Francona as a manager 8-0 in World Series play. Franccona holds the record for most World Series championships in the first decade of the 21st century—two.
The Skids and Renewal
In 2009 and 2010, the Red Sox under Francona did not make the postseason. For that reason, plus apparent problems with player discipline, Tito was fired. He went off the ESPN and Bobby Valentine was hired on a two-year contract. But Valentine made Tito’s final seasons look like the golden age of Red Sox baseball as he managed the team to a 93-loss season, finishing last in the AL East. Valentine is out after one season with Boston and on Monday the Cleveland Indians will announce that Terry Francona is their new manager. What I’m thinking as a Red Sox fan is “man those Indian fans are lucky!”