The Cleveland Guardians announced Tuesday that Terry Francona is stepping down as manager after 11 seasons.
"I came here for the right reasons, and I think I'm leaving for the right reasons, but in between has been really good," Francona said in a statement.
Francona, who has spent more than 40 years in baseball, was alongside president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti during the announcement. While Francona is finished managing, he will stay with the Guardians in a different role.
Chris Antonetti announces that Terry Francona is stepping down as manager of the @CleGuardians but will have a role with the organization moving forward.
"He has left an indelible legacy that will continue to impact the organization for years to come."#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/aNG3Wc3jqw
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) October 3, 2023
The news wasn't a surprise for anyone. Francona, 64, had implied that he'd be stepping down in early September and had been talking about it for the past week. The Guardians honored him Wednesday before his last home game at Progressive Field, with players wearing "Thank You Tito" T-shirts in the dugout.
Francona leaves behind an enormous legacy on the field. As a player, he was a journeyman who spent nine years in the majors. But as a manager, he accrued a 1,948-1,670 record over 23 years with three teams and developed a reputation for being honest, self-deprecating and knowledgable about the game.
Francona's MLB managing career began in 1997 with the Philadelphia Phillies, a four-year stint that ended with his firing after he was unable to take the team's middling roster beyond the middle of the NL East. Once they saw what Francona did after leaving Philly, however, they might've regretted their decision.
The Boston Red Sox took a chance on Francona in 2004, and it paid off in ways they couldn't have imagined. In his first season with Boston, Francona led the Sox to their first World Series championship since 1918, ending the Curse of the Bambino and crushing the souls of the New York Yankees in the process. Just three years later, Francona and the Red Sox won another World Series.
Francona's time in Boston is still remembered fondly, despite how it ended. He was fired at the end of the 2011 season, when a massive September collapse caused the Red Sox to lose a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and miss out on the AL wild-card spot.
But one team's loss is another's gain. The Guardians hired Francona in late 2012, and there he remained for the next 11 years. He took them to the playoffs six times, including an appearance in the 2016 World Series, which they narrowly lost to the Chicago Cubs. Cleveland was more successful under Francona than the team had been been in 20 years, and he became a fan favorite. That was obvious from the signs at Progressive Field last week.
Francona has avoided saying the word "retire" this past month, likely because he's continuing to work in baseball. But even if he never says it, the Guardians and their fans made sure he knew how much they appreciated him.