November 16, 2011
Over the past six weeks, Terry Francona has shown a talent for stepping out before he's pushed out.
Whether he was actually fired by the Boston Red Sox or not, Francona was given the opportunity to step away. The mutual agreement between the two sides made it appear as if he may have resigned before being dismissed.
The last managerial opening remaining for Francona was with the Chicago Cubs. With his former Red Sox boss Theo Epstein now in charge at Wrigley Field, many thought a reunion looked like a natural fit.
But Francona never appeared to be a favored choice for Epstein. Sensing that he wasn't a real candidate for the Cubs (and perhaps not interested in a rebuilding project), he seems to have beaten his old boss to the punch again. Before the Cubs hired someone else for the job, Francona told CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam on Wednesday that he won't be managing anywhere next season.
"I need to take a step back and re-energize. That's probably in my best interest right now. In fairness to myself, it's the best thing to do.''
While the Cubs have interviewed candidates like Sandy Alomar Jr., Dale Sveum, Pete Mackanin and Mike Maddux, Francona had his eye on the opening with the St. Louis Cardinals. As the defending World Series champions with a good mix of veterans and up-and-coming talent, St. Louis was a far more appealing destination for Francona.
Francona told McAdam as much, saying he was "genuinely excited" about the Cardinals' vacancy. Maybe it was the one job he could see himself taking after a grueling end to his Red Sox tenure. Alas, St. Louis went in the proverbial new direction with the surprise hiring of Mike Matheny.
But after interviewing with the Cards, Francona says he began to realize how "beaten up" he was. The Red Sox's epic collapse surely wore him out. And as we learned in one of the all-time shivs in the back from Bob Hohler's infamous exposé in the Boston Globe, Francona may have also been dealing with some personal issues that might not be properly addressed during another 162-game grind.
With that in mind, taking a one-year sabbatical is probably the right move for Francona. Besides, he doesn't have to get away from the game completely. Francona was very impressive in his two-game stint with Joe Buck in the Fox broadcast booth during the ALCS.
Sitting in for Tim McCarver, he shared some refreshing candor and insight, along with a conversational — rather than authoritarian — tone. Francona says he's been contacted by Fox, ESPN and MLB Network, and there's no reason to think he wouldn't do a great job in any of those opportunities.
Also, broadcasting would allow him to survey the entire major leagues, keep an eye on which jobs might open up, and then submit his name for the gig he prefers with batteries fully recharged.
It could be the latest in what's been a career of smart moves for Francona.