12/04/2003 9:21 AM ET
Manager search now complete
Francona to be named team's choice today
BOSTON -- The five-week search for the 44th manager in Red Sox history is over.
|By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The Red Sox will hold a Fenway Park press conference today at 2 p.m. ET, at which time they will unveil Terry Francona as their next manager.
Speculation had been rampant for the last couple of weeks that it was Francona's job to lose, and now it will become official.
Francona -- who managed the Phillies from 1997-2000 -- was the second of four candidates to interview for the position that became open on Oct. 27 when the Sox decided not to exercise the contract option of Grady Little.
While Francona thoroughly impressed Sox general manager Theo Epstein and club president/CEO Larry Lucchino during his first interview on Nov. 5, his candidacy really appeared to pick up steam when he was invited for a follow-up session at principal owner John W. Henry's house in South Florida 13 days later.
A day after that, Francona was back at Fenway Park for a second interview with Epstein, Lucchino, assistant GM Josh Byrnes and other club officials.
Last week, Francona underwent a physical from Red Sox team doctor Bill Morgan. That was merely a precautionary measure after Francona had a couple of scary bouts with blood clots following what was supposed to be a routine knee surgery a year ago.
When reached last week after his physical, Francona said that his health is "great, just great," leaving him enthused to land his next managerial job.
Francona was the only candidate who had a personal interview with Henry, which spoke volumes about Boston's interest in him.
The Red Sox also interviewed Dodgers third base coach Glenn Hoffman, Angels bench coach Joe Maddon and Rangers first base coach DeMarlo Hale.
Maddon was the strongest candidate out of that trio, but was officially informed by Epstein Wednesday evening that he was out of the running.
"This whole process was a great experience for me," Maddon said. "I have no regrets."
Angels pitching coach Bud Black was perceived to be a strong candidate early on, but he chose not to interview for the post.
The Red Sox like Francona for his energetic personality, attention to detail and his baseball pedigree.
Francona's father Tito played in the Major Leagues for 15 years, allowing him to be exposed to the game throughout his life.
From 1981-1990, he followed in his father's footsteps, playing in the Major Leagues for the Expos, Cubs, Reds, Indians and Brewers. Francona was a .274 career hitter.
After he was done playing, Francona quickly pursued the path of managing.
He served as a hitting instructor in the White Sox farm system in 1991 and was named manager of their affiliate in South Bend of the Midwest League in 1992.
Beginning in 1993, Francona moved on to Double-A Birmingham for three years. In the middle year of that tenure, he managed basketball great Michael Jordan, who was attempting a career in baseball at that time.
Jordan thought so highly of Francona that he recommended him for the Phillies' job.
In that 1994 season, Francona was voted the minor league's top managerial prospect by Baseball America.
At the age of 37, Francona was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. He stayed in that capacity for four years, posting a record of 285-363.
Francona was eager to manage again, and now he will get that chance.
"The one thing you just die for is to have a chance to win," Francona said following his first interview with the Red Sox. "Some of the players that are making all this money, when it comes to the first of August and you're 20 games out, you're miserable. I've been in that situation. You're miserable. To have a chance to win and to be expected to win, is what you coach for, what you play for."
Francona should be able to do just that in Boston, as the Red Sox are a veteran-laden squad filled with accomplished players.
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez, newly acquired Curt Schilling (whom Francona managed for almost his entire tenure in Philadelphia) and tough sinkerballer Derek Lowe will lead what should be one of the best rotations in the game.
The Sox also have a prolific offense, led by Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, David Ortiz, Bill Mueller, Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek.
In 2003, the Red Sox won 95 games and advanced to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series before losing a heartbreaker to the Yankees.
They will try and take that next step in 2004 and Francona will be the man writing out their lineup cards.