Red Sox hire Francona as manager

Originally Published: December 4, 2003
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Four of the first dozen men to manage the Boston Red Sox led the team to a World Series title. In more than eight decades since, twice as many and then some have tried and failed.

Now Terry Francona will give it a shot.

Francona has been hired as the next Red Sox manager, the team announced Thursday. He said he knew it was a perfect fit as soon as he came to Boston to interview with general manager Theo Epstein.

"I went home knowing this was a place I wanted to end up," Francona said. "All of the things they seem to believe in -- communication, open and honest communication, the way you treat people, their view on the game of baseball, it just seemed like a terrific match.''

The ex-Philadelphia Phillies manager will join his former ace, Curt Schilling, as they try to bring the Red Sox their first championship since 1918.

"I'm thrilled Schill is here," Francona said. "He'll take the ball every time and you have to wrestle it away from him."

The Red Sox also interviewed Los Angeles third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, Anaheim bench coach Joe Maddon and Texas first-base coach DeMarlo Hale. But Francona was established as an early front-runner, and his hiring was delayed only by the team's pursuit of Schilling.

Maddon said Wednesday night that Epstein called him earlier in the day.

On the spot
Terry Francona's season-by-season record as a manager:
Year Team Record Place
1997 Phillies 68-94 5th
1998 Phillies 75-87 3rd
1999 Phillies 77-85 3rd
2000 Phillies 65-97 5th

"He just told me it wasn't me," Maddon said in a telephone interview. "We had a nice exchange and he was very complimentary and I was the same to him. There's nothing to get upset about."

The Red Sox traded four players for Schilling last week, but the deal was held up while they negotiated a contract extension with the 37-year-old pitcher to get him to waive his no-trade clause. They agreed Friday to a deal that will pay him $37.5 million over the next three years, with an option for a fourth.

Schilling said one incentive for him to sign in Boston was word that Francona was "a slam dunk" to be the new manager. Even so, he made it clear that he did not make Francona's hiring a condition of the deal, nor did the Red Sox promise it.

Francona, 44, managed Schilling in Philadelphia through four losing seasons from 1997-2000 when the Phillies were a young team trying to rebuild. In Boston, Francona will be expected to win immediately.

He spent the 2001 season as special assistant to baseball operations for the Cleveland Indians and was bench coach for the Texas Rangers in 2002. He was a bench coach for Oakland this season when the A's blew a 2-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs, losing three straight to the Red Sox.

"I know looking at this team from the other side that this lineup is incredible," Francona said. "We had some pretty good pitchers in Oakland, but it's hard to stop this team from scoring runs."

Under Grady Little, the Red Sox averaged 94 wins over two seasons and made the playoffs this year for the first time since 1999. They came back from a 2-0 deficit against Oakland, winning three in a row to take the best-of-five, first-round series and play the New York Yankees for the right to go to the World Series.

Boston led New York 5-2 in the seventh inning of the decisive seventh game, but Little opted to go with tiring ace Pedro Martinez instead of a recently rehabilitated bullpen. Martinez blew the lead, the Yankees won 6-5 on Aaron Boone's 11th-inning homer off Tim Wakefield and Little was let go after the season.

Red Sox management insisted that Little's fate wasn't determined by one loss. Instead, the Boston brass had grown frustrated by his lack of preparation and willingness to wing it rather than trust the statistical analysis they thought was the solution to the team's 85-year championship drought.

Francona said after his interview that he was open to using statistics as one resource among many. And he said he didn't mind the high expectations that would come with his new job.

"The one thing you just die for is a chance to win," said Francona, who was 285-363 in Philadelphia, never winning more than 77 games. "To have a chance to win and to be expected to win is what you play for, what you coach for."

The son of former major league outfielder Tito Francona, Francona was an outfielder and first baseman in the majors for 10 seasons with Montreal, the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Milwaukee. He hit .274 with 16 homers in 708 games.

In the minors, Francona was Michael Jordan's manager at Double-A Birmingham.

Information from SportsTicker was used in this report.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press