Terry Francona’s career as Boston Red Sox manager, which included two World Series championships, ended when he failed to stop the biggest September collapse in the history of Major League Baseball.
The Red Sox said yesterday they won’t exercise their option to extend Francona’s contract for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, ending an eight-season term for Francona that began with the team’s first championship since 1918 and ended with them blowing a nine-game lead for a playoff spot in September.
“They need a new voice,” Francona told reporters last night. “After eight years, there’s probably a person who can be more effective.”
Francona, 52, was 744-552 in eight seasons with the team. He won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, and made the playoffs five times.
“I just thought it was time. To be honest, I’m not sure how much support there was from ownership,” he said in a news conference. “You have to be all in in this job. It’s got to be everyone together, and I was questioning that a little bit.”
The Red Sox led the Tampa Bay Rays by nine games for the AL wild-card playoff spot on Sept. 4 and went 7-20 in September, missing the playoffs on the season’s final day. The collapse was the biggest in the final month of a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
‘Doesn’t Feel Good’
Boston was eliminated on Sept. 28, the final game of the regular season, when the team surrendered two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles and the Rays rallied from seven runs down to beat the New York Yankees in extra innings.
“We’ll go down in history as one of the worst collapses,” Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford told reporters after the season. “It definitely doesn’t feel good to be part of that.”
The Red Sox acquired Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, both four-time All-Stars, in the offseason last year and lost the first six games of the 2011 season, their worst start since 1945. They recovered to claim a share of the AL East division lead with the Yankees on May 26, and competed for the top spot with New York before the late-season collapse.
Boston’s seven wins in 27 games in the season’s final month was its worst performance since it finished 1952 with the same record in September.
Francona spent 10 years as a first baseman and outfielder with five teams prior to coaching. He managed the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997-2000 before being hired by the Red Sox before the start of the 2004 season.
“He proved to be an unflappable leader for our major league club, displaying consistency, calmness, hard work, thoughtfulness, a sense of humor, and faith in the players even at the most difficult of times,” Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein said in a team release. “Without Tito’s commitment over eight years, we would not be the organization we are today. Nobody at the Red Sox blames Tito for what happened at the end of this season; we own that as an organization.”
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