Last Sunday marked the final game of Terry Francona's managerial stint in Cleveland and possibly for his career. He's only 64 years old, which by manager standards isn't ancient or anything, but he's had health issues force him from the dugout multiple times in recent years and this might just be it.
Tuesday, Francona confirmed that he's officially stepped down from his managerial post (via Mandy Bell), but stopped short of saying he's retired. He said that he doesn't think he's going to manage again, but wouldn't completely close that door and wants to stay involved in baseball.
He was given his much-deserved farewell from the Cleveland fans last week:
As noted above, don't expect Francona to leave baseball and we wouldn't have it any other way. Our game is better with him in it. I'd expect to see him on TV, possibly regularly, as an analyst somewhere if he wants and at a bare minimum, we'll be seeing him inducted into the Hall of Fame in five years.
As things stand, Francona has 1,950 career wins against 1,672 losses as a major-league manager. That's a .538 winning percentage. Basically, his average season was 87-75 and that's pretty stellar, especially when considering his .440 winning percentage in four years with the Phillies before his time in Boston and Cleveland.
Francona ranks 13th all-time in manager wins. He trails 11 Hall of Famers and two managers headed to the Hall of Fame soon enough in Dusty Baker (seventh) and Bruce Bochy (10th). He's ahead of Hall of Fame managers like Casey Stengel, Tommy Lasorda, Dick Williams, Miller Huggins, Earl Weaver and Whitey Herzog.
The biggest plus on Francona's managerial resume would obviously be the 2004 World Series championship with the Red Sox. The supposed "Curse of the Bambino" was still a thing before that season and now it's but a distant memory. He took over for an embattled manager who many believed cost the Red Sox the ALCS against the hated Yankees in 2003. The man who we now call "Tito" with embrace was the perfect guy for the job. The Red Sox even fell down 3-0 in the ALCS to those same Yankees before storming back to win the series and become the answer to a trivia question. They then easily swept the Cardinals in the World Series for the first Red Sox championship since 1918.
The Red Sox also won the World Series under Francona in 2007. He managed Cleveland to a pennant in 2016, taking the far-superior Cubs to seven games, and then won a career-high 102 games with his ballclub the next season.
In fact, if we lop off those four Philadelphia seasons when he was a newbie at ages 38-41, Francona's resume is amazing.
In his 19 seasons between Boston and Cleveland, Francona made the playoffs 11 times, putting together an impressive 44-34 career playoff record. He won five division titles, three pennants and two World Series titles. He won at least 90 games in 12 of those 19 seasons -- his 2020 team was playing at a 90-win pace, too -- while posting a winning record 17 times. His two losing seasons were this year and an 80-82 record in 2021.
In Tito, though, it was about far more than just the winning. His personality won people over everywhere he went, including when he was representing the road team. Few figures in baseball in the last several decades are as beloved.
This is why I believe we'll continue to see a lot more of Francona in the coming years. It just won't be in the dugout on his custom-made seat or. That means, from us to Tito, this isn't goodbye so much as it is we'll see you soon in a different role. We'll see you at your Hall of Fame induction ceremony too. It'll be a pleasure and the speech won't disappoint, just as his teams rarely did.