Francona finished as Red Sox manager


Francona finished as Red Sox manager

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- In the end, Terry Francona wanted out.

And on Friday night, the Red Sox let him go.

The team announced in a statement released at 5:34 p.m. on Friday night it would decline the options on the final two years of Francona's contract, ending his eight-year reign as Red Sox manager. The move was made after a day of intrigue in which a morning meeting -- at which Francona's departure was expected to be made official -- ended inconclusively, and the manager's future was left open-ended.

But Francona's desire to leave became known in Friday night's statement.

We met this morning to look back on the 2011 season and to consider the future of the Boston Red Sox, including my involvement with the club," Francona said in the statement. "I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players.

"After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on. Ive always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job. I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team."

The owners -- John Henry and Tom Werner, along with CEO Larry Lucchino -- asked after the morning meeting that the sides regroup and ponder their positions. In mid-afternoon, general manager Theo Epstein released a statement that concluded: "There are no immediate plansfor an announcement."

Late in the day, however, the move was made. The owners released the following statement:

We met with Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and assistant general manager Ben Cherington Friday morning to discuss the 2011 season, ways to improve the club in the future, and Titos status. During the meeting, Tito, Theo and Ben agreed that the Red Sox would benefit from an improved clubhouse culture and higher standards in several areas. Tito said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on. After taking time to reflect on Titos sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract.

"We have enormous respect, admiration and appreciation for Tito and the job that he did for eight years, including two World Series Championship seasons and five playoff appearances. His poise during the 2004 post-season was a key factor in the greatest comeback in baseball history, and his place in Red Sox history will never be forgotten.

"We wish him only the best going forward.

Francona plans a press conference at 7 p.m., and Epstein is scheduled to meet the press at 8:15 p.m.

Francona's multiyear deal, signed as part of a contract extention in 2008, included two club option years on for 2012 and 2013. The Red Sox will pay him the 750,000 buyout rather than the 4.25 million due for 2012 and 4.5 million for 2013.

Red Sox ownership has been silent when it came to Francona's future as the team flopped in September, blowing a nine-game lead for the wild card. A ninth-inning, 4-3 loss in Baltimore Wednesday night on the final night of the season, coupled with a victory by Tampa Bay over New York, knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs.

Francona has managed the Red Sox for eight seasons, winning World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. The 2004 title was historic for two reasons: it was the franchise's first since 1918 and it came after the team fell behind the Yankees three games to none in the American League Championship Series.

He also took them to the ALCS in 2008. Under Francona, however, the team was swept from the ALDS in 2009 by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and missed the post-season altogether in 2010 and this season.

With 744 wins, Francona is second on the franchise's all-time managerial leaders.

In his statement, he said he will miss the team and the fans of Boston.

"In my eight seasons as manager of the Boston Red Sox, I have developed a tremendous appreciation for Red Sox Nation," said Francona. "This is a special place with some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in all of baseball. They packed Fenway Park for every game and because of them, I had a special sense of pride coming to work every day.

"I want to thank John, Tom, Larry and Theo for giving me the opportunity to manage this team through some of the most successful years in this franchises history.

"I wish the entire organization and all of Red Sox Nation nothing but the very best.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Cubs reach first World Series since 1945


Cubs reach first World Series since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.