Francona finished as Red Sox manager

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Francona finished as Red Sox manager

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com 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 smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.