It will be a time to remember, applaud and reminisce this weekend at Fenway Park as former Red Sox manager Terry “Tito” Francona, now managing the Cleveland Indians, returns to Boston to face his former team.
After parting ways with the Red Sox organization after the 2011 season, a season for which he took most of the blame for his team’s inexplicable collapse, Tito was back at Fenway last season but merely as a member of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team.
But this is different. This will be his first time back in an opposing team’s uniform. It will be the first chance for Red Sox Nation to see Tito on the field in a live game and show their appreciation for all of his historic contributions to the Red Sox.
Yes, he’s now in the enemy dugout, but don’t expect that minor detail to dampen the home crowd’s enthusiasm for their former manager.
Not to take anything away from new Sox manager John Farrell, but, quite simply, Terry Francona is the greatest manager in Red Sox history. He’s the only man in the modern baseball era to win World Series championships (2) with this franchise.
He’s done something no other living man has done and he deserves every accolade that comes his way this weekend.
And it’s not just because of the winning he did in Boston. It’s also about the class he exudes from every fiber of his being.
This is a man that was basically made a scapegoat for an entire locker room’s worth of failure in September 2011 and never once has he said anything verbally negative about the organization.
Did he write a book that was critical of Red Sox management? Yes. And management wasn’t pleased. They basically dismissed it as sour grapes.
But we all know Tito got a raw deal. The way he was smeared on his way out of Boston was a disgrace and John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner should be embarrassed.
Fans are smart enough to know that Tito wasn’t the problem in 2011 or any other year. Just look at the body of work.
But besides the book, (which he had every right to publish) Tito has taken the high road every other time he’s been asked to comment about his Boston years whether the outlet is radio or television.
In fact, he went on WEEI radio in Boston recently and when asked by the hosts to comment on his feelings about returning to Fenway he again took the high road and said how excited he is both for his Indians club and for what the Red Sox are doing. That takes class.
You see, Tito knows his 8 years in Boston were important and special. Regardless of how things ended, every time he’s asked about it he always chooses to focus on the positives of his Red Sox experience. In a media town filled with its fair share of negativity that takes guts and integrity.
And he’s a pretty good manager too. The Indians are the surprise team in the American League this season. No one expected them to be anywhere near first place, yet here they come into Boston at the top of the AL Central, right there with Detroit.
As in Boston, the players in Cleveland respect him for the way he treats them and for his overall approach to the game itself.
With both teams off to good starts this season it should be a fun four games this weekend at Fenway. Expect a lot of good feelings directed toward Francona as detailed here. Certainly no former Red Sox is more deserving.