Say it Ain’t So, Tito!

Somebody’s Heiney is crowning my icebox.  
Somebody’s cold one is giving me chills.  
Guess I’ll just close my eyes.  

Flip on the tele… Wrestle with Jimmy.  
Somethin’ is bubblin’ behind my back.  
The bottle is ready to blow.  

Say it ain’t so.  
Your drug is a heartbreaker.  
Say it ain’t so.  
My love is a life-taker.

Weezer, “Say It Ain’t So”, Copyright 1994, Geffen

Say It Ain’t So

The word on the street is that Terry Francona will be a “no show” at Fenway’s Anniversary festivities scheduled next Friday when the Sox face the New York Yankees–the very team against whom Boston faced on Fenway’s debut, a mere century ago.  (The Red Sox would properly christen their new ballpark on that day by defeating the then-New York Highlanders 7-6 in 11 innings.)  According to Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, former Sox skipper Terry Francona wants “no part” of Fenway’s centennial festivities.  A mere six months removed from his unceremonious departure, the wounds are still fresh for Francona.  Without rehashing the dirty details, the bane of his bitterness stems from a scathing Boston Globe article that was published just days after his departure last October citing Francona’s purported “personal issues” as a contributing factor to the team’s infamous collapse.  The article’s sources included a series of interviews the Globe conducted with individuals “familiar with the Sox operation at all levels”.  Naturally, nearly all of the article’s sources requested anonymity.  What a way to kick a guy when he’s down…

Courtesy Tefaye/ AP

Above: Former Sox manager Terry Francona pauses as he speaks to the media during a press conference, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, in Boston. The Sox announced they would not pick up the option on his contract in the wake of the team’s collapse.

An Embarrassing Blemish

And what an embarrassment for the Sox.  On a day when the organization and its fans should be celebrating Fenway’s finest, Francona’s absence at the festivities will be a major blemish on this ancient gem which has long served as a pendant to the Back Bay’s emerald necklace.  Francona deserves a rousing ovation before the fans for his efforts and it seemed only fitting that that would occur during the Ballpark’s centennial celebration–a celebration made extra special by the accomplishments of the team the past 8 years under Francona’s stewardship.  This man accomplished twice what no previous manager in Red Sox history had been able to accomplish since Ed Barrow led the Olde Towne Team to its last Championship in 1918.  (Incidentally, Barrow would leave Boston in 1920 to join the Yankees’ front office, serving as GM of the Bronx Bombers until 1944.  During that ensuing 24 year span, the Yankees would go on to win 10 championships while the Sox would slowly slip into mediocrity… Curse of the Bambino? Pffft.  More like the Curse of Ed Barrow!)

Look, plenty of players and managers come and go in sports, and sadly, many of the greats have left on less than gracious terms.  Boston is certainly no exception in that department.  Francona deserved to go out with his head held high.  It’s truly a shame that his name was dragged through the Muddy River on his way out of the Fens, and it’s obvious that he’s still–understandably–upset by it.

“Good Times, Bad Times, You Know I Had My Share” 1

Since buying the team, John Henry and his crew have made some terrific decisions as well as enjoyed an extraordinary run of on the field success.  This is, after all, the ownership group that must be credited with making Fenway’s centenary celebration possible, having eschewed the original plan to build a brand spanking new ballpark in favor of preserving and expanding historic Fenway while improving the fan experience.  They collectively deserve to be commended by the fans for these accomplishments.  At the same time, however, the organization deserves the ire of the fans for the handling of Francona’s exit, an ugly affair standing in stark contrast to the team’s fine accomplishments.  There’s no direct evidence that the Sox were responsible for the smear campaign that followed Terry’s exit.  Moreover, Henry has gone on record denying he or Red Sox upper management had any role in the Globe article.  Regardless, I am left feeling that the entire team, from the ownership right down to the players, could have done a much better job of displaying some respect towards the man and his extraordinary accomplishments in Boston.  Instead, the entire organization was collectively left found wanting…

The Makings of a Dumas Novel

Courtesy Sports.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the fans have grown impatient these past few years.  Despite lavish spending and high expectations the Sox have come up far too short on the field.  And Francona, of course, deserved a fair share of the blame for those results.  However, the picture that many fans increasingly see at the top, and the one the media has increasingly painted, is something right out of an Alexandre Dumas novel.  For many, Henry, a modern day King Louis XIII, has seemingly become more focused on his racing team and English football club toys than on his ‘old hat’ Boston Red Sox.  Over the past few years, he has seemingly leaned ever more heavily on Chief Minister Larry “Cardinal Richelieu” Lucchino to handle the reins of Red Sox Nation, to the chagrin of Theo’s d’Artagnan.  And fresh from the ashes of the team’s September collapse, the apparent schism between Theo and “Cardinal” Lucchino finally grew too wide for the two to bridge resulting in Theo’s decision to ultimately get out of Dodge.

Photo by Chitose Suzuki, Sports

As we continue to try to turn the page on the team’s 2011 demise, Francona’s recent decision serves as a curt reminder that the manner in which his departure occurred remains an ugly chapter in this Dumas-esque novel.

Closing Thoughts–A Hero’s Welcome

Although I’m disappointed that Terry Francona has decided to skip Fenway’s celebration, I completely understand his decision.  His absence as well as his accomplishments will not go unnoticed, however.  And who knows?  Maybe he’ll change his mind.  If not, surely any video footage of Tito on Fenway’s shiny new HD video board next Friday will be met with a resounding roar of appreciation by the fans.  Through the good times and the challenging ones, Francona handled the Red Sox admirably and with class.  He at least deserved the same on his way out.  Clearly, last season, the pressures had worn on the man and it was probably time to part ways.  I only wish it had been handled differently.  Terry Francona will forever be missed and respected by the fans in Boston and across Red Sox Nation.  It’s a real shame that he won’t be in town for the festivities honoring Fenway, an ancient baseball shrine with which he will forever fondly be remembered.  I look forward to the day he returns to the Old Ballpark and gets the hero’s welcome he so rightfully deserves.


Thanks for the great memories, Tito!


1 Led Zeppelin, “Good Times, Bad Times”, Copyright 1969, Atlantic Records


6 Responses to “Say it Ain’t So, Tito!”

  1. 1 Deb P April 12, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    As long as Freddie Lynn shows up tomorrow I’m good!

  2. 5 MikeUMA April 13, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I said on Facebook in response to Shaughnessy’s piece the other day…
    100% with Tito on his decision to not attend. When he gave his resignation press conference, he took the high road. Then the front office took the low road and threw him under the bus. Tito doesn’t owe them anything. It’s just too bad that this relationship is beyond repair, because he was a key part in our recent Series titles.

    • 6 7thinningstretches April 13, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Yep. I agree, Mike. Of course, the front office denied any involvement in the smear campaign. A rumor was out there that Theo was behind it… I suppose will never know. Either way, time usually heals all wounds. I’m confident Tito will get the respect and proper send-off he deserves eventually. I know the fans really appreciate what he accomplished.

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