For the final 10 days of 2011, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. Our next entry in the countdown is No. 3: The Red Sox’ manager/GM turnover.
Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NBA lockout
No. 9: NFL lockout
No. 8: Celtics’ playoff loss to Heat
No. 7: Patriots’ acquisitions of Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco
No. 6: Jacoby Ellsbury’s MVP-caliber season
No. 5: Patriots’ playoff loss to Jets
No. 4: Celtics’ trade of Kendrick Perkins
On Sept. 29, a visibly frustrated Terry Francona sat beside a similarly frustrated-looking Theo Epstein in the Fenway Park media room. Epstein wore a navy blue Red Sox zip-up. He sat hunched forward while Francona leaned back in his chair, his arms crossed across his chest and a glower on his face. The two men attempted to explain why the Red Sox — a team that had been in first place going into September and was the best team in baseball at times during the summer months — failed to make the playoffs due to a 7-20 September.
But neither man had a satisfying explanation for the club’s September swoon, and neither man was willing to address his status with the team going forward. Francona appeared to be in a more precarious position than Epstein. The manager had just completed the last year of a three-year, $12 million contract that had an option for the 2012 and 2013 seasons that ownership would have to decide to pick up.
Epstein had one year left on a four-year deal that would keep him in Boston until the end of the 2012 season.
It was Francona who addressed his contract status first, as he met with Red Sox brass behind closed doors the morning after his tense press conference with Epstein. There, Francona said he informed ownership that he felt it was time for a new managerial voice to help guide the team.
“I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players,” Francona said in a statement after the club announced he would not be returning. “After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on. I’ve 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.”
After Francona’s departure, more details emerged about the troubled times over the course of the season that led to his desire to leave the organization. Francona said he felt like the team was not coming together over the course of the season the way teams typically do, and after leaving the Red Sox Francona said he did not always feel that ownership supported him.