On Thursday evening before the Red Sox and the Indians took the field for their 7:10 start, Larry Lucchino walked over to Indians manager Terry Francona who was positioned behind the green, turtle shaped batting cage. The two shook hands and cordially spoke for a few minutes. Only Tito and Larry know what was spoken, but we know it marked the first time the two had met in person on the grounds of Fenway Park bearing contrasting colors. We also could probably guess that, regrettably, it did not involve Lucchino issuing a long overdue thank you to Francona for all he did in his 8 years in Boston.
It has been regularly noted that Tito and Larry never really got along. Francona regularly thought of Lucchino “as something of a bully” and never heard Lucchino use his first name in passing, meetings, or press conferences (Francona, 4).
After Francona was fired and Bob Holher’s Boston Globe piece was published about Francona’s personal issues, chicken and beer, and the Red Sox September collapse, Francona received a call from Lucchino in which Larry told Tito that he would find out who was responsible for providing Hohler with this information. “Consider it done,” Lucchino said to Francona at the end of their phone conversation (Francona, 324).
Tito never heard back from Larry.
In addition to never hearing back from Lucchino, Tito only heard from John Henry once (it was an obvious attempt by Henry to make sure Francona knew that Henry had nothing to do with the Hohler article) while never hearing from Tom Werner. The latter two have not spoken since Francona’s departure.
It is absolutely feasible that two World Series championships and the birth of a consistent winning product would not have been possible without the money of the Red Sox ownership group; certainly Lucchino, Henry, and Werner deserve credit. It might not have been possible without the leadership, tenacity, and risk of Theo Epstein as the General Manager.
However, it would be more apropos to argue that Francona’s role in all of this success is paramount over money spent or personal moves made. Managing the personality’s of Ortiz, Beckett, Schilling, Damon, Pedro, Manny, an aging Mike Lowell, and Dice K to name a few is not easy, you guys. Yet Francona did it better than anyone else possibly could have. He somehow took a combustible combination of multi million dollar egos, blended them together, and the finished product was championship caliber year after year.
Yet, the ownership group seems, from the outside, to not be thankful for what Francona did.
These are the same three owners who rode on the coattails of the greatest manager in Red Sox history. The same owners who went from relative owner anonymity to becoming three of the most recognizable ownership names in sports. This is all thanks to Terry Francona and his leadership of two World Series Championship teams. You’d think a simple phone call and the words “thank you” would be in order.
Maybe they are simply too ashamed. Or maybe their egos are too big to admit that Terry Francona deserves more than a swift exodus from the bowels of Fenway Park. Or maybe they just don’t care. What a shame.
At least Red Sox Nation cares. At least we understand what Tito did for this town, this region, and this Nation. We won’t forget the joy of 2004 or 2007.
One day the Lucchino, Henry, and Werner ownership group will be gone; replaced by someone else. Those three won’t have a number retired on the walls of Fenway. Terry Francona will. Although the list of managers with retired numbers is short and prestigious (Bobby Cox, Casey Stengel, Tony La Russa, and Sparky Anderson to name a few) there is not a shadow of a doubt that Terry Francona’s rarely worn #47 jersey will be enshrined on the same level of Red Sox greats Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Bobby Doerr, Jim Rice, and Carlton Fisk.
So this seemingly innocuous regular season baseball series with the Cleveland Indians of the AL Central is anything but. Instead it is the triumphant return of Terry Francona, it is a celebration of everything he did for Red Sox Nation, and bringing the joy back to baseball in Beantown.
Thus, on behalf of Red Sox Nation here are the two simple words that Larry Lucchino, John Henry, and Tom Werner will never say to you, Tito: Thank You.