Already popular with fans, Francona reached a new level of respect in the past week.
When Francona announced last week that he was not going to attend Friday's 100th birthday celebration for Fenway Park, my initial reaction was a mix of sadness and respect.
I was disappointed fans wouldn't get the chance to give Tito a healing ovation like the one Bill Buckner received before throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day of 2008, but I admired the reason behind Francona's decision.
Why, after all, should Tito accept an invitation from an owner who apparently didn't even have the class to return his numerous phone calls after last fall's unfortunate events?
"I just can't go back there and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a little bit hypocritical," Francona told Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, and I understood his reasoning loud and clear.
Then some days passed, and my feelings started to shift. Sure, Francona had every reason to be mad, hurt and angry at John Henry and Co., but the Fenway event wasn't going to be about the owners—it was about the players and the people who have cheered them through the decades.
As the man who was at the helm and in the dugout for some of the ballpark's greatest moments, Francona belonged there on this grandest of Fenway days.
He had made his point and embarrassed those who embarrassed him; now, I hoped, he might change his mind and come after all.
In the end, that's exactly what Francona did. By revealing on Wednesday that he would indeed attend the celebration because he owed it to the fans, he was thanking those who had supported him during his eight seasons in Boston.
He was also sending a clear message to ownership: "I'm not doing it for you."
I do not yet find myself enamored with Bobby Valentine, and while I certainly hope he can turn things around, I feel a little sorry for the situation he's going to face Friday.
Not only will Bobby V. be sharing the Fenway stage with the leader of Boston's last two World Series champions, but he'll also be sharing it with the team's most vindicated ex-employee—and it's the same guy.
Saul Wisnia lives less than seven miles from Fenway Park and works 300 yards from Yawkey Way. His latest book, Fenway Park: The Centennial, is available at amazon.com and his Red Sox reflections can be found at http://saulwisnia.blogspot.com/. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @saulwizz.