Terry Francona: An Appreciation of His First 500 Wins

GetOutofMyBallparkCorrespondent IJune 3, 2009

BOSTON - APRIL 24: General Manager Theo Epstein and Manger Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox watch the pre-game action before a game with the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, April 24, 2009, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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The week that John Elway retired, the cover of Sports Illustrated had a picture of him and the headline, "John Elway: An Appreciation."

I thought at the time that it was too bad that the guy had retired, that I had enjoyed watching him play, and that Broncos fans everywhere would probably be about ready to kill themselves (I was right about that last one, go Kyle Orton).

But what I have realized now is that it was too bad.

If people didn't appreciate John Elway when he was playing, then they missed out. Only taking the time to really appreciate the people who make our teams great when they leave (I hope you appreciated David Ortiz in the 2007 playoffs) will leave fans focusing on the past as opposed to enjoying the present.

It is in that spirit that I want to make today an appreciation of Terry Francona.

The manager of the Boston Red Sox, holder of "the hardest job in Massachusetts," according to former Governor Michael Dukakis, won his 500th game with the team last night.

This win came courtesy of another homer by Jason "I'm really that good" Bay, five strong, nibbling innings (the first win of the year) from Daisuke Matsuzaka, and one frisky Detroit squirrel in right field.

No that is not a joke about how Pedroia is short, there actually was a squirrel.

However, it was just one of the 500 that this man's ballplayers have won in just under 5-1/3 seasons.

Tito, as we call him (it was also his father's name), has to be acclaimed amongst the best managers that this team has ever seen.

It is not simply the 500 wins, but the two titles (after none in the previous 86 years, in case you forgot), and the universal love from his players, some of whom almost killed him due to his bad heart (I'm looking at you, Manny Ramirez).

Once a guy regarded as a throw-in with Curt Schilling (Tito had been his manager in Philly), this man has done a job that most of us wouldn't wish on our worst enemy, and done it with class, honor, and most importantly, success.

Tito managed teams to two World Series titles in the past five seasons, won 90 or more games four times, and only missed the playoffs once. He helped us to recover from the brutal emotional beating we received at the hands of Grady Little, erased our greatest demons with the most incredible and improbable comeback in the history of sports (Dave Roberts stole second base), and made the Yankees fear us as we have feared them in the past.

If you didn't see it happen would you have believed it?

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This season, however, has been his masterpiece. In 2004 and 2007, we had the best team, the best lineup, the best pitching and the best atmosphere. Both of those titles came without players hitting on all cylinders.

If I told you before the season that after 52 games (two short of 1/3 of the season) David Ortiz' rotting corpse would be hitting sixth in the lineup, have only one home run and a batting average below the Mendoza line, Daisuke Matsuzaka would be 1-3 (getting his win in the last game), have an ERA around seven and have spent a month on the disabled list, and that Jon Lester would have regressed to his form before becoming an ace in the 2008 season, would you believe that the Sox would only be one game out of first place in the best division in baseball?


Well they are, and much of that credit would be due to the manager's deft handling of the best bullpen in the majors, and his handling of some wounded egos in the club house.

He has even been pushing the right buttons in the lineup lately, as his new order has created 13 runs in two games after the old one gave us only 11 in the past five (small sampling, yes, but it's worked so far).

Credit for the success must be shared with Theo Epstein, the Trio and, of course, the players, but people need to appreciate Terry Francona for what he has done with a tough situation while he is active.

If we only take the time to appreciate him after he is gone, we will have missed out on one of the best managers in the history of our team, and a guy who we all should love.

If you see Terry Francona out around the city once the Sox get home from Detroit, please tell him how much we appreciate his efforts, and his ability to handle all the shit that comes from his job.

We love you Tito, please don't let us forget it.

Go Sox.

This Column Originally Appeared at GetOutofMyBallpark.com


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