There was always going to be a fall guy for the Boston Red Sox’s historic collapse (and that’s not hyperbole – it was the worst September collapse in baseball history). Chicago Cubs’ fans hoped that it would be general manager Theo Epstein, and I suppose it still could be.

But, for now, it’s looking more likely that it will be manager Terry Francona. So says Ken Rosenthal:

While Francona’s departure is not certain, it is the likely outcome, in part because he is pressing for a resolution, sources say. He would not be fired; the Red Sox would simply decline their club options on him for 2012 and ’13.

At that point, Francona would be free to pursue long-term contracts with other clubs. The White Sox’s position currently is open, and Francona managed five seasons in their minor-league system in the early 1990s.

The Cubs could be another possibility for Francona once they hire a new general manager and proceed with the expected dismissal of manager Mike Quade. Francona played for the Cubs in 1986.

Or Francona — after eight years under intense scrutiny in Boston — could decide not to manage at all in 2012.

Francona, 52, led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and ‘07 — the franchise’s first two championships since 1918 — and took the team to the playoffs five times.

Interestingly, Theo Epstein has said publicly that blaming Francona for the Red Sox’s failures would be a mistake, and he clearly opposes any decision to dump the manager. Might he be sufficiently frustrated with ownership’s decision to scapegoat Francona that he, too, might decide to leave? Could the Cubs end up the Red Sox West, by way of adding both Francona and Epstein? It’s a dream scenario as far as I’m concerned (yes, I do see the irony in pining for two guys who would have theoretically been broomed by their previous team), and it’s far more likely now than it would have been a week ago.

Epstein will be discussed at length in an upcoming Obsessive GM Watch post later today, but, as for Francona, he certainly has the temperament for managing in a place like Chicago. He’s handled the rabid, big market fandom, and he’s managed a roster blending rookies and vets. He’s an attractive managerial candidate, there’s no doubt about it.

But would he come? It could be a tough follow-up gig after what he’s just been through. And would the Cubs pony up? The organization twice went for rockstar managers in the 2000s (Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella), with mixed results.

It’s all very intriguing, and I doubt anyone knows anything for certain at this point.

  • Toosh

    Lou Piniella was a “rockstar” manager? Yikes!

    • Fishin Phil

      Rock Star – Polka Star.  Potato – Patahta.

    • Brett

      Um … yes? It wasn’t even close – the Cubs made him one of the three highest paid managers in baseball to get him to come. He was a huge “name” at the time, whether it was a good hiring or not. I hated it at the time, but I wouldn’t have denied that it was a “rockstar” signing.

      • EQ76

        I hated it at the time because I thought we should have hired Girardi.

    • Wilbur

      On the 60’s channel …

  • Fishin Phil

    You boys both come on over here.  We’ll roll out the welcome mat.

  • philoe beddoe

    Michael Jordan is the greatest athlete I ever saw play. I know he is a slimy person, but never has there been a better competitor, clutch player, etc….when he played for the Birmingham Barrons, in 1994..Francona was his manager. Michael would tell anyone that would listen that this guy was a great leader and manager and would be great in the MLB(look it up)…and judging by his record..two titles with the BoSox…I think His Airness has been vindicated…so Francona is now first on my wish list(then Ryno)

  • Internet Random

    It’s baseball, and to some extent, poop just happens in baseball. We’re talking a sport in which the best hitters are successful 40% of the time and the best teams win 70% of the time. I think this is just random noise in Francona’s numbers graph.

    While it might work out well for the Cubs, I think the Red Sox would be monumentally stupid to cut him.

  • auggie1955

    My boss once told me,   “sh*t  always slides downhill.”     That seems to be the case with the Red Sox right now.    Even though it was Theo who signed guys like Crawford and Lackey who underperformed.    It’s Francona who will be getting the ax.      

    I just hope Theo has gotten all these bad signings out of his system before coming to the Cubs.

    • CubFan Paul

      Theo has more Good contracts he’s inked than ‘bad’ ones a mile

  • CubFan Paul

    “it was the worst September collapse in baseball history” ..2nd to the 1969 Cubs?

    if Boston management doesn’t want to exercize Farancona’s 2012 option & Theo wants to and sticks up for Francona, then maybe they both walk ..or fly to Chicago ..maybe thats what that meeting with Francona is about today his future/nonfuture in Boston

    this could work out very well for the Cubs

    • CubFan Paul

      …& Heyman just tweeted that the Sox & Francona are “parting ways”

      what about Theo?

    • Brett

      “2nd to the 1969 Cubs?” Nah, not in terms of lead lost. The Cubs were actually only up about 5 games on September 2nd in 1969; the Red Sox were up 9 in the Wild Card.

      I think you can probably define it a few ways – the Cubs did, after all, end up 8 games out. That’s a really serious fall.

    • Drake

      “it was the worst September collapse in baseball history” ..2nd to the 1969 Cubs?’

      No, the 1969 Cubs had a 9 1/2 game lead at mid-August that began to dwindle when the Mets won 39 of their last 50. Also the Braves this year (8.5) and the Mets of a few years ago (7 games?) had bigger leads in recent history.

      • MichiganGoat

        Damn we can’t win shit!

  • LouCub

    I think Ricketts has been waiting for Theo all along and that Tito would be icing on the cake.

    • Toosh

      Ricketts should say “No” to Theo. The Red Sox ended their season just like the Cubs started theirs. A GM that doesn’t know what to do with a big payroll desperate for starting pitching which his player development system can’t produce.

      • CubFan Paul

        wha? wha Toosh? Theo had 3 starting pitchers injured and one ineffective pitcher in Lackey who still won 12 games

        No GM goes into a season with NINE starting pitchers for the season ..meaning you can’t blame Theo for injuries and under performing players that are usually dependable

      • MichiganGoat

        A question that must be answered in the interview: Why did you give Lackey and Crawford those contracts. I hope the answer was to block the Yankees (a problem he won’t have in the NL Central), but if he honestly thought they were good contracts I’m concerned.

        • CubFan Paul

          Lackey was a Playoff stud when Boston signed him ..and Crawford is overpaid by Only about $3million a year & thats because the Yanks & others were bidding also

          • CubFan Paul

            Lackey has won 26 games in two years since coming to boston and is actually underpaid for a guy with his resume – 3 more years at $15million

            • MichiganGoat

              Curious would you be happy or furious if Hendry signed Lackey and he had this year?

              • CubFan Paul

                baaaaa! you’re knit picking MG ..and no i would not be furious over Lackey because he won 14 games in 2010 for Boston, 12 this year and im quite sure Lackey would be a N.L. stud like Garza as a Top 3 starter for us

                As far as Theo’s ability to evaluate and sign big names i give you his current big names not named Lackey or Crawford

                adrian Gonzalez, Youkilis, Papelbon, Lester, Beckett, Varitek, Pedroia, Bedard, & Big Papi

                • EQ76

                  Lackey’s fastball has slowed down which is rarely a good thing.  Also, it’s hard not to win 13 games a year with that offense supporting you.  He’s okay at best which would be good enough for #3 starter for the Cubs.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    Lackey is 33yrs old ..the only guy whose fastball picks up steam in his thirties is Roger Roider Clemens

                • MichiganGoat

                  Youkilis, Papelbon, Lester, Pedroia – home grown, extension
                  Beckett – a great FA signing his best got them their 2nd WS ring
                  Bedard – a desperate trade deadline move to get something and was his second choice after Harden, plus he’s regularly injured and kind of sucks
                  Big Papi & Varitek – there before Theo and signed home town discounts

                  I’m not arguing that Theo is a top tier GM, I making the point that Ricketts must at least question Theo’s ability to evaluate and sign big name free agents.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    you’re knit picking MG can make a case for Theo not trading for, signing or re-signing those guys and going different directions but he didnt and either won 2 World Series or finished well above .500

                    ..Theo’s track record speaks for itself and minus a few bums/bad contracts like JD Drew i’m quite sure Ricketts is thinking the exact opposite of you and is hoping Theo has Francona’s back and is ready to walk ..more like fly over to Chicago

                  • Toosh

                    Your last paragraph sums it up quite well.

                  • philoe beddoe

                    I think Beckett cost them Hanley Ramirez if I remember correctly..

                  • necubsfan

                    Beckett was signed when Theo was on “hiatus”, The word on boston sports radio is that theo was against signing him (for what that’s worth). Also Julio Lugo, Edgar Rentoria, JD Drew, John Lackey all turned out badly for Theo. He’s made some good trades, But he has some questions to answer before He’d be my first choice. He may have good answers, who knows? The Sox seemed to get away from development and toward big free agent signings, that doesn’t seem to fit Rickett’s plan.

                • Odd

                  Of course I would have been upset if Lackey was on the Cubs! The man had an ERA of 6.41! He gave up 203 hits in 160 innings! Lackey would not have won 12 games with the Cubs this year. The Red Sox had a better offense than the Cubs so you can’t just say because Lackey had 12 wins there he’d have 12 here. Garza had an ERA of about HALF Lackey’s and won two fewer games.

                  To put it in perspective, EVERY pitcher on the Cubs that made a start had a lower ERA than Lackey (okay Doug Davis’ was .09 ERA higher), and NONE of them won more than 10 games. Yes, Coleman, Ortiz, Wells, Lopez… all had lower ERAs.

                  How many wins do you think Garza would have had on the Red Sox this year? 18? Maybe that’s a little high, but certainly at least 15. You can’t look at wins when judging a pitcher.

          • MichiganGoat

            I hope the Yanks are reason for the length and $$ of Crawfords contract. A speed player around his 30’s should never get that type of contract, and Lackey was just a bad contract from a player that had an amazing contract year ala Soriano. His ability to evaluate and sign big names must be questioned.

            • Toosh

              You’re right about “speed” players. Buyer beware on Jose Reyes.

  • Drake

    Didn’t Francona interview for the Cubs job when Dusty Baker was hired? Another “what could have been.”

    • Brett

      Not just an interview, he was reportedly Jim Hendry’s second choice behind Dusty.

      What could have been, indeed.

  • die hard

    NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!…want a National League GM and MGR…different game than AL…no DH etc

  • MichiganGoat

    Okay as the de-facto speaker of goats everywhere I’m staging a protest of the overuse of the word SCAPEGOAT! It is not our fault! There are many other words, and animals that could be used instead of this hate word. Baaaaaaaa ba baa

    Part of Speech: noun
    Definition: person who takes blame for another’s action
    Synonyms: boob, chump, doormat, dupe, easy mark, fall guy, fool, gull, mark, patsy, pigeon, pushover, sacrifice, sap, schmuck, sitting duck, stooge, sucker, victim, weakling

    • Goat

      Preach on brother!

      • MichiganGoat

        Hey welcome back brother, we just need to get Korean Goat here… Mount up VIVA LA CABRA!

    • hardtop

      its nothing personal there mr. mutton. patsy and stooge are classic. “francona is a patsy!”
      wanna hear (read) something crazy?!? his dads middle name was patsy! what a shitty middle name but an awesome coincidence. anywho…
      ill take terry any day. im sure after 6 years playing in the NL (was it 85 or 86 he was in cubbie blue?), and watching his old man play 14 before the DH rule, he knows when to give the bunt signal.

  • Toosh

    Francona wins 2 World Series and always has his team in the hunt for another one and he gets let go while Ricketts keeps Quade. A Tale of Two Cities.

    • CubFan Paul

      more like the Tale of MisManagement ..Pat Listach should of been managing the team after Hendry’s dismissal

      • Toosh

        Good call! Once Hendry was let go, Quade should have been too. I believe Ricketts is in over his head. He needs to hire a President of Baseball Operations and a GM. Preferably from an organization with a proven track record of player development and success at the Major League level without necessarily having done it with a large payroll.

  • Mikey

    It’s official : MLB network is reporting that tito is out!

    • Fishin Phil

      Come on Theo, don’t take that lying down!  Tell Mr. Henry where to stick it!

  • Mikey

    & all of the sudden…………. there’s light at the end of the tunnel! 😀

    • Deez

      That “Light” at the end of the tunnel can be a Train.

  • Cheryl

    In the next two weeks a new GM should be named. Francona could be the next manager, but with the situation in Boston who knows if Epstein will be available.

  • Matt

    One day after Theo backed Tito publically, Tito is going to be let go in a closed door meeting that Theo is not involved in. Theo may not like the public undermining? Could we land them both??? Are the stars actually aligning?

  • Jason

    There are two other candidates that would also make good fits with Francona – Ben Cherimgton and Josh Byrnes. Both have been in the Red Sox system and are familiar with Francona. This could be a more likely combo than Epstein/ Francona.

  • Dan0mite

    Sticking with your theme of pressuring management Ace. I was listening to the BS Report (if you don’t listen, you should) they were saying that some of the bigger signings last off seaon by Theo were pressured my management. That management wanted “big” names because the fan base has become used to winning. So you may be right that Theo could just walk away from an overbearing management group.

    Also, is there any concern in an AL manager coming to the NL? It is a different game since pitchers have to bat.

  • ty

    Sandberg has the job. Jody Davis will have his choice of being third base coach or bench coach. Bobby Dernier locked in at first base. Hall of fame guy will co-ordinate this and will bring along a maverick asst G.M. who has been behind the scenes for several years. This guy will be our new G.M. and very few fans would even know his name. Responsible for so many super scout moves and if you guess his name then you really do know baseball. The hall of fame guy can not resist one more effort. Announcement well after World Series during fall meeting in Mesa. Enjoy the ride fans.

    • cccubfan

      I like Ryno being the manager, Jody being the third base coach, Dernier at first and bring in, are you ready, Larry Bowa as bench coach and Greg Maddux as pitching coach. This would be a staff that could get something out of young players and veterans alike. Can you imagine the fire this staff would put into a team. Jaramillo needs to hang around another year and see what he has to work with. So far he can’t work his magic on what he has had. That takes care of the staff, all we need is a GM to hire them…..LOL

      • TWC

        You people must be high.  A staff based around a team that won their division once — in 1984 — and then sucked it up for the rest of the ’80’s?  Makes total sense.

  • die hard

    I dont want leaders of losers or quitters…..Red Sox both!!!….by the way…heard that Red Sox accusing Yankees and Rays of scripting game to let Yankees get way ahead to show trying to win and then to let Rays win cause didnt want Red Sox in for a variety of reasons including hatred for GM and desire long term to make Red Sox less of a rival…anybody else hear this?

    • Brett

      Sure. The Yankees PLANNED to have a guy hitting under .200 hit a homer with two outs in the 9th so that the Rays could take a game to extras, which game was only made a clinching game by virtue of an unbelievable collapse by the Red Sox. Dastardly!

  • die hard

    thats why they thought could get away with it…didnt think anyone would believe it….

  • Cheryl

    Tito may be out but we still don’t know the new GM here. He’s the one who’ll hire the next manager. Cherington may be a better fit than Epstein anyway.

  • Robbo

    I’m not entirely sold on Theo. Perhaps someone could change my mind.

    Theo’s resume includes a number of good draft picks – Pappelbon, Pedroia, Bucholz, Masterson, Elsbury. But is this a result of good scouts, scouting director, etc…or is Theo a drafting genious???

    But his free agent signings and trades aren’t much better than Jim Hendry’s. He got Beckett and Lowell but had to give up Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez to do it. Would you as a Cubs fan be okay giving up Starlin Castro in a trade to get Josh Johnson?

    Signed Daisuke, Mike Cameron, JD Drew, Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Julio Lugo, and Matt Clement. All signed for contracts over $7mil annual. Yikes.

    2 world championships makes a resume look damn good, but did they win because of Theo or in spite of Theo?

    Also had heard Theo and Francona don’t get along. Kenny and Ozzie of the East is the rumor. Would like to hear more about that if there are any BoSox fans on this board….