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In the first week or so after Terry Francona left as manager of the Boston Red Sox, after it became clear that Theo Epstein coming to the Chicago Cubs was a real possibility, there was a feverish eruption of interest in a Theo/Tito combination coming to Chicago.

Over time, whether it was because of the Red Sox clubhouse allegations, because of reflection on the September collapse, or simply because of the prolonged Epstein drama, that fever died down rather quickly. And, once the Cubs got in the market for a new manager, Epstein was quick to say that, while Tito was a great manager, he wasn’t sure whether it was a good fit either for the Cubs or for Francona.

So, Francona faded from our thoughts as a realistic candidate for the Cubs’ managerial opening.

Well, he’s back. From the Chicago Tribune:

“I’m comfortable letting Theo take care of this; he’s the boss,” Francona said Thursday by phone.

Epstein has admitted he and his former manager with the Red Sox have talked at length and that “I don’t think we’d have to” go through a formal interview if Francona indeed becomes the choice.

For his part, Francona says he is “trying to stay under the radar” with his unspoken candidacy, but a source very close to him says “deep down” he badly wants to manage the Cubs — for whom he played in 1986 while falling in love with Wrigley Field — and has told Epstein so.

What would seem to be a simple process actually comes with complications, not the least of which is the Red Sox meltdown in September that made Francona and Epstein available. Yes, the Red Sox won 90 games, 19 more than the Cubs, but they failed to make the playoffs and there was talk Francona had lost control of the clubhouse.

There were hints Francona had become burned out after eight grueling seasons in Boston and that he had burned bridges with his longtime buddy Epstein.

Francona says neither is true.

“I am interested (in managing again),” Francona said Thursday. “I just interviewed with the Cardinals. You also would like it to be the right situation.

“There are only 30 (managing) jobs and all in their own right are awesome. But some would better suit me.”

And, according to those close to Francona, “some” includes the Chicago Cubs. Because Francona wouldn’t require an interview, it’s now fair to say that he’s back in play as a legitimate candidate for the Cubs’ job (until/unless Theo says otherwise), and could be hired at any time.

If, in fact, Francona does very much want to manage the Cubs, and he doesn’t get the job, it suggests that Epstein was quite serious when he said the Cubs don’t need to become “the Boston show.” It suggests that Epstein is sensitive to many Cubs’ fans concerns that, while we very much want to win, we don’t necessarily want to win only by virtue of transplanting every major component from Boston to Chicago.

It could also suggest that, for whatever reason, Epstein simply does not believe Francona is the best man for the job. If nothing else, he would certainly be more expensive than the candidates the Cubs have been interviewing.

Whatever the case, it’s interesting to learn that Francona wants the job, but Theo is publicly shying away from Tito. It doesn’t mean that Francona might not end up the guy – indeed, the Cubs’ current interviews could be designed to rule guys out as “not better than Tito” – but, if Francona is the guy, Epstein is playing it very close to the vest.

For my part, I wouldn’t hate the idea of Francona getting the job, though the “Boston show” issue does concern me. And, if there’s any chance the Cubs can land a Maddux/Maddux combo? Well, I think my preferred option would be obvious.

  • Fishin Phil

    I think Tito can still be an effective manager.  I don’t care if we change our logo to a “B” if i gets us in the WS.

    Having said all that, I don’t think Tito is right for this job at this time.  I would much prefer Maddux.

  • Brian Peters

    I just want all this mess to be over with. I haven’t been so on edge about a new manager coming to the Cubs in….well, a lifetime.

  • Toosh

    It’s ironic that Ricketts loves all things Boston, yet Epstein might not want the Cubs to become Boston West.

    • hansman1982

      I think he wants to create his own thing here in Chicago and he knows that he is pushing the limit on former Red Sox employees.  If he brings in Francona as well that might tarnish what he is trying to do and his success here will just be seen as Boston West.

       

  • Internet Random

    If it means winning a World Series, we can change the name of Chicago to New Boston for all I care.

    (I’m overstating the case a little bit, there… but not much.)

  • AP

    Francona not getting the job could also indicate that Epstein really does believe the GM needs to have a connection with his manager. Hoyer was away from Boston for a couple of years and may be looking for someone different. If Epstein forces Francona in over Hoyer’s objections then this really does look like a puppet show and I think Epstein is too smart to let something like that happen. I’m not saying Hoyer has an issue with Francona, just that Francona not getting the gig doesn’t necessarily mean he and Theo have had a falling out or that it should be perceived as a negative reflection on Francona.

  • Aaron

    I disagree with the sentiment that we don’t want this to become the “Boston show.” in effect, that’s why we hired Epstein in the first place – he had a track record of success… In Boston. Bringing in that team, along with the coach, may actually work out. Besides, it still wouldn’t be the Boston show because the players aren’t the same, and a case could be made that its the players that are the most important factor.

    My motto is going to continue to be “Theo & Co Knows Best.”

    • hansman1982

      While Tom (and myself, for what its worth) want to model after Boston we don’t want to become Central Time Zone Boston.  Right now I will be fairly upset at Theo if he does bring Francona in because that tells me he isnt confident in going out and getting any new members of the Best and the Brightest Club, which scares me a little bit.

    • johnbres2

      Aaron–you and others are correct–concern over “the Boston Show” is a non-issue, just as people wanting Ryno to be manager so they can go to bed at night sucking their thumb in their blue #23 jersey is a non-issue.  By non-issue I mean one having no impact in the real (i.e. Theo) world.  I know Theo mentioned it, so he is at least paying lip service to the possibility that fans need to be convinced this is really a “Chicago Cubs” operation.  But in any analysis, it doesn’t matter a whit who is in the front office or managing this team, as long as they bring us a consistent winner (which they will).

      To me, the problem with Tito is that he would inherit a team that sucks.  Why would he want to come here over the Cardinals job?  Who would you want to manage, a World Champ or a world chump (which is what the Cubs still are for now)?  The Cardinals have a great front office too, so I am sure Tito could be happy working for them.  Perhaps he is trying to leverage the job, as an earlier poster mentioned.  On the other hand, Metheny’s candidacy has gained major momentum in St. Louis. 

      The Maddux/Maddux combo sure sounds delicious to Cubs’ fans, but I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just more of the “Ryno, Ryno, he’s our man” sentimental fan cheering for a dream that doesn’t make any real sense.  Let’s face it: Greg Maddux seems to want nothing to do with a full-time gig at this point in his life, and Mike Maddux sounds hesitant as well.  One thing we know, is that this will continue to be the most interesting off-season ever for we Cub fans.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        For what it’s worth – the “Boston show” thing is not a non-issue to me. Above all else, i want the Cubs to win. But, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that wants the Cubs to win a certain way. I can’t quite articulate it (yet), but if the Cubs literally graft too many pieces from some other organization that’s already won, it somehow diminishes the eventual win. I can’t quite explain what I mean or what I’m feeling, but it’s there. It’s like wanting a certain job that you’ve wanted, desperately, for your whole life. Yes, above all else, you want the job, and you’ll take it however you can get it. But, when your rich uncle buys a bunch of shares in the company and leverages that into a job offer for you, it doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as if you’d earned the job on your own. That’s an imperfect analogy – I’m still trying to zero in on how I feel.

        I want the Cubs to win it all, and I want Theo/Jed/Jason(and Tom) to be the guys that do it. But, for lack of a better way of saying it, there’s a line.

        • johnbres2

          Brett–the ‘rich uncle’ example is colorful, but I really don’t think that is the case here.  I hear what you are saying, but think that your arguments just amount to dreamy sentiment and nothing more.  The old Cubs of our childhood are dead forever.  This is a new era and a new team.  Yes, the ivy is the same, and the day games, etc., but this is all about creating a successful business now.  Tom Ricketts is bringing these guys in.  It is totally legit, in a way that the ‘rich uncle’ or ‘winning the lottery’ examples are not.  The players will have to win in the field, and those are the guys who will be “our Cubs.”  These behind-the-scenes front office things are not baseball per se, although it sure feels like it now.  These are just the hired guns to make the operation work.

        • hardtop

          exactly this.  i cant explain it etiher but i know how you are feeling

        • Internet Random

          While I don’t really share it, I get your concern here.

          Whatever happens, we’ll have different players in a different, non-DH league.  In the real world, I don’t think anybody could replicate the “Boston Show”.  Even if somebody tried their hardest to match it exactly, I doubt it would be recognizable to anybody not already hellbent on labeling it a repeat of Boston.

  • hansman1982

    “…many Cubs’ fans concerns that, while we very much want to win, we don’t necessarily want to win only by virtue of transplanting every major component from Boston to Chicago.”

    Agree, to me it is similar to becoming wealthy by building a successful business rather than winning the lottery.  The Commissioners Trophy will be that much prettier if we do it without Francona.

    • Fishin Phil

      I wonder how much of this feeling has to do with age?  I’m not trying to stir things up, just genuine curiosity.  If I had to guess, younger folks like yourself, Bert, etc. might be more inclined to want the Cubs to win a certain way.  Old farts like myself just want to see them win before we die, and don’t really give a rip how they do it.

      • hansman1982

        Well if they win with Francona I will be sure to do my victory dance on your lawn while playing rock and roll music really loud at 8:30 P.M.

        • Fishin Phil

          Fine, but you’ll have to deal with my wife.

  • Nebraska Cubs

    I wouldn’t mind Francoca but I prefer Maddux because pitching wins games. I hope that CJ Wilson would follow Maddux to the Cubs.

    Like everybody in here, though, I don’t care who manages as long as a WS comes to Chicago.

  • Fishin Phil

    Brett, I meant to mention this earlier:  I love that picture of Francona!  Looks like he just stepped in dog shit.

  • Ron Swanson

    I trust that Theo knows Fancona’s strength and weaknesses well enough to decide whether he’s the best candidate or not. This is not about whether the Cubs become too Bostonish or not or whether we want to win a certain way. It’s about whether or not Francona is a better candidate for this team than the other candidates being interviewed. That’s what this process is about.

    Sometimes after you’ve worked with someone for a long time, even successfully, you start to wonder if there is someone out there that has the strengths of that person without their weaknesses. I suspect that is what Theo and Jed are trying to decide right now and why Francona is in the backseat untill that gets resolved.

  • http://TheoWaiting Cheryl

    I prefer Maddux. If Francona gets the job it might give the impression of Boston West, But in the end Francona wouldn’t bother me. I do think he’s better suited for the Cardinals and could bring in Sandberg as bench coach there.

  • jim

    i would never claim to know the intricacies of baseball the way many of you here do. i have now been a cub fan for over 50 years…and have for many years also rooted for the red sox. the knowledge you all have is fascinating. about all i seem to be comfortable with these days concerning the cubs is my trust in ricketts and the front office team he has put together. where else in the history of the cubs have we had an owner who seems to be this intent on winning? i put full trust in tom, theo, jed and company to put the right manager in place for this team. if the right manager, in their opinion, happens to be francona, then i am all in. i could care less if he comes from boston, or where. in the end it will still be the chicago cubs and the players they put on the field. i just want to be able to witness a cubs world series in my lifetime

    • Toosh

      Well put! I’ve been a fan for 43 years. Just win a World Series.

      • Internet Random

        Wow.  You guys make me feel like a Johnny-come-lately with my mere 30 or so years of fandom.

    • Dave H

      Hear hear Jim.  Well said.  To quote Al Davis, “Just win, Baby”

  • die hard

    prefer someone who has coached in National League for past 5 yrs playing against current players and at Wrigley and other NL parks recently. Less of a learning curve and one less thing to worry about.

  • Poopypants McGee

    UPDATE

    Terry Francona also tells Dave Van Dyke to change his name to Dick.

  • Mike F

    Brett I agree completely. Boston is a model organization, I remember Stone being ahead of the curve in 2007 bragging about it as the model for all of baseball, so Tito being from Boston is not the reason I’m resistant. It’s simply he’s really burned out. And while some time a clean slate is good for a person, it’s equally true, a rebound affair or returning to your vomit can be, well, pretty stinky for all involved. Unless he’s clearly today, not 2 or 3 years ago, head and shoulders above the rest, he should not even enter the conversation. Even if he were that much better, it’s probably best to exclude him.

  • ReiCow

    I really really really don’t care about becoming the Boston Show if ti means a ring. I mean, seriously.. a Championship trumps all here.

  • DRock

    I love that it came out that Francona badly wants to manage the Cubs after he interviewed with the Cardinals.

    • Fishin Phil

      That is pretty sweet!

  • gary

    all these arguments are fine but i hear the same theme its about time the cubs won the world series i dont care if daffy duck manages them. i have been a cubs fansince back in the 40s when bert wilson was on the radio as the play by play man and all i can say is its time for action

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The Cubs tried Daffy Duck. Just fired him.

  • BetterNews

    I’m hearing conflicting stories on Francona. First he’s interested, then
    he is not. Now he would “love” to manage here.

    Do we really want to consider him since he is “waffling” so much.
    Its like watching a tug-of-war competition.

  • John

    It wouldn’t be the Boston show without Pedroia, Jacoby, Beckett, Pedro, Manny, Ortiz, and the bloody sock.

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