He's got creaky knees and a chewing-tobacco habit that just won't quit. He's been hospitalized over the last couple of years for possible heart trouble. And he's been ejected from more games than anyone else on the team. And yet, when the Red Sox signed him to a 3-year, $12 million contract with club options for a fourth and fifth year, I couldn't have been happier.
That's because he's the manager, and fortunately, in that job, what might be red flags for a player are acceptable byproducts of what has to be one of the most stressful jobs in the country.
I've written here plenty about how much I like Terry Francona, how his aw-shucks manner and witty quips never fail to give me a serious case of the warm fuzzies. I would still give just about anything to give him a hug--not only because he seems so sweet-natured, but also because it often seems like he really needs one. (Fortunately, he's got Big Papi to turn to if that's really the case).
But I think it's also worthwhile to point out what the cold, hard facts say: that Terry Francona isn't just one of the most likeable managers the Red Sox have ever had. He's also one of the best, if not the best ever.
You can quibble with his bullpen and sometimes with his pitching staff management--and plenty of people have. I have been known to shake my fist at him, still, for what almost happened to Jonathan Papelbon on his watch. But on the whole, in the midst of a pressure-cooker in which every move he makes is scrutinized by millions of self-qualified armchair managers, at the helm of a high-profile, storied, highly lucrative ballclub filled with quirky and sometimes difficult personalities, in a town that thought of itself as cursed when he first arrived, Terry Francona has done his job magnificently. As the first manager in 86 years to bring home a trophy, he'd earned himself a few mulligans--as the first manager since the turn of the 20th century to bring home two Red Sox World Series trophies,he's reached another level entirely. Especially when you factor in that in the course of both victories, his ballplayers have poured in their best performances at the end of their postseason journeys, resulting in not one but two Series sweeps.
He's done it all, and he's done it all without winding up in a strait jacket. Lots of us think--and loudly declare--we could do his job, but in reality, I don't know that most of us could hack four years on the hot seat in this town, let alone with such results.
Here's to another three years of lineups and one-liners from our Skipper. I truly believe there isn't a better man for the job.