Manager Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox watches the field be prepared prior to a game against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Was there an announcer to be named later?
Or a minor league manager included?
Essentially, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona and former ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine have traded jobs; Francona will be joining ESPN as an analyst on "Sunday Night Baseball", replacing Valentine, who recently signed a deal to manage the Red Sox.
Francona, 52, will replace Bobby Valentine as a "Sunday Night Baseball" analyst, alongside Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser, and will also appear on the sports network's "Baseball Tonight" studio program and as an analyst for the Little League World Series. It was not lost on Francona that his new gig, along with Valentine's new position as the Red Sox's skipper, represents an unintentional swap of sorts, and he was able to laugh about it while embracing his new opportunity.
"One thing I do know is, I'll probably sleep better than Bobby next year," Francona said. "From where I was last year, I probably needed to step back. And this was a very refreshing way to do that."
Francona served as an emergency fill-in for Tim McCarver on Fox-TV's telecasts of the first two games of the ALCS this past October; most fans viewing the games saw Francona as "refreshing", as the former Boston manager might have put it, and many wished that Fox would hire him full-time and put McCarver, who turned 70 in October, into retirement. After it was announced Wednesday that McCarver is the recipient of the Hall of Fame's Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting in 2012, it appears we're stuck with McCarver for some time to come. Meanwhile, Francona's performance was especially good considering he had essentially never done it before, previously having been behind the microphone for just one radio broadcast.
A number of men have gone back and forth from managing to the broadcast booth and back; Joe Torre is an excellent example, serving as a broadcaster for the Angels in between stints as Braves and Cardinals manager. A situation comparable to Francona's might be that of Lou Piniella, who took a one-year break from managing after leaving Tampa Bay following the 2005 season; after one year as a Fox-TV analyst, he returned as manager of the Chicago Cubs in 2007, taking them to consecutive playoff appearances. It's not likely we've seen the last of Francona in the manager's chair, but he said won't ask for tips from for his "trade partner":
Francona had to chuckle a bit when asked if he had solicited any advice on the nuances of broadcasting from his successor in the Boston dugout.
"I think Bobby's got his hands full," Francona said. "He's got more important things than figuring out whether I'm going to be a good analyst. He's got to put together a team."