Sunday is no day of rest for Theo Epstein, as two big pieces of news came out of the Red Sox front office.
Happily, Terry Francona signed a contract extension. The players were informed of the deal before yesterday morning’s workout. The skipper’s original contract started with the historic 2004 season, and would have carried him through the 2008 summer. The extension keeps the beloved Tito through 2011, with mutual club options for 2012 and 2013. If the Sox pick up Tito’s 2012 and 2013 options, he will have been manager for a decade, a feat no Sox skipper has managed since Joe Cronin’s consecutive 13 years (1935-1947). The extension carries a dollar figure of $12 million for 3 years, putting Francona just behind Joe Torre (3 years, $13 million) as one of the highest paid managers in baseball. Part of the extension includes an additional 250,000 for each year the Sox even make it to the World Series.
During today’s press conference, Francona said the following, "Today I feel like the ballclub showed a lot of trust in me, which I don’t take lightly. I appreciated it. I’m honored and I’m hopefully humbled by it. But I take it very seriously. As far as what happens on the field, I don’t think anything changes, how I feel about treating the players or talking to Theo, none of that will ever change. I got rewarded with this contract because of a lot of people’s hard work. I don’t kid myself about that. From the ownership to Theo to the player [operations] to the coaches to ultimately the players, I am aware of that. I don’t kid myself for one minute."
I am thrilled about this extension. I sometimes question Francona’s managerial decisions, but there is no doubt in my mind he is the right person for this job. Francona’s gentle, firm, and open personality, coupled with the way he handles the media, his concern for his players, and his knowledge of how the game works, makes him the ideal manager for the tough Boston market. The players certainly seem to love him, too.
"I know from the players’ standpoint, we feel like he has our back no matter what," said Mike Lowell, who added that he thought Francona had been underpaid in recent years. "I think there are managers in big markets that sometimes use the media to get to the players. You don’t ever see Tito do that, and I think players appreciate that. I think he provides an atmosphere in a big market where guys can be themselves, and that’s big."
"He’s the only manager I’ve ever played for up here," said second baseman player Dustin Pedroia, "but he’s the only one I want to play for." This picture was taken after Pedroia found out he grew 2 inches over the off season. Or when he was playing in the Comcast Ping Pong Tournament. You decide.
In extremely interesting news, the ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and now the Red Sox Official Website, is reporting the Red Sox have signed Bartolo Colon to a minor league deal with no guaranteed money. Colon was the 2005 AL Cy Young award winner before multiple problems with his shoulder lead to minimal interest on the free agent market. Pitching for the Angels, Colon was 1-5 with a 5.11 ERA in 2006, and 6-8 with a 6.34 ERA in 2007.
This move is certainly something to keep an eye on. If Colon regains his confidence and keeps his shoulder healthy, he could significantly contribute to Boston’s quest for back to back World Series titles. The deal is designed for the loss to be minimal to the Sox if Colon turns out to be a bust. We like those kinds of deals. No more Eric Gagne fiascoes, please.