Seven years ago, Red Sox hopes were simply for someone, anyone, better than Grady Little.
Five postseason appearances and two World Series titles later, Terry Francona set a standard far loftier than even the wildest expectations in the winter of 2003.
Only Joe Cronin ranks higher in Red Sox history in seasons, games and victories by a manager. And the gap is set to grow shorter, after a report from SI.com surfaced yesterday that Francona, entering his eighth season with the Red Sox, will have his options picked up for both the 2012 and ’13 seasons.
Should Francona, who turns 52 in April, fulfill the new minimum, he would join Cronin (13 seasons) as the only Red Sox managers with a double-digit tenure.
Francona has been the only manager hired during GM Theo Epstein’s tenure, and the Red Sox have averaged just over 93 victories per season since 2004. Their relationship has played out exactly the way Epstein and the Boston front office envisioned after Little was fired, in no small measure because of a communication gap between the old-school Little and innovative Epstein.
“We’re going on our eighth year now in a really crazy place, and if you didn’t have an extremely strong relationship, you’d have no chance in this market,” Francona told the media yesterday. “I don’t think he’d want to have somebody be the manager and not have a strong opinion, and I value his opinion a lot.”