Longtime Cleveland Guardians manager (and true baseball-lifer) Terry Francona may not have officially announced his retirement plans, but the team is preparing to give him a heartfelt send-off that speaks volumes.
In a touching tribute, the Guardians will distribute T-shirts bearing the message “Thank you, Tito” ahead of their final home game this season, scheduled for Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds.
Although a playoff appearance remains a remote possibility, the gesture signals the end of an era for Francona’s managerial career.
At 64 years old, Francona has held the reins of the Guardians since 2013, earning a special place in the hearts of fans and players alike.
Over the course of his illustrious career, Francona managed in parts of 23 big-league seasons, with previous stints at the helm of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox.
In recent years, health issues have occasionally forced him to step away from the dugout.
Reflecting on his status last fall, Francona remarked: “I want to enjoy what I’m doing. It’s getting harder to do that, just because physically it’s harder. I just want to be careful. And at the same time, I want to be fair to the team.”
Guardians will hand out "Thank You Tito" T-shirts to fans next Wednesday, the last home game of '23. There will also be a pregame video tribute to Terry Francona, plus $11 tickets in honor of Tito's 11 years as CLE manager. He still won't officially say he's retiring (but he is).
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) September 20, 2023
If this season indeed marks the end of Francona’s managerial journey, he leaves behind a legacy as one of the most successful and beloved managers of his generation.
His resume includes a career winning percentage of 53.9% in the regular season and a 44-34 postseason record. He boasts two World Series championships, three pennants, and three Manager of the Year Awards.
While those numbers may not set the world on fire, you can’t possibly overstate just how incredible and downright miraculous of a job he did breaking the Curse of the Bambino back in 2004.
That one season alone should earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Among the all-time managerial greats, Terry Francona ranks 13th in regular-season victories and seventh in postseason wins.
His 11 postseason appearances also place him fifth, although it’s worth noting that modern managers benefit from expanded playoff opportunities.
Additionally, he’s one of only 25 skippers to secure multiple World Series titles.
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) September 19, 2023
Francona’s baseball journey began as a player, with 707 big-league games under his belt. He maintained a .274/.300/.351 (81 OPS+) slash line and played for five different teams, with the Montreal Expos being his primary home.
As the Guardians prepare to bid farewell to a managerial legend, fans and former players are sure to cherish the memories created by Francona during his storied career.
If this is indeed it, the game of baseball will surely miss Tito.
Where do you rank him among the best mangers of this generation?