- Associated Press - Friday, September 30, 2011

BOSTON — The Terry Francona era in Boston began with the Red Sox first championship in 86 years. It ended after one of the worst months in club history.

Players who didn’t listen to him needed “a new voice,” he said, and his employers agreed.

The team announced Friday that it was not exercising its contract option for next season and wouldn’t hurry to name a replacement for the manager who rarely criticized his players publicly. That loyalty may not have been returned.

“I trusted them explicitly and things weren’t getting done the way I wanted it in the end,” Francona said, “and I was frustrated because of that. If that’s letting me down, maybe it is.”


But, he said he liked his players and “I actually feel I let a lot of people down.”

In a statement, the Red Sox said they wouldn’t pick up the option for a ninth year as manager following the team’s September collapse in which they blew a nine-game lead in the AL wild-card race. They went 7-20 in September, capped by a 4-3 loss to Baltimore, as Tampa Bay beat them for the playoff spot on the final night of the regular season.

Owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino acknowledged a change was needed and thanked Francona, who led the franchise to titles in 2004 and 2007. But the statement also mentioned that Francona was ready to head in a different direction.

“Tito said that after eight years here he was frustrated by his difficulty making an impact with the players, that a different voice was needed, and that it was time for him to move on,” the statement said.

The decision was part of a whirlwind day at Fenway Park that saw the principal parties shuttle in and out of the facility. Francona was in the building three different times.

As Francona drove away once in his Cadillac Escalade, a fan on the street clapped and gave him the thumbs-up sign. Later, after Francona had returned, the driver of a passing ambulance asked a reporter, “Did Francona get fired?”

A day on which talk shows in baseball-crazy Boston were filled with Tito talk took a strange turn later when Henry fell on his yacht moored in downtown Boston and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital to be examined. WBZ radio reported that he walked off his boat wearing a neck brace.

“He’s fine,” Werner said at an evening news conference with Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein. “He wished he could be here tonight so his absence, don’t read anything more than just he suffered a minor fall this afternoon.”

He said that at Friday morning’s meeting, management suggested Francona take the weekend to think things over. But he said Francona had made up his mind. He didn’t directly address a question of whether the team would have exercised the option had Francona wanted to stay.

“I was looking forward to hearing Terry’s point of view about how things could improve,” Werner said, “but I think it became clear to us that we couldn’t convince him to remain and I think that’s best for all of us.”

Boston missed the playoffs despite its nine-game lead with 24 left on Sept. 4. It went 6-18 after that amid reports of conditioning and clubhouse problems. The Red Sox did not win consecutive games all month.

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