Friday’s news that Red Sox manager Terry Francona will not have his contract option picked up has made the White Sox’s manager search that much more interesting.
There is no doubt Francona would be a good fit with the White Sox. He’s won multiple World Series titles recently. He knows what it takes to deal with high-priced talent and when it comes to preparing a team for a high-profile series, Francona did that all the time when the Red Sox and New York Yankees butted heads, not to mention all of his team's playoff appearances.
But the decision of whether or not to puruse Francona will not come with east.
Let’s start with the issues of pursuing Francona:
• The White Sox are interested in a payroll reduction for next season, and Francona would actually hurt those efforts. Ozzie Guillen was reportedly set to make somewhere in the $2.75 million range for 2012 before he asked out of his contract.
• Going with a first-time manager in Sandy Alomar Jr. or Dave Martinez likely would cost what Guillen was making -- or less. Those managers could be lured to the South Side for, let’s say, three years and $6 million, or possibly less. Francona would likely require more of a commitment like something to the tune of four years and as much as $18 million.
• Then there is the issue of Francona himself. Like Guillen with this year’s White Sox, Francona was unable to get what he needed from his club. The Red Sox had a lethargic start to their season and then topped that with a September collapse for the ages. It raises questions about whether or not Francona has lost his touch.
Now the problems that come with not making a serious pursuit of Francona:
• This is the guy that White Sox fans would seem to want above all other candidates. Not making a push for Francona runs the risk of telling White Sox fans that the club isn’t serious enough to put the best possible options in place for success. It’s not exactly the best way to sell season tickets.
• The White Sox obviously look like a group that needs strong leadership. Guillen has always been known as a players’ manager and even he was unable to squeeze much life out of the 2011 White Sox. If strong leadership is what the White Sox need, Francona is the guy most likely to provide it. How can you pass on an option like that? It’s not to say that Alomar or Martinez can’t provide leadership, but we already know it’s at the top of Francona’s resume.
• Would putting out the extra money for Francona bring the White Sox an enough of a return on their investment? They say that managers don’t sell tickets, that fans come to the park to see players, so would the extra $2 million or so spent on a guy like Francona per year really being back more for their money? Those are numbers the White Sox alone can crunch. Winning games and getting to the playoffs is what will put fans in the seats. There’s no guarantee that Francona can do that better than Alomar or Martinez.
What the White Sox end up doing will be interesting. But knowing general manager Kenny Williams, he has already thought of ways to get Francona on board. He probably was mulling it over even before Guillen left and Francona was out in Boston. Now it’s time to see whether the pros or the cons win out.
But always remember this: Francona watched the White Sox play a few times this past season. Maybe he’s not interested.