BOSTON- Terry Francona will not return as manager of the Boston Red Sox, the team announced after meeting with him on Friday morning.
''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 team's statement said. ''After taking time to reflect on Tito's sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years (2012-13) on his contract.''
His departure, as first reported by FOXSports.com, comes in the wake of the Red Sox blowing a nine-game lead in the American League wild-card race, the biggest ever held by a team in September that failed to make the playoffs.
Francona now is free to pursue long-term contracts with other clubs. The White Sox's position currently is open, and Francona managed five seasons in their minor-league system in the early 1990s.
The Cubs could be another possibility for Francona once they hire a new general manager and proceed with the expected dismissal of manager Mike Quade. Francona played for the Cubs in 1986.
Or Francona -- after eight years under intense scrutiny in Boston -- could decide not to manage at all in 2012.
Francona, 52, led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and '07 -- the franchise's first two championships since 1918 -- and took the team to the playoffs five times.
Francona and general manager Theo Epstein met in Boston with reporters on Thursday, one day after the Red Sox were eliminated by a stunning turn of events -- a walk-off loss to the Orioles and the Rays' walk-off victory over the Yankees.
Epstein said that club officials already had been meeting to discuss how the team crumbled, and that, "nobody blames what happened in September on Tito."
"That would be totally irresponsible and shortsighted," Epstein said. "As an organization we have to look at our successes and failures, and what happened in 2011 -- we take full responsibility for it. All of us collectively look at it as a failure. I'm the general manager, so I take more responsibility than anybody.
"But I know we don't believe in scapegoats, particularly blaming Tito for what happened in September. We all failed collectively. We're all together in this; we've got to live with that. We're not pointing fingers at any one person in particular."
Francona managed the Phillies from 1997 to 2000. He was a special assistant to the GM with the Indians in 2001, then the bench coach for the Rangers in 2002 and Athletics in '03 before taking over the Red Sox in '04.
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