Friday September 30, 2011 | 08:44 AM

Media reports are starting to filter in that Red Sox manager Terry Francona will not likely return next season. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was the first to report this, although hedging the news with "Francona's departure is not certain."

This comes after Thursday's press conference when general manager Theo Epstein said that the front office did not blame Francona one bit for the team's collapse in September.

So, why hasn't the front office picked up the remaining options on Francona's contract?

This all sounds familiar. Near the end of the 2003 season, manager Grady Little also was waiting for the option of his contract to be picked up.

Here is what I wrote on Sept. 28, 2003 after Epstein spoke before a game at Fenway.

(Epstein said Little did a) "fantastic job. Tremendous job over the long haul. A manager with the right touch."
With all that praise, it is hard to believe that Little won't be back next season, despite the media-driven emphasis that Little has no contract for next season. There is an option for next year on the contract, but the Red Sox have not picked it up yet.
While it is curious why the option has not been renewed already, there are two possibilities for the delay - that the Red Sox and Little are reworking their deal or that the Red Sox are determined to conduct such business after the season, and focus on baseball during it.

When Epstein praised Little, I thought Little was coming back. But, as it turns out, ownership was not pleased with Little, and the way he managed the ALCS cemented his departure.

With Epstein now saying that Francona is not to blame for the collapse, it means little since John Henry and company will be making the decisions.

As far as the collapse is concerned. The cracks in the Red Sox began to show much earlier. See today's On Baseball column.



About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

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