Red Sox

Francona finished as Red Sox manager

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Francona finished as Red Sox manager

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
BOSTON -- In the end, Terry Francona wanted out.

And on Friday night, the Red Sox let him go.

The team announced in a statement released at 5:34 p.m. on Friday night it would decline the options on the final two years of Francona's contract, ending his eight-year reign as Red Sox manager. The move was made after a day of intrigue in which a morning meeting -- at which Francona's departure was expected to be made official -- ended inconclusively, and the manager's future was left open-ended.

But Francona's desire to leave became known in Friday night's statement.

We met this morning to look back on the 2011 season and to consider the future of the Boston Red Sox, including my involvement with the club," Francona said in the statement. "I passed along my frustrations at my inability to effectively reach the players.

"After many conversations and much consideration, I ultimately felt that, out of respect to this team, it was time for me to move on. Ive always maintained that it is not only the right, but the obligation, of ownership to have the right person doing this job. I told them that out of my enormous respect for this organization and the people in it, they may need to find a different voice to lead the team."

The owners -- John Henry and Tom Werner, along with CEO Larry Lucchino -- asked after the morning meeting that the sides regroup and ponder their positions. In mid-afternoon, general manager Theo Epstein released a statement that concluded: "There are no immediate plansfor an announcement."

Late in the day, however, the move was made. The owners released the following statement:

We met with Terry Francona, Theo Epstein and assistant general manager Ben Cherington Friday morning to discuss the 2011 season, ways to improve the club in the future, and Titos status. During the meeting, Tito, Theo and Ben agreed that the Red Sox would benefit from an improved clubhouse culture and higher standards in several areas. 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. After taking time to reflect on Titos sentiments, we agreed that it was best for the Red Sox not to exercise the option years on his contract.

"We have enormous respect, admiration and appreciation for Tito and the job that he did for eight years, including two World Series Championship seasons and five playoff appearances. His poise during the 2004 post-season was a key factor in the greatest comeback in baseball history, and his place in Red Sox history will never be forgotten.

"We wish him only the best going forward.

Francona plans a press conference at 7 p.m., and Epstein is scheduled to meet the press at 8:15 p.m.

Francona's multiyear deal, signed as part of a contract extention in 2008, included two club option years on for 2012 and 2013. The Red Sox will pay him the 750,000 buyout rather than the 4.25 million due for 2012 and 4.5 million for 2013.

Red Sox ownership has been silent when it came to Francona's future as the team flopped in September, blowing a nine-game lead for the wild card. A ninth-inning, 4-3 loss in Baltimore Wednesday night on the final night of the season, coupled with a victory by Tampa Bay over New York, knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs.

Francona has managed the Red Sox for eight seasons, winning World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. The 2004 title was historic for two reasons: it was the franchise's first since 1918 and it came after the team fell behind the Yankees three games to none in the American League Championship Series.

He also took them to the ALCS in 2008. Under Francona, however, the team was swept from the ALDS in 2009 by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and missed the post-season altogether in 2010 and this season.

With 744 wins, Francona is second on the franchise's all-time managerial leaders.

In his statement, he said he will miss the team and the fans of Boston.

"In my eight seasons as manager of the Boston Red Sox, I have developed a tremendous appreciation for Red Sox Nation," said Francona. "This is a special place with some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in all of baseball. They packed Fenway Park for every game and because of them, I had a special sense of pride coming to work every day.

"I want to thank John, Tom, Larry and Theo for giving me the opportunity to manage this team through some of the most successful years in this franchises history.

"I wish the entire organization and all of Red Sox Nation nothing but the very best.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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