Just over a week after Francona was fired … er … quit … er … parted ways with the Boston Red Sox, he was rushed into duty as a FOX analyst in Games 1 and 2 of the American League Championship Series when Joe Buck's traditional partner, Tim McCarver, was sidelined with a minor heart procedure. Francona's first assignment? A marathon meeting between Detroit and Texas that featured two rain delays and nearly five hours from first pitch to last.
Through it all, Francona was just fine.
Well, he wasn't taking home any Emmys after the broadcast, and some saw the assignment as a mistake in the first place, but for a first-timer just days removed from a quick training session (which was just days removed from a wild end to his Red Sox days), Francona performed very well.
To those who have seen and heard him around these parts for the past eight years, it's not a shock. Francona's media demands are beyond what most fans can comprehend. Aside from the occasional grumpiness the morning after a tough loss, he performed with gusto. He understands the whole song-and-dance that comes with a nationally televised affair. And when he didn't have a game in front of him and could put his uber-competitive nature aside for a moment, he was gold, filled with stories of his playing days that were laced with a self-deprecating wit. Some of the language might need to be cleaned up for the air, but those moments could translate quite well to the booth.
Francona grew up in the game, first tagging alongside his father in several major league cities and then playing in many more of his own. Between them, they played with 12 different teams for dozens of coaches and managers. These experiences, first as a boy and later as a man, helped mold Francona into the kind of guy that could understand and handle a position like manager of the Boston Red Sox.
Many of those same qualities could make him handle a position like color analyst. In Texas on Saturday night, Francona told The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham that he belongs in a uniform, and he talks like a man who will be on a bench calling the shots very soon. Buck even ribbed him during the broadcast after Francona lauded a handful of coaches in the business, with Buck sarcastically wondering if Francona was secretly assembling his next coaching staff.
Francona responded by calling his temporary gig "a job search."
Chances are, Sunday's Game 2 is the last time you hear Francona in the booth. But life has a weird way of working itself out. When Francona's playing days came to an end in 1991, he was about to enter the real estate business before getting a call from Chicago to serve as a hitting instructor in the White Sox system. Twelve years later he was managing a World Series champion in one of the biggest markets in the game.
Who's to say that 12 years after Francona's days in Boston came to an end that he won't be one of the better analysts in the game. His first foray suggests it is at least possible.