Although longtime Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona has not officially announced plans to retire at season's end, the team appears to be tipping his hand for him. According to MLB.com's Mandy Bell, the Guardians intend to hand out T-shirts bearing the message "Thank you, Tito" ahead of their final home game of the season on Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds. (The Guardians could technically still make the playoffs, but that's a highly unlikely outcome.)
Francona, 64, has been Cleveland's skipper since 2013. He's managed in parts of 23 big-league seasons overall, including previous stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox. Francona has developed a number of health issues in recent seasons that have, at times, required him to step away.
"I want to enjoy what I'm doing. It's getting harder to do that, just because physically it's harder. I just want to be careful. And at the same time, I want to be fair to the team," Francona told reporters about his status last fall.
Should this mark the end for Francona, he'll be remembered as one of the most successful and popular managers of his generation. To date, he's won 53.9% of his regular season contests and has compiled a career 44-34 postseason record. He's a two-time World Series champion, a three-time pennant winner, and a three-time Manager of the Year Award recipient.
Francona ranks 13th all-time in managerial regular-season victories and seventh in postseason wins. His 11 postseason berths rank fifth as well. (We'll note that that category is skewed toward modern managers since they've benefitted from having more playoff spots up for grabs.) He's one of 25 skippers to win multiple World Series.
Francona also garnered a reputation as a prankster, as detailed by Sports Illustrated in 2018:
Francona often enlists help from others. He and Rays manager Kevin Cash have been friends since both were with the Red Sox in 2007, so for Tampa Bay's annual trip to Cleveland, Francona works with the Indians scoreboard operator to welcome Cash to town. "Kevin Cash: A tribute to a legacy," it read. ".183 AVG .248 OBP .273 SLG." Last year he put the numbers in context: "How bad is Kevin Cash at the plate? Cash's career batting stats: .183/.248/.273. In the history of Major League Baseball, among all non-pitchers with at least 650 plate appearances, Kevin Cash is the 5th worst OPS+ of all time."
Prior to becoming a coach, Francona appeared in 707 big-league games as a player, amassing a .274/.300/.351 (81 OPS+) slash line. He suited up for five different teams, but he spent most of his time with the Montreal Expos.