Tito says retirement decision won't come in-season

'There will be a time to answer any question there might be about what I’m going to do or not do,' says skipper

August 22nd, 2023

CLEVELAND -- Over the last few months, Guardians manager Terry Francona has tried to evaluate his current situation as frequently as possible.

“I’m not always pleased with the answer I’m getting,” Francona said.

The 64-year-old is in his 11th season managing the Guardians and his 23rd as a manager in Major League Baseball. He’s dealt with a laundry list of health issues, including stomach problems, blood clots that led to ICU stints, hip surgery and a staph infection in his foot -- all of which occurred over the last three years.

He admitted on Tuesday afternoon that he has at least thought about retirement and has been in communication with Cleveland’s front office regarding his possible decisions.

“This job is really hard. Not that it’s a bad job. It’s a great job. But it’s hard,” he said. “The older you get and the more beat up you get -- sometimes it’s both -- it just kind of beats on you. It kind of wears on you. I just think so much of this organization, I don’t ever want to do this for the wrong reasons.”

No matter what Francona thinks his decision will be, he doesn’t want to discuss it until the end of the season.

"I just think so much of this organization, I don’t ever want to do this for the wrong reasons," said Francona (AP)

“I felt my whole career like the players always have to come first,” he said. “I think to deviate from that now is wrong. So I think there’s a time, and there will be a time to answer any question there might be about what I’m going to do or not do.

“The other part is, I don’t want to lie or I don’t want to fib. We’ve all seen coaches ... I’m probably talking about college coaches, but you know they’re going somewhere. And somebody asks them a question point blank and they go, ‘No,’ and then an hour later, they’ve got a six-year deal. I don’t want to ever be like that. [I'm] just telling you that we’re getting there. And there’s just a time, I think, to do it appropriately.”

That time wasn’t Tuesday. But reporters' curiosity was piqued when Francona mentioned that he had to play in the team’s charity golf outing on Monday in his bare feet. He’s been off crutches and out of a walking boot for more than a year after having surgery on a staph infection in his toe, but it’s been clear that his foot is giving him trouble again this season. After each game, he’s wrapped in a cast of ice halfway up his shin. And when he tried to wear golf shoes on Monday, he realized it wasn’t doable.

“And I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful with no shoes. It’s just my feet were killing me. My golf game didn’t get any worse,” Francona joked -- as usual.

No one knew what the future held for Francona at the end of each of the last few seasons. He missed most of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season but was confident he could return to the dugout. Then he dealt with the staph infection the following January and ended up having to miss a large portion of the 2021 season. He didn’t want to finish his career limping to the finish line, so he came back in ‘22 and was the healthiest he had been in years. Plus, the excitement surrounding the young, successful squad made him want to see what it could do in ‘23.

Instead, this season has been much different from ‘22. There are more growing pains as the roster continues to get younger. But despite the hurdles the team has faced, Francona is adamant that the results on the field will not affect his decision moving forward. He’s simply taking more time to look inwardly and evaluate his own situation.

“I know what my job is. Trying to do it sometimes gets a little bit harder,” he said. “Or if you get short of patience at times, maybe you’re being short of some of the same things that you didn’t used to be short on. That’s on me. Again, there’s gonna be a time to talk about whatever questions you have. I just don’t ever want this to be on me. It’s got to be on the players. I’m telling you the truth.”