HEAD HONCHO: Francona and Cleveland, to the untrained eye, may seem like an odd couple but the hire makes a lot of sense in many ways. Photo courtesy Elsa/Getty Images

Though it’s not expected to be made official until tomorrow, Terry Francona has apparently returned to baseball.

He didn’t go far, either. After the option in his contract wasn’t picked up by the Red Sox a year ago, essentially releasing him, Francona moved to ESPN where he became a baseball analyst. And, yes, he did cover some Red Sox games.

But only four years removed from a World Series championship, Terry Francona the retiree didn’t seem right. Davey Johnson came back from a decade-long managerial hiatus, and he’s 16 years Francona’s elder. Maybe it wasn’t going to happen for the 2013 season, but one would have to assume that Francona would come back eventually.

When the news first broke, almost all the major media outlets jumped on it since the first one to break it, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, is not usually one to be wrong. However, ESPN, who employed Francona this past year, initially quoted Francona as saying the announcement was “premature”.

Of course, just a few hours later, they were singing the same tune everyone else was.

The real interesting thing, though, is the situation Francona will be walking into. He was essentially a head that rolled in the wake of Boston’s monumental September 2011 collapse. Now, he’s the new hire after Cleveland has spent the second half of the last two seasons collapsing. Ironic, isn’t it?

Nevertheless, I like the move. Francona, even with two World Championship rings, is an underrated baseball mind. And let’s face it: with two seasons that started promising and ended disastrous, Cleveland needs helps getting over the hump. In that respect, Tito might be the perfect man for the job.

Tony LaRussa said in an interview last week that there wasn’t much difference between managers. WIth all due respect to Mr. LaRussa, I completely disagree. I like Manny Acta and I have nothing against him, but Francona is a huge managerial upgrade. In six seasons as a manager, full and partial, Acta has never coached a ball club to a winning season.

Francona’s ability to politic and manage big names and big egos might’ve been better served in a place like Miami, but Cleveland will do just fine. The season before last, Manny Acta got the Indians to 80 wins. This year, the Tigers clinched the division with 88. Can Francona get Cleveland those extra 9 or 10 wins? I’m thinking yes.

But Cleveland doesn’t just want to make the playoffs, they want to win it all. Their last championship in 1948 came just after World War II. That’s a long time to wait. Luckily for the tribe, though, their new manager knows a thing or two about ending droughts in great baseball towns.

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