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Theo Epstein: ‘No immediate plans for an announcement’ on Terry Francona

09.30.11 at 1:53 pm ET

The wait for a smoke signal from Fenway Park will continue.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said in a press release that “there are no plans for an immediate announcement” regarding the status of manager Terry Francona. The manager met with Epstein, assistant GM Ben Cherington, team principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and CEO Larry Lucchino Friday morning at Fenway Park to discuss Francona’s future in the aftermath of a season-ending, 7-20 September collapse that left the Red Sox outside of the playoffs for the second straight season.

‘€œJohn Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington and I met with Terry Francona this morning at Fenway Park to exchange thoughts and information on the 2011 season and discuss areas for improvement going forward,” Epstein said in a statement. “We all plan on taking some time to process the thoughts expressed in the meeting. There are no immediate plans for an announcement.’€

Francona is at the end of a three-year contract, with the team holding a two-year, $8.75 million option on his services. If the team does not exercise the option, it will be on the hook for a $750,000 buyout, and Francona will be free to pursue a job elsewhere.

The Sox have 10 days to make a determination about whether to exercise their option. It is worth noting that the last time the Sox changed managers, letting Grady Little go after the 2003 season, they did not announce their final decision until Oct. 27, 10 days after the final out of the Red Sox season arrived shortly after midnight on Oct. 17.

Francona has been manager during one of the most successful periods in franchise history. During his eight-year tenure (tied for the second longest in team history, behind only Joe Cronin), he has won two World Series titles, becoming only the second manager in team history with two rings and the first since Bill Carrigan won titles in 1915 and 1916.

Francona is 744-552 (.574) during his time in Boston, with the second-highest wins total in franchise history and the third-highest winning percentage among managers with at least three seasons with the Red Sox. In the playoffs, Francona’s success is nearly peerless. He has a 28-17 (.622) record in the postseason, including victories in seven different series, and his postseason winning percentage is the second highest all-time by a skipper with at least 25 games in October, behind only Joe McCarthy (.698).

Nonetheless, Francona acknowledged that it had become increasingly difficult for him to keep the team’s priorities in order this season. In a season-ending press conference with Theo Epstein on Thursday, the manager unmasked some of the difficulties of what he characterized as a difficult clubhouse to oversee, and he declined to say whether he wanted to return to the Red Sox dugout in 2012.

“To be the very best, there’€™s got to be some extraordinary things happening. I thought at times we didn’€™t put our best foot forward. That’€™s my responsibility. That’€™s why it bothered me,” said Francona, who acknowledged calling a team meeting in September at a time when the team was up eight games on the Rays in the wild card because he was concerned about the team’s cohesion. “There were some things I was worried about. We were spending too much energy on things that weren’€™t putting our best foot forward towards winning. … There were some things that did concern me. Teams normally as the season progresses, there are events that make you care about each other, and this club, it didn’€™t always happen as much as I wanted it to. And I was frustrated by that.”

Now, his future is up in the air as he and the Sox mull what is best for both sides going forward.

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