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Francona to ESPN in Valentine's old role

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 5, 2011 10:36 PM

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The idea of what in essence looks like a job swap would have seemed unfathomable in, oh, August. But tonight it's the reality.

Terry Francona has joined ESPN as analyst on "Sunday Night Baseball." The network confirmed the former Red Sox manager's hiring tonight.

He fills the vacancy left by Bobby Valentine, who left ESPN last week after two years as an analyst to become Francona's successor as the manager of the Red Sox.

Francona, whose eight-year run as Red Sox manager ended when his contract option for 2012 was not picked up following a disastrous 7-20 September, made his debut last night on "SportsCenter" and "Baseball Tonight" from the winter meetings in Dallas.

He chose ESPN over Fox Sports, which had hoped to hire Francona as an analyst after his well-received two-game stint on the network filling in for analyst Tim McCarver during the American League Divisional Series matchup between the Rangers and Tigers. Francona was a novice -- he said he'd previously been part of one broadcast, more than a decade earlier in the Arizona Fall League -- but he was informative, understated, and funny, and came across as a natural.

Francona will join Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser in the "Sunday Night Baseball" booth. He will also provide analysis for "Baseball Tonight,'' and contribute to ESPN's coverage of the Little League World Series.

"Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio never happened," said ESPN executive vice president for production Norby Williamson in a statement, referencing a tale that the two legends were nearly swapped for each other before the respective team owners thought better of it in the morning, "but this is ESPN's version with Bobby moving to the Red Sox dugout and Terry replacing him on 'Sunday Night Baseball.' "

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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