The Indians have hit the gound running in their search for a new manager – they will interview Terry Francona for their now-vacant managerial position on Wednesday or Thursday, just a week after they relieved Manny Acta of his duties. Interim manager Sandy Alomar will also be considered for the job, and supposedly others will be interviewed in addition to Francona and Alomar. I would like to share my thoughts on the managerial search, and see what all of you think – Francona, Alomar, or Mystery Candidate?
When the Indians fired Eric Wedge at the end of the 2009 season, I figured that it was time. The manager can’t perform miracles, but Wedge had started to make what I considered baffling moves when it came to in-game decisions and creating the lineup. Two of the other noteworthy candidates that the Indians interviewed in addition to Acta were Bobby Valentine and former minor league manager Torey Luvullo. Many claimed that the Indians would never give Valentine the salary he desired, but it sounded as if they simply ended up preferring Acta for the job. (After watching the mess in Boston this year, it’s probably for the best that they didn’t hire Valentine.) They liked Luvullo, but it sounded as if they were just impressed by Acta in his interview. At the time I wasn’t necessarily thrilled or disappointed by the Acta hiring. He certainly seemed as good as any of the other candidates; nobody that they interviewed necessarily “blew me away.” Plus it”s not like the new manager was expected to contend in 2010.
This time around, I don’t think that Acta necessarily wore out his welcome as did Eric Wedge. As I mentioned the other day, unless he somehow lost the clubhouse, this was a symbolic move to have someone take the fall for the team’s failings. What is different this time is that the Indians have two great candidates in Francona and Alomar – and that’s not even counting the other people they may interview. I feel that the job will eventually go to one of these two, and I would be pleased with either one of them. I want to look at some of the pluses and minuses to both of them.
Positives – He led the Red Sox to two World Series victories, including their first title in more than 80 years. He has a reputation for doing a good job of handling the clubhouse, outside of the well-publicized nightmares at the end of 2011. Even after that, players defended him and criticized his firing. He’s intelligent and personable and I think he would be a good fit with the young players on the team. Francona is also well-practiced in dealing with the media scrutiny in Boston, and could almost assuredly take the “heat” in Cleveland. He also has connections to the Indians – he played briefly with them in the late 80s, and he was a special assistant to the GM in 2001. His father also spent five years with the team from 1959-1964.
Negatives – Francona is not likely to come cheap, and we all know that the Indians aren’t necessarily big spenders. Even though Francona won with Boston, he’s not likely to have that level of talent and budget if he came to Cleveland. He did not have success as the manager of the Phillies from 1997-2000 with a less talented roster. When he was hired by Boston in 2004, he took over a team that had just missed the World Series in 2003 under the management of Grady Little. To be fair, even though Francona did not have success in Philly, he’s likely grown as a manager after his time in Boston.
Positives – He is an icon in Cleveland, and was always a fan favorite. Even though he has yet to manage in the big leagues, he’s spent a number of years as a coach and is likely more than ready. Alomar is very intelligent and also has a reputation of getting along well with players, and with earning their respect.
Negatives – It doesn’t seem like this team is going to have a quick turnaround – there are gaping holes in the roster and it’s relatively thin at the top levels of the minors. What if they hire him, and then decide to use him as the fall guy in a couple of years? How do you fire someone like Sandy Alomar, if you’re the Indians? At this point, there’s a small part of me that feels like they’re setting him up for failure if they hand him this group. We’ve even discussed this fact with some of the commenters on here from time to time.
As for my personal opinion – Alomar is one of my all-time players and obviously I’d love to see him get the job. At the same time, I’d like to see him take over at a point where he can actually find success with the team. So while I’d be thrilled if they hired him, at this point in time it may be better to see if you can convince Francona to take the job.