The Indians formally introduced the franchise’s 42nd manager on Monday morning, as the Terry Francona hire was made official. In the audience in Progressive Field’s press room was Terry’s dad Tito, who played with the Indians from 1959-1964. The vibe coming from the press conference (whether intentional or not) was one of a close-knit family. There were repeated references to Francona’s close relationship with Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti, and Francona cited the pair as one of the main reasons he wanted to return to Cleveland, where he worked behind the scenes in 2001. With Francona’s father present, the family’s roots to the Indians were emphasized. There were a number of things both spoken and unspoken on Monday, and a few things that caught my attention during the press conference.
Francona signs a four-year deal. Francona’s deal runs through 2016, so both he and the Indians have made quite a commitment to each other. When Manny Acta was originally hired, he was signed to a three-year deal (and later received an extension).
Sandy Alomar asked to stay. The Indians have offered Alomar the position as Francona’s bench coach, but he has not decided whether or not to accept the position. It sounds like the Indians will give him as much time as he needs to make the decision. With Francona signed to a four-year deal, it’s not like he’ll have an opportunity to manage the Tribe in the near future, so he may opt to take a job with another team. (Unless Francona is a complete disaster, for some reason). The Colorado Rockies now have a vacancy, and the Toronto Blue Jays may have a vacancy as well if John Farrell leaves to manage the Red Sox. I think both Toronto and Colorado could be nice fits for Alomar. According to this story, Alomar expects to accept the position.
They’re really all in this together. Francona reportedly has an out clause if the front office experiences a shakeup.
Masterson will remain a starter. I know he had a bad year, but I didn’t even realize this was something that was being considered. Francona said he has no plans to move him to the bullpen.
Francona contacted September 27. The day that Manny Acta was let go, September 27, Chris Antonetti supposedly called Francona to gauge his interest in the job. If Shapiro and Antonetti had been thinking about Francona for a while, it’s probably the reason they let Acta go early. They wanted to be able to formally talk to Francona and wanted to make sure Acta had already been dismissed. They claimed that the whole hiring process/agreement took about 10 minutes.
Wants to be part of the solution. Francona wasn’t coming here to “go to pasture,” he wants to help turn the Indians around. While some have wondered whether or not the Dolans would increase payroll this offseason, Francona stressed that payroll isn’t necessarily everything. As he noted, even with the money he had in Boston, he still ended up as an analyst at ESPN.
Overall, there seem to be two schools of thought that I’ve seen when it comes to the Francona hire. Some think that because of his close connection to Antonetti and Shapiro, that he will be a “yes man” for the pair. Those two are ultimately responsible for the makeup of the roster, and things can’t improve until they start performing better in their jobs. The other opinion I’ve heard is that Francona will bring an outside perspective to the organization, and because Antonetti and Shapiro respect his opinion, they may be more likely to listen to his critiques. While I do think Shapiro and Antonetti are to blame for these problems, I don’t think Francona will serve as a “yes man” to them. Even though he’s mild-mannered, I don’t get the impression that he’s someone who is unwilling to speak his mind if warranted. According to Buster Olney, he gave the Indians a 16-page breakdown of the team and organization and what he thinks about the team’s future.
Other odds and ends:
Horrible, horrible flashbacks. I’m not sure if any of you happened to watch Monday night’s game between the Orioles and Yankees (Go O’s!), but I had some terrible, terrible flashbacks. In the bottom of the third, with J.J. Hardy on second and Chris Davis on first with two outs, Adam Jones singled. More than likely, Hardy could have scored from second…yet he stopped at third. Immediately I started to think of Joel Skinner in Game 7 of the ALCS in 2007, when he held Kenny Lofton up at third. A few differences though – Orioles’ third base coach DeMarlo Hale did not give Hardy the stop sign. Quite the contrary, his arm almost flew out of its socket trying to wave him home. The Orioles still managed to win the game though (unlike the Indians), despite the fact that Hardy never scored in the third. Hardy definitely wasn’t looking at Hale as he should have been, but A-Rod also tried to decoy him into thinking he had the ball.
New agreement with Akron, new owner. The Aeros were recently purchased by Maryland resident, 32-year-old Ken Babby. Akron mayor Don Plusquellic said that as part of the deal, the Aeros will sign a lease to stay in the city until at least 2037, with a potential five-year option following that. There will also be some improvements to Canal Park, including an updated scoreboard and a picnic area. The improvements will be funded by Babby’s lease payments to the city. It’s also possible the team could change its name, and that the naming rights for the stadium could be sold.
Those cleats were made for walking. Chris Jaffe has a piece at the Hardball Times that looks at an Indians game on September 14, 1971, where Indians pitchers issued more walks in one game than anyone since 1918.