This was a pretty busy weekend, in terms of fan interaction with the Indians. In addition to the Tribe Fest at Progressive Field, the Wahoo Club hosted a luncheon with Terry Francona in the Terrace Club. The crowd had a ton of great questions, and I got a chance to hear Francona discuss some topics I may have missed elsewhere. I know some of the other bloggers plan to go to the Tribe Fest, I’ll let them tell you more about it and focus more on the lunch discussion.
One tip about the Tribe Fest though, if you’re still planning to go tomorrow. It was extremely crowded, which is ultimately good thing. The only problem is that the autograph lines were capped…I believe at around 200. So when I arrived at 12:30, the current session was capped, as well as the one that started at 1 p.m., and the one that started at 2 p.m. We got in the line for the 3 p.m. session, but were dreading just standing around for more than 2 1/2 hours; it seemed like a huge waste of our time. We mistakenly thought it was the line for photos and/or autographs – it turns out that there was a completely separate line for photos. Once we realized this around 1:30, we bailed on the line. It was the best possible decision we could have made. I hated the idea of wasting the entire afternoon just standing there, and it gave us an opportunity to get a lot of photos, and to watch a Q&A with Francona and Chris Antonetti. I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting autographs if that is your entire reason for going. If the crowds are similar tomorrow, you’re going to be limited in how many autographs you can get anyway. To me, it was more fun to wander around and explore, as opposed to standing there, staring at a wall for several hours.
Now, back to the Francona lunch. I’ve mentioned this before, but what I really like about Francona is that he just comes across as very straightforward and frank. I wanted to ask him about his thoughts on the World Baseball Classic, and found his response very honest. While Francona likes the idea of an additional two weeks of spring training in connection with the tournament, he didn’t seem happy to lose some of his marquis players for an indeterminate amount of time. He seemed particularly frustrated by the fact that Santana will be gone, because of his importance to the pitching staff. Even though Francona said he was happy for all of the players, and knew they were proud to represent their countries, he pointed out that he hoped the Dominican Republic loses quickly so Santana can come back to camp sooner. Another point that Francona made is that it makes it kind of challenging as a new manager, with a new staff and team, to be missing players for a portion of the spring.
One fan asked Francona how his strategy/approach would differ in Cleveland, as compared to Boston (or if it would even be different). Francona said that he doesn’t like to chain himself down to any singular approach, preferring instead to adapt to the talents of the players. For example, he mentioned that he didn’t bunt a lot in Boston because he didn’t want to give a team an excuse to intentionally walk David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez, and didn’t want to take the bat out of the hands of sluggers. He didn’t rule out any strategy in Cleveland, and said he will do whatever best suits the players on the roster.
When asked when Trevor Bauer may be “called up,” Francona joked that he technically hasn’t been “sent down” yet. It sounded as if they didn’t plan to rush him, but they’re not going to completely rule out his making the team out of spring training.
Francona spoke highly about Chris Antonetti, and mentioned once again how much he wanted to come to Cleveland. One thing I found interesting – Francona really praised Antonetti’s intelligence and said that one thing he loved about Antonetti was that he also made you feel like you were the smartest person in the room. He elaborated by saying that he could sit around a table with Antonetti, and that through Antonetti’s comments, and the fact that he took Francona’s opinion into account, Francona felt like he was more intelligent. As if Antonetti elevated the conversation, while valuing the contributions of everyone else at the table.
Someone thought to ask Francona about Ubaldo Jimenez, and whether or not he would be good to go for the upcoming season. Francona pointed out the fact that both Jimenez and Masterson need to bounce back in order to be successful this season. He seemed confident that Jimenez could return to his 2010 form and implied that his mechanics got away from him this year. Since Jimenez was a work horse and an innings eater, with improvement he could be a solid contributor.
There were a couple of questions with national connections – one fan asked Francona for his thoughts on instant replay. Even though he was hesitant to extend the length of the game, he said that he liked the idea of an umpire in the booth with access to a monitor. That way it provided a different perspective, and even had the added benefit of providing a job to an additional umpire. Francona also weighed in on the recent Hall of Fame election, and how it was a very complex and difficult situation. He admitted that many people within baseball hid their heads in the sand for about 20 years when it came to PEDs. Even though he acknowledged the writers are in a very difficult situation, Francona said that if he were voting, he would just vote based purely on statistics and let fans sort out whether or not they personally wanted to accept that person. He also mentioned the fact that a number of likely innocent players were being swept up in the accusations and it wasn’t fair to exclude them.
Francona also fielded a number of questions once he got to Tribe Fest, but many were things I’ve heard him speak about already. Of course, someone had to ask him about chicken wings and beer in the clubhouse. One young kid (maybe around 9 or 10) adorably asked if it was hard to be a Major League manager. Overall it was an exhausting, yet fun day.