It seems like just yesterday that I attended the season ticket holder meet and greet in the Terrace Club with Manny Acta. Coming off a dismal 2009 season, there were not a lot of expectations or general optimism at the time, although I was impressed by Acta’s smooth demeanor and ability to charm a crowd. Since Acta has moved on (to put it nicely) on Wednesday night, the Indians held their meet and greet for new manager Terry Francona at the Terrace Club. While there may not be a ton of immediate optimism this time around either, I was impressed with Francona’s straightforward answering of questions and the laid-back, friendly demeanor he had while interacting with fans. The questions he received were really all over the map – there were frustrated fans asking for reasons to give them hope for the 2013 season. Some were trying to look for clues as to what the Indians’ plans included with the upcoming winter meetings. Others wanted to wax nostalgic about his father’s time in Cleveland, or to ask his opinions on aspects of managerial strategy.
As I’ve mentioned before, there are things that can be gleamed from these type of events even if they’re not going to tell you any direct information. For example, during the Manny Acta meet and greet he talked extensively about Shin-Soo Choo and virtually ignored Kelly Shoppach. Choo became a staple of the Tribe’s lineup over the next few years, while Shoppach was soon traded to Tampa Bay for Mitch Talbot. Here are some of my highlights from the event; things that I noticed, and statements Francona made.
- Francona seems truly happy to be in Cleveland. He reiterated the fact that it was manage in Cleveland, or return to life as an analyst. Francona discussed the connections with his father, and said that his dad was also excited about his son’s new job. Francona joked that his dad had already booked his tickets for Goodyear and that he would be around quite a bit next season.
- Someone asked what Francona had learned in his year away from managing. He mentioned that he sort of lost perspective during his final season in Boston and it seemed kind of like the situation left him burned out. The year off was a way for him to step away and recharge his batteries.
- I asked Francona during the Q&A which player (or players) he was most excited to work with on the roster. My reasoning for this was simple – I wanted to see what players were conspicuous in their absence, and for whom Francona had high hopes. He mentioned the “young core” and specifically, Michael Brantley (who he thinks will only get better), Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall. He seemed particularly enamored of Chisenhall and seems to think he can be really successful in 2013 barring any more freak injuries. One thing that concerned me was that Carlos Santana was never mentioned – not during the answer to this question, and not at all during the evening. Francona talked about some of the successful trades the Indians made (like the ones that brought Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland) but never said anything about Casey Blake for Santana. As a Santana fan, this kind of concerned me; it makes me wonder if he’s on the trading block.
- Turning Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez around were priorities that Francona mentioned. This makes me think that Masterson may not be on the trading block (at least not at the moment).
- Great emphasis on pitching throughout the evening, and Francona seemed most concerned about acquiring more arms.
- Francona kept hinting about several potential moves. He alluded to the fact that we may soon be made aware of at least one free agent signing and he seemed almost giddy about it. It sounded as if it may be something that is near completion (within the next couple of days), that may be taking place before the winter meetings. I don’t want to get my hopes up (or anyone else’s) but he said something at another point in the evening that if they were able to plug in just one or two additional bats, that the lineup would look much better.
- Francona promised that the team would play hard under him and that fans would be pleased with the style of play when they come to the ballpark.
I didn’t walk out of the Terrace Club thinking “WORLD SERIES 2013″ but I also didn’t leave as dejected as I felt toward the end of the 2012 season. I may get cranky and I may complain, but even when you’re losing I still believe there is such a thing as watchable and unwatchable baseball. I at least got the impression that this would be a more pleasurable viewing experience for fans in 2013, and to me, that’s at least a step in the right direction.