Monday, October 1, 2012

Francona Tribe manager? No way

So Terry Francona wants to manage the Cleveland Indians.

Who knew?

After managing Boston for eight extremely successful seasons, the Red Sox politely showed Francona the door following a total collapse in the final month of the 2011 season.

The Red Sox’s discipline, or lack thereof, became the main issue, so the Boston hierarchy decided a change needed to be made and in came that noted disciplinarian Bobby Valentine.

All Valentine did was further mess up what had become a dysfunctional team with his version of discipline and now, he soon might follow Francona through that same door.

But we get ahead of ourselves.

So Terry Francona wants to manage the Cleveland Indians.

He has declared himself officially a candidate for Manny Acta’s old job and reportedly will interview for it sometime this week, along with interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr., who took over several days ago following Acta’s dismissal.

It’s hard to believe Francona has any desire in returning to the Indians. The only explanation is that he misses the every-day grind of being a Major League manager. He must miss the dugout a lot.

Unless this is being done as a courtesy to those who populate the Cleveland front office, most of whom Francona is close with because of his prior relationship with the Indians, this move makes no sense.

If Francona does his homework, he’ll see Cleveland is not where he wants to land. This team is bereft of major talent on the big-league level in just about all areas, and its farm system ranks nears the bottom, according to those who know this stuff.

Having come from one of the best teams in baseball in the last decade, returning to Cleveland would be a sizable step down.

Besides, the notoriously penurious Dolan family probably will not pay Francona what he most likely will demand. The price tag on a manager who brought two World Series championships to Boston has to be enormously high.

And if he were smart, before he accepts the job he would extract a promise from the Dolans that money is no object in trying to bring a winner back to Cleveland. He would have to make them promise the club would be active in the free-agent market and extremely active in rebuilding the farm system.

Based on their fiscal behavior the last several years, the Dolans are  not prepared to travel that road. To do so would fly in the face of their cheap ways.

In order to be effective in Cleveland, Francona needs an abundance of talent. The Indians don’t even come close in that department.

No one area jumps out at you when you honestly assess this club. They are weak at first base, third base, the outfield with the possible exception of Michael Brantley, unless Shin-Soo Choo returns, and behind the plate. Only second base and shortstop are reasonably solid.

The only saving grace is a decent bullpen anchored by Chris Perez and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back next season. The starting rotation is a mess.

Compare that to the club Francona inherited when he took over for Grady Little in Boston in 2004.

The starting rotation was Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo with Keith Foulke as the closer. The every-day lineup included David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, Kevin Millar, Jason Varitek, a fading Nomar Garciaparra and a young Kevin Youkilis.

That was the core of the club that brought Boston its first World Series championship since 1918. And it was repeated in 2008.

Compare that now with what Francona would inherit should he and the Indians agree to wed.

So why in the world would Francona, who has spent the past season as a baseball analyst for ESPN, want to become a part of this mediocrity?

“People who know me very well if they don’t know I like a challenge,” he told Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. “I’m excited by a challenge and I’m not afraid of a challenge, especially with people I respect and care about.”

Oh, he’ll be challenged all right should he and the Indians agree on a contract. It’ll be a challenge similar to the one he faced in Philadelphia about 15 years ago when he skippered the Phillies to four straight losing seasons.

We don’t know this for certain, but the Indians probably made the initial approach of Francona to manage the club and he couldn’t refuse to at least talk more out of respect than anything. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to explore the possibility.

Alomar, on the other hand, couldn’t say yes quickly enough if the Indians offered to remove the interim tag in front of his name. He’s been grooming himself to be a big-league manager for a long time.

And it would be fitting to get that shot in the city where he rose to prominence, the city where his popularity blossomed, the city that would not be unhappy with his hiring.

It makes more sense to hire him because he’d be cheaper and isn’t that what the Dolans are all about? That’s why the Francona connection makes no sense.

Certainly there are more attractive teams out there for Francona to explore. Word out of Detroit is if the Tigers don’t make the postseason, Jim Leyland could be in trouble. Down in Miami, Ozzie Guillen is sitting on a hot seat after just one season. Either of those places would be a better landing spot for Francona.

If he’s not in a hurry, the right job will be there for Francona to grab. The one in Cleveland is not a fit. The guess here is Alomar gets the job after Francona removes himself from consideration.


  1. Spot on, Rich. It wasn't too long ago that Cleveland had one of the best minor league systems in the Majors. Poor drafting and prospects not turning out made it a liability. It's sad for us Tribe fans.

  2. What makes it even sadder, Jeff, is there does not seem to be any indication it's going to get better. The Dolan way features a lot of wheel spinning. It's as though they are content to be something less than mediocre.

    It's almost like watching the Browns but with a different ball. At least Randy Lerner did the right thing and sell. Until someone steps up and makes the Dolans an offer they can't refuse, I guess the fans are stuck. Yes, it's sad.