Indians Officially Hire Terry Francona
By Mike Brandyberry
Monday morning the Cleveland Indians officially hired Terry Francona as the franchise’s 42 manager in their 113 year career. Francona brings more than 30 years of professional baseball experience as a player, coach and manager.
Francona has twelve years of Major League managerial experience, having compiled a record of 1029-915 (.529), and previously guided the Philadelphia Phillies over four seasons from 1997-2000. His 744 wins with the Red Sox rank second in the 112-year history of the Boston American League franchise and he has received BBWAA Manager of the Year votes in six different seasons during his 12-year big league managerial career. His 1029 wins currently rank 7th among active Major League managers. He signed a four year contract as the Indians manager.
“As excited as we are about those accomplishments, I think what excites us most are what those accomplishments are built upon,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said when introducing Francona. “Terry is a exceptional leader, has boundless energy, is a relentless communicator and brings a winning attitude.”
Francona was quick to make clear that he was immediately interested in the Indians job when Antonetti called. His friendship with Team President Mark Shapiro dates back to a meeting at the 1999 winter meetings. Francona worked as a special assistant to Shapiro-who was then General Manager—in 2001 after being fired from the Phillies. He met Antonetti through his work with the Indians and now looks forward to the challenge of building a winner with the two friends.
“There’s two main reasons I’m here today,” Francona said. “Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro. I know we have challenges ahead of us. But I look forward to tackling these challenges as a unit, as a ‘we,’ always. I’m genuinely excited to do that.”
During the press conference and meeting the Cleveland media Francona was questioned several times about taking over a team that does not have the payroll that his previous job did in Boston. The Red Sox are consistently one of the five largest payrolls in baseball, while the Indians have been in the bottom five. For Francona, payroll was not an obstacle or concern when interviewing for the job.
“I didn’t ask for that,” Francona said. “I don’t want to say it is none of my business, but that wasn’t one of my questions.
We’re going to work together to tackle challenges. I don’t need to be the general manager or the owner.”
There has been no statement from Shapiro, Antonetti or owner Paul Dolan that Francona’s hiring would signal an increased payroll. Instead, the Indians continue to preach their core values of player development, Francona included.
“When guys come through your system and come to the big leagues, you’re going to get to know them much better than guys you sign through free agency,” Francona said. “Dealing with players is fun, dealing with young players is real fun.”
“Having a big budget allows you cover up some of your mistakes,” Francona said. “You have to limit your mistakes.”
Regardless of payroll, Francona feels the key to a competitive and successful roster is one with strong relationships, trust and communication. He has already begun reaching out players on the roster and has had several conversations—including one with closer Chris Perez. While he has not begun the process of building his coaching staff, he has reached out to Interim Manager Sandy Alomar and offered him a position on the coaching staff.
Francona feels in the short term he needs to continue to listen to the front office and get to know the current roster before making decisions moving forward.
“We don’t know what exactly the team is going to look like next year,” Francona said. “We got a lot of work to do. Part of my work is getting caught up on the current roster. The core of young position players is exciting.”
While the roster and coaching staff may still be determined, Francona was adamant on his goals of what kind of team the Indians will field.
“I’ll spend all my energy insuring these players play the game with respect and correctly,” Francona said. “Because if you do that, we’re going in the right direction.”
Photo: Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters