Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to Opening Day!
Countdown to Opening Day – 17
The number 17 has disappeared from the diamond for the Cleveland Indians in recent years, last seen on the back of Shin-Soo Choo in his final season for the club in 2012.
That offseason, the Indians hired manager Terry Francona, who was spotted with the number 47 in his introductory press conference. After Choo was dealt to Cincinnati in a three-team trade that included Arizona, Francona switched over to 17. Unlike other managers around the league, Francona opts for other attire while in the dugout, so his new 17 has been replaced by an Indians hoodie, among other gear.
What Cleveland manager Terry Francona was able to accomplished with an Indians roster full of holes due to injuries and performance enhancing drug suspensions was improbable, as he not only guided the team to a winning record but the second-best mark in the American League while taking his club to ten innings in Game 7 of the World Series. The baseball world took notice, as the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced on Tuesday night that Francona had been selected as its American League Manager of the Year.
Francona was joined by his former outfielder and one-time member of the Indians, Dave Roberts of the National League’s Los Angeles Dodgers, as each league’s recipients of the annual award.
While I was out – and while Terry Francona was working his magic – at some point in October, I was asked by someone who is neither a Cleveland native nor an Indians fan, “How did Francona end up in Cleveland?”
It’s a fair question. When Francona was hired in 2012, he was held in high esteem after two World Series wins with the Red Sox, but the Indians weren’t a plum job, far removed from their 2007 season when they were one win away from a trip to the World Series.
Manny Acta had been fired with six games left in an abysmal 2012 season (when he returned to Cleveland this year as a coach with the Mariners, he said, “Hey, if you’re going to get Tito, I’ll fire myself too). The only good part of the 2012 season was that the Indians hadn’t lost 100 games (just 94). They’d put together losing streaks of nine and eleven games, and their 5-24 record in August that year tied for the worst in team history.
Major League Baseball announced its finalists for its top seasonal awards on Monday, with three members of the Cleveland Indians’ organization finding their names among the candidates for some end of the year hardware.
Three candidates were announced from each league for Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, and Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The Cleveland Indians announced on Friday morning that the organization had exercised club options on manager Terry Francona for two additional seasons, inking him for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
The move was paired with the formal announcement that the club option for first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana was picked up at a cost of $12 million, keeping the switch-hitting slugger in the Tribe lineup for the 2017 season.
A World Series is all the more memorable when there are other storylines working in the background to make the games even more compelling. The pairing of the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians is almost story book in its effectiveness to write all sorts of entertaining subplots to the games themselves.
Here’s just a little look at what else is at stake in the series.
Terry Francona has received much deserved praise this postseason for the way he has masterfully guided the Indians, with an injury-depleted starting pitching rotation, all the way to the World Series.
In watching the drama and excitement that has been a strong, three-week playoff showing, it is easy to forget the energy and excitement the Tribe brought to the 162-game regular season. However, that is where Francona’s mastery truly began this year.
In skippering a team, with numerous key injuries, to a 94-win American League Central Division championship campaign, Cleveland’s bench boss proved to be quite a few steps above the rest of his managing brethren this year in the A.L. While it is stunning that the group of Indians managed to win seven of eight games in the playoffs to earn entry into this season’s World Series, which starts Tuesday, it would be even more stunning if Francona does not earn his second A.L. Manager of the Year Award.
As Carlos Santana closed his mitt around that wondrously stitched white orb that had fallen perfectly to him in foul ground at the Rogers Centre on Wednesday night before he dropped to his knees with arms raised as a victim of his own indescribable emotions, I couldn’t help but to be at a loss for words. Moments later, I screamed “YES!” and probably something belligerent along the lines of “We’re going to the World Series!”
I stared at the TV screen, still very much in a surreal state of disbelief, lost in some dream state, needing someone to pinch me to ensure that this moment was occurring in real time and in real life.
This is Cleveland. These things don’t happen in Cleveland.
But this is 2016. The old rule was broken. Chaos now reigns supreme. Cleveland is a city of champions.
In 116 years of shared history, there were bound to be a few common threads between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox organizations. Those links extend far beyond a handful of players and coaches who make up each respective dugout this season while the two face off in the American League Division Series in their fifth playoff matchup all-time.
The most visible overlap between the two franchises may start from the managerial positions. Indians manager Terry Francona spent a portion of his playing career with the Indians before guiding the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 2004 to end an 86-year championship drought. Across the diamond, Red Sox manager John Farrell spent the majority of his playing days as a member of the Indians, including time as Francona’s teammate during the 1988 season.