Francona’s Leadership an Enviable Trait the Rest of Cleveland Covets

Sunday was a tough day to be a Cleveland sports fan.

A day after officially not having a championship in 50 years, the Cleveland Browns completed another season of disappointment and turmoil. Amidst stories and leaks of players showing up late, missing walkthroughs and meetings the Browns lost their final five games of the season and will head into the offseason still searching for the quarterback that has eluded them since 1999. Owner Jimmy Haslam did reassure that for the first time in three seasons the organization will not be looking for a new head coach and general manager.

Meanwhile, the much improved Cleveland Cavaliers dropped a 103-80 clunker to the 6-23 Detroit Pistons. Despite injuries to Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers sprinted out to a 17 point lead but poor shooting and uninspired play at the end of the second quarter and the entire second half was enough to register an embarrassing home loss.

Baseball is a little different game. With a game nearly every day, it doesn’t have that one of 16 feel like in the NFL. Winning a series is important in baseball and the occasional clunker is more acceptable. The difference between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is a much thinner line in MLB than in the NBA when stars like LeBron James can much more easily take the game over.

And for those reasons, the work of Terry Francona should never be underappreciated.

Francona has led back-to-back winning seasons for the Cleveland Indians, something that doesn’t happen often in any sport on the shores of Lake Erie, but also instilled a never quit attitude and respect of the players that is something the other two franchises may still be searching for.

Francona took over a 68-win team after the 2012 season, helped overhaul the roster and lead the team to a 92-win 2013, complete with a Wild Card playoff birth. The team played from behind in the standings most of the season, needing a 10-game winning streak to end the season to get into the October playoffs. Last season may have been a more admirable effort from Francona. After starting the season 11-17, having struggles from veterans Justin Masterson, Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Swisher, the roster never quit. When Masterson and Cabrera were traded at the July deadline, Francona vowed his team would never wave a white flag.

No one checked out, despite their place in the standings. No players showed up late or tweeted when they shouldn’t have been. They stayed the course and remained professionals, respecting their teammates and their manager.

Instead, the team received unexpected efforts from Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Jose Ramirez, Carlos Carrasco and Cody Allen. Unexpected players emerged, while good players became great. No one quit. The Indians played their best baseball of the season in August and September, when it would have been easy to give up on their season. The effort never wavered. It was quite the opposite than the Manny Acta-led Indians that were in contention in July 2012, but crashed and burned, quitting on their manager and organization in the final two months when a trade was not made to bolster the roster at the trade deadline.

Staying the course. Establishing a winning attitude. Respecting the organization, their teammates, fans and the game. They are all lines that will likely be uttered today and in the coming days.

One team already has that winning attitude established in Cleveland. Landing a leader like Francona is something that can’t easily be quantified by new age statistics, but is very clear in his player’s effort and respect for the game.

Photo: Getty Images

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