With the wailing and gnashing of teeth this off-season, it’s easy to forget how good we have it (relatively speaking) as Indians fans. I can still remember the doldrums of the 1980s, when terrible teams played in a decrepit stadium in front of a crowd of my family and what seemed like about 1,200 of our closest friends.
A lot of the Tribe’s recent good fortune is due in large part to one man: Terry Francona, who took the job in 2013. And thanks to a contract extension, it appears he’ll be in the Indians dugout for years to come.
The Indians announced a two-year contract extension Wednesday morning that will keep Francona as Tribe manager through 2022. If he finishes the contract out – and absent some terrible scandal, I still believe the only way he leaves is on his own accord – he’ll be the longest-tenured Indians manager, eclipsing Lou Boudreau.
Boudreau also holds the team record for wins, with 728. Francona is currently at 547, and it’s more than possible that he’ll end his career as the Tribe’s all-time wins leader as well – especially when you consider that he’s never finished a season in Cleveland with less than 81 wins. Unless the Indians embark on a fire sale, I see no reason that trend won’t continue.
Francona’s winning percentage in Cleveland of .562 is already third all-time, and not that far off Ossie Vitt’s .570 winning percentage (the leader is Al Lopez, whose .617 winning percentage was aided mightily by his 1954 team, which went 111-43).
If the terrible 1980s Indians are ancient history to a lot of fans, some also appear to have selective amnesia about the years between the Indians’ 2007 division title and Francona’s arrival – or they’ve successfully blocked them out.
In 2008, the Indians finished exactly at .500. For the following four seasons, they had a losing record – including three seasons of at least 90 losses. This was a team that was going nowhere. After Manny Acta was fired and Sandy Alomar was the team’s interim manager, two candidates were interviewed: Alomar and Francona, who had spent the previous year out of managing after parting ways with the Red Sox.
Francona turned out to be just the hire the Indians were looking for. Since his arrival, the team’s had the best run of success since the 1990s, including one wild card appearance, three straight American League Central Division titles and one World Series appearance.
Really, the worst thing you can say about Francona’s time in Cleveland is he didn’t win a World Series. And we’ve still got four years for that to become a reality.
For immediate release via the Cleveland Indians –
The Cleveland Indians announced today a two-year contract extension for Manager TERRY FRANCONA through the 2022 season.
Francona, 59, is in his seventh season with the Tribe and has guided the franchise to the American League’s best record at 547-427 (.562) during his tenure since 2013. “Tito” has led the club to three consecutive American League Central Division titles, captured the American League crown in 2016 and has led Cleveland to four Postseason appearances in six full seasons. He is already sixth in career managerial wins (547) in the 119-year history of the franchise, while his .562 career winning pct. is third-best in club history.
The New Brighton, PA native owns an 18-year Major League managerial record of 1576-1342 (.540) with Philadelphia (1997-2000), Boston (2004-11) and Cleveland (2013-19) as his 1576 wins currently rank second among active Major League skippers. He has guided his clubs to a pair of World Series titles (Boston 2004, 2007), 14 consecutive winning seasons, has received BBWAA Manager of the Year votes in nine different seasons and was named A.L. Manager of the Year in both 2013 and 2016. Francona has led his teams to at least 90 wins 10 times in his career, most among active managers and has accomplished the feat in four of his six full seasons with the Indians.
“Simply put, Tito has been a transformational leader, who has not only impacted our Major League clubhouse, but also the entire organization,” said Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti. “Our relationship has been truly collaborative and we are all fortunate to have a future Hall-of-Fame manager guiding our team as we continue to pursue our ultimate goal of bringing a World Series to the city of Cleveland.”
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