Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal was the first to report this, based on what sources told him. Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci followed up by pointing out that Francona would be a good fit with the Indians based on his prior relationships with general manager Chris Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro when he was a special assistant in the Tribe's front office in 2001.
Familiarity with an organization and the people Francona could be working with surely can't be underestimated. But really, the Indians look like a "fit" because they might have the only managerial opening available for Francona.
The Boston Red Sox will be looking for a manager, and Francona has achieved folk hero status in Boston after being unfairly scapegoated for last year's collapse. (He was named the manager of the All-Fenway Park team.)
But even though Francona has shown he can forgive by returning to Fenway Park for the 100th anniversary celebrations, could he possibly work for the team that fired him and stuck a shiv in his back for Bob Hohler's infamous takedown piece in the Boston Globe last October?
There's been plenty of speculation that the Red Sox will try to get John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays, which would open up a position there. But Farrell has one year left on his contract and the Blue Jays surely aren't just going to let Farrell walk, especially to a division rival.
Ozzie Guillen looks like he's going to be fired as the Miami Marlins manager. But would Jeffrey Loria really want to pay top dollar for another skipper when he'll have to pay Guillen $7.5 million for the remaining three years on his contract? Besides, it appears the Marlins prefer a younger, perhaps first-time manager willing to work with a semi-rebuilding team.
That leaves the Indians as the only job really available for Francona, if he's yearning to ditch his analyst gig at ESPN and get back into a major league dugout.
But even if Francona has a good professional relationship with Antonetti and Shapiro (MLB Network's Peter Gammons said they helped him prepare for his interview with the Red Sox), can he look at the current state of the Indians and think that's a good job?
The Indians are a mess right now, currently holding last place in the AL Central. The team just fired their manager, scapegoating him for the failures of the front office and ownership.
Did Acta trade three of the organization's best pitching prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez? Was it his call to trade for Derek Lowe? Did he make the decision to sign the broken-down remains of Grady Sizemore for $5 million? Was he the one that couldn't find a suitable left fielder, first baseman or third baseman?
What about the ownership that wasn't willing to add a third year worth $7 million in a contract offer to Josh Willingham, exactly the sort of player the Indians needed, and then watched him rack up 35 home runs and 110 RBI for the Minnesota Twins?
Does Francona really want any part of that just because Cleveland has the one managerial opening he'd be willing to take? Does he want to be a manager again that badly?
What if Francona waits just one more year, hanging out in the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast booth for another season? The pickings could look much better a year from now.
Rosenthal mentioned that the Los Angeles Angels' managerial job is the one he covets the most.
The Angels still have a shot at the playoffs this year; their just two games out in the AL wild-card standings. But the likelihood is that they will miss the postseason, a terrible disappointment for a team with World Series aspirations after signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The team later called up AL MVP front-runner Mike Trout and traded for Zack Greinke.
If the Angels don't make the playoffs again next year, Mike Scioscia will almost certainly be fired. And that would be one sweet job opportunity for Francona.
The Detroit Tigers could decide that going year to year with Jim Leyland has gotten old and will aim to bring in a long-term solution at manager. Francona also has a prior connection to the Tigers, having been their third-base coach under Buddy Bell in 1996.
Charlie Manuel will probably retire as Philadelphia Phillies manager after the 2013 season. All indications point to the Phillies promoting Ryne Sandberg once Manuel's contract expires. But could Ruben Amaro Jr. want more of a sure thing for his team? Francona managed the Phillies for four seasons from 1997 to 2000, however, and may not want to revisit that job.
Perhaps the New York Mets will have an opening after 2013, as well. Though Francona may not be interested in a team that's tightened its budget and could possibly let David Wright and R.A. Dickey walk if they can't agree to contract extensions with the team.
All four of those jobs are preferable to the Indians gig. Unless Francona really wants to get the band back together with Antonetti and Shapiro and is intrigued by the opportunity of rebuilding a team—something he didn't do with the Phillies or Red Sox—then it's baffling as to why he'd even consider going to Cleveland.
(Not to mention that the Indians already have a perfectly suitable manager on hand in Sandy Alomar, Jr., as MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes. Removing that interim label from Alomar's title should be merely a formality.)
Tom Petty said it best: The waiting is the hardest part. But for Francona, it is so obviously the best decision for him. The market will have a far better, more bountiful crop to choose from next year.
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