Cleveland Indians: 5 Reasons Terry Francona Was the Right Hire as Manager
The 2012 season got so bad that the Indians decided to let go of their manager, Manny Acta, six games before the season ended.
They mercifully finished the season fourth in the American League Central with a 68-94 record.
Looking back, they really were not that bad, only 3.5 games out of first place in late July, but finishing a terrible 5-24 in all of August—their worst record in a single month in franchise history—sealed the deal.
The Indians haven't been to the postseason since 2007, when they went all-in with CC Sabathia and lost in the ALCS. Before that? Just one winning season in 2005—somehow didn't even make playoffs—and nothing since 2001.
It will be tough, but Francona has the pieces in place to get this team back to the postseason.
Their 2012 record implied that the Indians fielded one of the worst teams in all of Major League Baseball; that may be true, but there are nice intriguing young pieces on the team as well.
It all starts with Carlos Santana, who was the No. 1 catching prospect a couple years ago, but failed to live up to high expectations this year. However, that may just be due to the fact that the Indians were terrible all year, because Santana actually hit 18 homers with a .365 OBP while playing solid defense.
Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera form a solid double-play combo that provides both power and defense.
Shin-Soo Choo also provides a veteran presence in the outfield who had a very solid year in 2012.
Lonnie Chisenhall, Casey Kotchman and Matt LaPorta are also young players that were top prospects and have a chance to blossom under Terry Francona.
In a full-fledged rebuilding year, the Indians have the talent to make it interesting down the line.
In Terry Francona's eight-year tenure as the Boston Red Sox skipper, he won two World Series and accrued a record of 744-552. In those eight seasons, he made the playoffs five times.
The .574 winning percentage was the best for a Red Sox manager with at least 750 games managed.
Safe to say he brings an excellent track record to Cleveland.
However, by the end of his run at Boston, he was under a lot of controversy because of the way his clubhouse turned on him.
After this season, with Bobby Valentine being fired as well, it isn't a stretch to say that not all of the problems—if any—were his fault.
The 2011 Boston Red Sox team was so dysfunctional, it made the Kardashian family seem normal.
This isn't to say none of the issues in the beer-and-fried-chicken scandal were Francona's fault, but the problems in Boston ran deeper than just the manager.
Francona not only brings his history of success to Cleveland but his name as well.
Attractive Free-Agent Spot
When a manager as famous as Terry Francona leaves his old team, there are players that will love and hate him.
Count David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis among those that would have no issues reuniting with their old coach.
David Ortiz, in the midst of yet another great year, is a free agent and would get to stay in the American League as a DH if he signed with the Indians. He'd also join a manager with whom he has spent eight of his nine years in the major leagues.
Kevin Youkilis, another Red Sox mainstay in Francona's tenure, may present another option for the Indians.
With talent across the board in the Iineup and a serviceable pitching staff—with Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson coming off down years—there is an opportunity for the Indians to improve.
Change of Scenery
This one isn't as tangible as the first three, but there is nothing like a change of scenery for a team that has been at or under .500 for five straight years.
Sometimes all it takes for an underachieving talented team is a top-notch manager.
Take a look at this year's Baltimore Orioles, for example, who hadn't had a winning season since 1997 until they turned over the team to Buck Showalter for an entire season.
They went on to finish seven wins from 100 and push the Yankees to five games in the American League Division Series.
A stunning turnaround brought on by Showalter's ability to extract the best from talented underachievers like Brian Matusz, Adam Jones and even getting career years from journeyman players Nate McLouth and J.J. Hardy.
Francona also helped develop young players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz into stars.
Look for Francona to do similar work with players like Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall.
A Change in Management Ideal
Terry Francona never stated he signed with Cleveland because of the money.
Why would he? He had a nice cushy job broadcasting games on ESPN and no pressure at all.
Why would he, World Series manager and famous and famous broadcaster, all of a sudden join one of the worst teams in Cleveland? Not only that, but he also signed on for four years.
For reasons unknown to us, he is now the manager for one of the worst team in all of the American League the last couple of years.
However, this may signal a change in thought for the management of the Cleveland Indians. Perhaps they are now ready to spend in order to field a winning team.
Signing David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis would bump up the payroll immediately.
Their payroll now sits near 65 million, which is around middle of the pack in the MLB, so there is room to spend for owner Larry Dolan if need be. The payroll was actually around 85-86 million in 2009 so the money is there and is not a new concept for management.
Signing a top-notch manager who seemingly had no reason to join them is the first sign towards the playoffs.
Keep in mind, the Detroit Tigers won the division with 88 wins this year.
An improvement would not be outlandish in 2013, especially given now that they have such an accomplished manager in Terry Francona.
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