There was a recent debate on social media about the Indians’ success since 2013 (three American League Central Division titles, four post-season berths in total) and what factors are the biggest reason for it.
We know there are critics out there, but there should be no denying the front office structure the Tribe has is top notch, and Chris Antonetti has done an outstanding job running the baseball operations.
Have they been perfect? Of course not, no one is.
On the other hand, the Cleveland organization has not had to go through a period where they had to bottom out, lose 100 games, and trade their best players for prospects to speed up that process, like the Cubs, Astros, and currently, the Tigers, Orioles, and Pirates.
Another factor for this success is Terry Francona.
Yes, Francona’s kind of an old school manager. Does he bunt too much? Yes. Does he cling to veterans at times? He does have that tendency.
And if you have performed for him in the past, he has a fierce loyalty to you.
He’s still one of the best managers in the game, and likely will be inducted in Cooperstown some day because of his managing, and he will likely deflect praise for that honor, because that’s what Tito does.
Francona ranks 18th all time in career wins by a manager, and only Dusty Baker has won more among active managers. And of the 17 skippers with more wins than Francona, 12 of them are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and our guess is Bruce Bochy will make that number 13 sooner or later.
In a normal season, he had a real good chance of passing Lou Boudreau as the Indians’ all time winningest manager too. With 91 more victories, he accomplishes that.
His winning percentage is behind only Hall of Famer Al Lopez and Oscar Vitt among Tribe skippers.
And while many may take umbrage with his in-game strategy at times (and we confess, it drives us nuts sometimes too), he sets a tone in the clubhouse for what is expected from the players.
In this unique 60 game season, we believe one edge the Indians have is the consistency Tito shows to his players. His mindset right from the get go has been there are only 60 games, and the Indians will look at it as when the first game is played on July 24th, as if they are tied for first place and heading into the homestretch.
Many teams have gone to hiring younger men to relate to today’s players, like Rocco Baldelli in Minnesota, Aaron Boone in New York, and Tito’s old foil in Cleveland, Kevin Cash in Tampa. But even though he’s 61 years old, Francona still relates to Frankie Lindor and Jose Ramirez.
Lindor’s prank on the skipper early this week exemplifies the relationship between the star shortstop and the manager.
Yes, Francona does get irritated with certain players, most notably Trevor Bauer a year ago, but those players also know their boss has their backs. We’ve heard people complain that he should get on players for making mistakes or for not hustling.
He does, but he does it privately, not in the media. That earn respect, and the players return it to him by playing hard. You don’t see players dog it that often in Cleveland.
We aren’t saying the Indians aren’t the only Major League team who will come into the season with the “no excuses” mantra, but we will bet there will be teams who won’t treat it as seriously as others because it’s not a “real season”.
Yesterday, he said he wants his players to be ready to “be prepared to kick somebody’s ass”.
Francona doesn’t allow for excuses, for himself and his players. He understands there won’t be a feeling out process in 2020. However, that doesn’t mean he will have the same level of patience as the typical fan.
All in all, fans of the Indians should feel grateful that Terry Francona is guiding this team. Long time supporters of the club should remember a list of people who weren’t even close to him.