Thursday, October 11, 2012

Around the division: Cleveland Indians

Terry Francona is leaving the ESPN booth for the
dugout in Cleveland.
For a manager with dreams of the Hall of Fame, two World Series wins is borderline, three is a lock.

Terry Francona had one foot in the Hall of Fame — still does, actually — with two World Series titles on his resume. That they came in Boston, where nobody else has won the Series since World War I, is a added selling point.

But he also washed out in Philadelphia, and now he's taken the job in Cleveland, where the Indians barely avoided the worst record in the American League.

It's a family thing, at least in part. Francona's father, Tito, was a standout for the Tribe in the late '50's-early 60s, hitting .363 one season. Terry (also known as Tito) worked briefly in the Cleveland front office between the Philly and Boston jobs and thus has a pre-existing relationship with team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti.

Still, I'm not sure I see the point for Cleveland in hiring Francona, or for Francona to take the job.

Francona's managerial history — not just in Boston and Philly, but in the minor leagues, where he was the skipper of the Birmingham Barons during the Michael Jordan circus — suggests that his strong suit is dealing with voracious media attention. That's not going to matter much in Cleveland.

I'm not sure where Cleveland's front office and ownership think they are in the cycle. It's a weak division, but it's hardly a set-up-to-win-now situation for Francona, and it's also not a total tear-down in progress.

I would have expected Francona to wait for a better shot at immediate success. I don't think this pairing of man and job is going to work out well for either side.

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