The Cleveland Indians have a new manager. It’s former Red Sox manager Terry Francona. After leading a monumental Boston collapse a few seasons ago, Tito decided to step away from the managerial side of things and spent this past season in the booth at ESPN. After a year away from the game, he will now be taking over a team that is fighting to stay relevant in the American League and has three 90-loss seasons in the last four years. The task is tough, the Indians payroll is minimal as is the talent on the roster, the commitment from the ownership seems to be lacking but the two-time World Series Champion is up for the challenge and has brought some much needed credibility to the organization.
Terry Francona joined ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland on the Really Big Show to talk about what he has done since taking over as manager, how important it was to step away from the game for a little bit, if he has any regrets from his time in Boston, what he will do differently in Cleveland, how tough it will be due to his restrictions in payroll and how much say he will have when it comes to the roster.
What he has done since taking over as manager:
“I’m doing a lot of listening. (GM) Chris (Antonetti) and I, we flew directly to Goodyear, we met with the scouts, I did a lot of listening, I probably made their day a lot longer because I had a lot of questions, then went down to Tucson and got a change of clothes and flew into Cleveland and we’ve had organizational meetings this past week so doing a lot of listening, asking a lot of questions and I feel like I need to get up to speed in a hurry. I feel like I have an obligation to the organization and to the players to know what’s going on so I can start reaching out to players because I don’t want to wait till Spring Training. I think that’s wasting time.”
How important it was to step away from the game for a little bit:
“It’s hard to tell yourself and be honest with yourself that you need to step back and maybe take a blow but I think that last month in Boston took its toll on me and I think maybe I had lost a little perspective and doing that with ESPN was really healthy for me. Now saying that we would get there before the games, go down to the clubhouse and when I was around the players it got harder because I was missing it more and more. I think that was also good. Shoot if I didn’t miss it than I think I probably in the wrong job. As the season progressed, I found myself, especially when I was around players I knew, I was a little bit envious. I would see guys in their uniform and how comfortable they were in the clubhouse and here I am in a suit and tie and I’m a visitor and I was really starting to miss it. I learned stuff and made friends that I will have for life.”
Whether he would do anything differently if he could go back to his time in Boston:
“I really don’t and what I mean by that is not that I’m perfect because everybody makes mistakes but as a manger I think one of my responsibilities is to be consistent. And take the 11th season, we started out 2-10 and then we went 80-41 and then we went 7-20. I tried to be the same manager through all three of those streaks because I don’t think you can change your colors. I tried to be consistent and if I would’ve changed my value system or the way that I treated my players in the middle of September I think it would’ve been a mistake.”
What he will do differently in Cleveland:
“I think my responsibility or our responsibility as a staff is to put our players in the best position to succeed. We don’t even quite know what our team is going to look like yet. I think I will be a little bit more aggressive being on the field with the players. In Boston, in the end, a little too much time was spent maybe trying to put out fires or extinguishing brush fires. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field, maybe getting my hands a little bit dirty and maybe doing some coaching because that’s what is fun.”
How he feels about being restricted in terms of payroll:
“I think the people that are wondering why I took this job for those reasons probably didn’t know me as well as they thought. I’m actually relishing the challenge. I know there are some challenges here, I’m aware of that. I always felt, even in Boston with a large market, I always felt like if we developed players rather than go through free agency that you’re taking a lot less risk. You see these kids come up, you know they’re going through your system and you know what to expect, there are a lot less surprises, there is a lot less risk and it’s a lot more rewarding.”
How much say he will have in roster decisions:
“They’ve been great about allowing my opinion, which is great. Our communication, that’s one of the really nice things about starting with Chris and Mark (Shapiro) and Ross (Atkins), I already knew these guys so there is no period where we are feeling each other out. I was afforded my opinion about two minutes after I came here and there’s a comfort level that is already in place so that is terrific. I have to say, I have no ambition of being a General Manager. I like being a manager and I think GM’s appreciate strong opinions if you have thought it through but also I have to respect the chain of command. It’s a good situation and I’m really comfortable with what we have in place here and I think it’s going to serve us well moving forward.”