The Cleveland Indians provided Terry Francona with a solid team to manage this season. That factor further aides his already proven leadership abilities.
The Cleveland Indians have a solid manager. His name is Terrence Jon Francona. Whether ‘Tito’s’ team wins the 2016 World Series or not, his proven record should remain a plus for the franchise for awhile. Boston Red Sox fans likely agree with that point. As for Philadelphia Phillies’ fans, they were only able to see Francona’s efforts during rebuilding years. So, some of those views about this subject are different.
Cleveland’s American League franchise (originally named the Blues) was founded in 1901. The nickname ‘Indians’ was applied by 1915. Cleveland first won the World Series in 1920 and took the Fall Classic again in 1948, which was the last year a championship was won by Cleveland.
The Indians lost the World Series in 1954, 1995 and 1997, which was Cleveland’s last appearance in the ultimate series until this season. It is worth noting that the past 21 years have been the most productive period in franchise history by far. Cleveland has qualified for the playoffs nine times (1995-1999, 2001, 2007, 2013 and 2016).
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Yes, expanded playoff qualification rules have increasingly allowed more teams to play in the postseason. However, any team that does make the playoffs is superior by peer group comparison within those time frames. And, that’s where Francona’s attributes come into play.
‘Tito’ wasn’t a great major league baseball player during a career that lasted from 1981-1990. He was a decent first baseman, outfielder and hitter during those ten years, including one season (1988) with the Indians. After retiring, Francona was hired in 1991 to mange the Chicago White Sox Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota. Baseball fans and other sports’ devotees know that Francona managed NBA legend Michael Jordan in 1994. The basketball star unusually took time off from his main profession to play for the White Sox Birmingham Barons team that season.
The Phillies provided Francona with his first major league managing job in 1997, after he’d coached third base for the Detroit Tigers in 1996. However, Philadelphia was rebuilding that season and for each subsequent year that he wore red pinstripes. The four sub-.500 seasons Francona stood in Philadelphia’s dugout created poor impressions among some of the Philadelphia faithful. Certain segments within the thin fan base weren’t shy about offering many opinions in his regard during those years.
After being dismissed by Philadelphia following the 2000 season, Francona served as a special assistant to Cleveland’s General Manager John Hart in 2001. He was a bench coach for the Texas Rangers in 2002 and for the Oakland Athletics in 2003. Then, after being hired as the Red Sox manager in 2004, Francona won the World Series.
Boston’s historic victory ended a championship baseball drought that started in 1919. Cynics believed Francona was lucky to be in the right place at the right time in 2004. But, nearly all critics were silent when the Red Sox won the Series again in 2007. Some Philadelphian’s had moved on to shouting at their team’s manager Charlie Manuel. He was about to win the World Series with the Phillies in 2008.
The years 2005, 2008 and 2009 serve to further dismiss the point of random chance being the only factor in Francona’s success. Boston appeared in the playoffs during each of those seasons and also never had a winning percentage below .531 during his entire tenure (2004-2011).
Cleveland re-hired Francona to start the 2013 season. The Indians haven’t played below .503 ball since he took over. This season’s 94-67 (.584) first-place record was the best of his ‘Tribe’ tenure.
By November 2, at the latest, everyone in the game will know whether ‘Tito’ will earn his third World Series ring. If he does, he’ll again share fully in the positive outcomes he’s helped to create.