August 26, 2014

Francona Hire is a Coup, but if Chris Antonetti Can’t Find Pitching, it Won’t Matter

Wow…..Wow….Wow. I still can’t believe it.

The day the Indians decided to fire Manny Acta as their skipper, the first non-Sandy Alomar-name floated out there was Terry Francona. When I saw it, I laughed. In fact, I scoffed at it to the point of being insulted by it being made public. Here were my exact quotes just over a week ago:

Save your Terry Francona pipe dreams. The guy isn’t coming here. He can sit back and wait for the right job and get paid in excess of $5 million to do so. Why would he come here to manage this train wreck under the current ownership?

Now, we have the reasons why. Straight from the horses mouth – “”Relationships,” Francona said. “(Mark) Shapiro and (Chris) Antonetti were reasons #1 and #2.”

While picking, choosing, and trading for players has not exactly been Antonetti’s strong suit, you have to give both he and Shapiro big marks for pulling off this coup. And make no mistake people, this is a serious coup. When asked by my mom, a lifelong diehard Browns and NFL fan how big of a move this was, I said she could equate this to the Browns going from Pat Shurmur to Bill Cowher. It is an instant credibility grab that is universally praised and will bring so much to an organization that is in dire need of a shot in the arm.

You all know Francona’s pedigree – he won two World Series in a span of four seasons in a town that hadn’t won one in 86 years. He is a brilliant baseball mind and a players manager who has about as sterling a reputation as you will find in a skipper. Name me the last time in this history of this city that one of our teams brought in a head coach/manager with this kind of juice? You can’t.

As much as everyone like Acta personally, he had lost the team and now that he is gone, the whispers of his lack of communication with his players have gotten louder. This young group needed a strong voice that commands respect. They now have it in Francona.

The best quotes I saw this morning were from ardent Francona supporter and former player Curt Schilling, who spoke with the  Plain Dealer’s Dennis Manolloff:

“I always argue that, as a manager in the big leagues these days, it’s not so much about the X’s and O’s,” Schilling said. “The days of strictly being a great strategist are over. It’s about being a teacher, a friend, a mentor, a parent, a counselor, a psychologist. You’ve got to wear about 30 hats, and your players must trust you.

“Players trust Tito. And they’ll trust him in Cleveland not just because of the resume, not just because of the rings, but also because of Terry Francona the person. That’s not to say Tito won’t get mad at you, but he won’t do it publicly. You’re not going to hear of issues he’s having with players aired in the media. As a big-league manager, you want your players to take a bullet for you — not fire the gun.”

You think Chris Perez is going to pull that junk with Francona at the helm?

Again, I could not be happier with this move. Hiring Francona has to be a signal to the shrinking Indians fan base that they are committed to winning right now. This doesn’t mean they are going to be adding a bunch of payroll, but I can’t imagine Francona taking this job if he thought the organization was headed into the tank. It also shouldn’t be lost on anyone that having a two-time World Series champion manager could help attract mid-level payroll free agents that would normally skip over considering the Indians. I know that sounds ridiculous, but you know who was one of these players last winter? Josh Willingham.

While this is all well and good and it actually gives us some positives to talk about (which we haven’t been able to do since late July), there are still some serious challenges ahead. I love Francona, but he doesn’t come with three starting pitchers, a first baseman, a left fielder, and a DH. He can’t pitch for this team. Antonetti still has a ton of work to do shaping this roster and I still have serious doubts about his ability to do so. There are no top tier prospects above A ball. The pitching is bereft of an ace or anyone above a number three starter (which I consider Justin Masterson after his uneven 2012 season). If the Oakland A’s success has taught us anything over the past few months, its that you can’t win without quality starting pitching in a market like ours.

The 2005 and 2007 Indians – the best two Cleveland teams of the past decade – had quality rotations and deep bullpens. The ’05 Tribe had five guys make at least 30 starts (CC Sabathia, Kevin Millwood, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Scott Elarton). The ’07 Tribe had twin 19 games winners (Sabathia and Fausto Carmona), backed up by two wily veterans (Westbrook and Paul Byrd).

It doesn’t matter who is managing the team, it is on Antonetti to put together a rotation that resembles either of those two, or else the Indians won’t contend.  It is that simple.

At least this gives Indians fans so hope, something to get behind and excited about. Lord knows we deserve some of that.

 (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • BuckeyeDawg

    Just out of curiosity…who was the last Tribe manager to have a World Series win on his resume? Love having a guy like Francona in the dugout. Apparently the front office is laying this entire debacle of a season at Acta’s feet, and thinks a top shelf manager can fix what is wrong with this team. Not sure that’s the right analysis, but I guess we’ll see…

    Santana, ACab, Kipnis, Brantley, Chisenhall isn’t a bad young core. Hopefully Francona and his staff can get these guys to realize their potential. That, combined with some overachieving from the pitching staff next year is the only chance we’ve got.

    Unless the Dolans want to spend money on…you know…good players in free agency. We all know how likely that is…

  • gruvedaddy

    We can only hope this turns it around. Bottom line is money talks. And if the brothers Dolen aren’t willing to part with more than the chump change (in MLB terms) that they’ve been giving it’s not gonna matter who is the skipper. I miss my Tribe contending, fingers crossed.

  • 216in614

    After hearing what the players said about Acta I’m hopeful a legitimate coach can turn these guys into a wild car team. I Shapiro, Antonetti and Dolan can follow this up with one or two pieces maybe we should at least have watchable baseball again.

  • gruvedaddy

    We can only hope this turns it around. Bottom line is money talks. And
    if the brothers Dolen aren’t willing to part with more than the chump
    change (in MLB terms) that they’ve been giving it’s not gonna matter who is the skipper. I miss my Tribe contending, fingers crossed.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Charlie Manuel has one, but of course it was after he left the Tribe. I honestly can’t remember who else would have had one (as the head manager) prior to managing in Cleveland.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Masterson and Jimenez have both had #1 starter type seasons in the past (ok, last year was arguable for Masterson). We need a group of coaches who can help them find that success again. We’re not going to be able to just find a #1 starter nor do we have the money to pay one as a free agent. Even if we traded Choo, he wouldn’t bring back that level of talent. Francona, Shapiro, and Antonetti have a huge task ahead of them.

  • CLE2

    Maybe this will teach you smug, negative, amateur sportswriter wannabes a lesson. This is now the second time the Cleveland sports media has been scooped by a guy on the radio who’s barely been here long enough to have a cup of coffee. They scoffed when it came out that the Browns were for sale. And this author is openly admitting how he scoffed to the point of mockery something that was reported in the news by the New York transplant the day Acta got fired. Is it really possible that the new guy has better sources than the “pros” that have been here longer or is it that the “pros” have such a loser mentality, conditioned by all of these years of sucktitude, that anything remotely positive in Cleveland sports is automatically and arrogantly dismissed by people who think they know what will happen in CLE before it does. A lot of crystal balls have been wrong around here lately. Maybe you need to start thinking about changing your mentality.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So much for TD being “worn out” from this past season he reads as being as giddy as a schoolgirl! Unfortunately for the Indians and all of us the decision to say yes to Francona was the easy part now they just have to try and find players and pay them. Correction, the right players. But of course this move was definitely a coup and couldn’t agree with Schilling’s comments more. Another advantage might also be in luring prospective free agents or at least selling them on the team. Now if Antonetti can find them and the Dolan’s pay them we might have something.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Take it a step further how about any of the sports teams in Cleveland? That along with the ownerships have been what has killed this city. Looks like things are headed in the right direction now though with just the football team having the most inept head coach now that the Indians have Francona. Once Haslam takes ownership of the football team you’ll have just one subpar owner left in town.

  • AMC

    I don’t believe the Indians have ever hired a manager that won a World Series as a manager before coming to the Tribe. Francona is the first.

  • FearTheRoo

    Francona is a great hire but what bothers me is Antonetti saying that we have the talent to win now stuff. But the way he is talked gives me the impression they are not looking to add anyone during the offseason, but rather develop what is already here. I mean I’m not expecting us to sign Hamilton or anything great, but do something….

  • http://twitter.com/oribiasi oribiasi

    They will certainly be a wild “car” team. :)

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    Is that a jab at this specific site? Cause this site has been right way more often than its been wrong. I am about as likely to believe something from the PD as I am a quoted source from WFNY. Thats not a strike against this site, thats a very big thumbs down to the PD who cant seem to prove reliable on anything related to the three sports teams they are supposed to have primary coverage on. If this is the one exception, congrats PD, you did your job for once.

  • CBI

    Lou Boudreau I believe.

  • Grif_E

    I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what all the bloggers here actually do for a living, but also what exactly WFNY and similar sites are actually selling us. It’s impossible to not have some inside information with how much time they devote towards writing about sports, but they are not part of some corporate sports coverage machine that you’re trying to compare them with. Maybe you should just not read non-corporate media blogs.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Yeah, this comment is completely lost on me. Are we in the business of scooping? Granted, we do have our occasional news items, but by no means are we paid beat reporters. We’re writers, mostly of the op-ed variety. We never scoffed at anyone, specifically Adam Gerstenhaber — assuming this is the individual you’re referencing, albeit cloaked in a shroud of negativity and vagueness.

  • BigDawgz

    Got no knowledge of the inner workings, of course, but Id bet part of Titos contract is that Dolan shell out for at least some mid-level talent at SP, 3rd & 1st. Our rotation is dismal…should buy out Ubaldos contract, send ‘Carnandez’ packing & get us 2 decent guys. A Shields or similar talent…

  • http://www.pbilek.com/ pBilek

    Lenny Wilkins?