Just because the playoffs are in full swing in Major League Baseball doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of news surrounding the teams not in postseason play. The Cleveland Indians made some waves earlier this week by introducing Terry Francona as its manager, signing the former Phillies‘ and Red Sox field boss to a four-year contract. It is a splash for a franchise that lately has been teetering on the edge of irrelevance.
It wasn’t that long ago, 15 years or so, that the Indians were considered one of Major League Baseball’s model franchises. They were the ones who first recognized the value of signing young players to long-term, club-friendly deals. The result of this was a seven-year span from 1995-2001 in which the Tribe captured six division titles and World Series appearances in 1995 and 1997. They also enjoyed a home sellout streak of 455 consecutive games. However, it has been a rough decade, save for the 2007 season when Cleveland was one game away from reaching that season’s Fall Classic. Since then, the team has had to unload CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee among others; most of the players obtained in these trades have not exactly panned out. Three out of the past four seasons, the Indians have failed to reach the 70 win mark. Enter Francona, the man who led Boston to a pair of World Series Championships including the end of the 86 year drought. This situation is vastly different from when he first started with the Red Sox. Boston was a loaded team when he took over in 2004, this Indians team is more like the Philadelphia teams he piloted from 1997-2000. In those four seasons, the record was a less-than scintillating 285-363.
So what should we expect from the Cleveland Indians under Terry Francona? At the very least, he has made everyone pay attention to the Indians once again. The question is, will this club succeed like the Bosox or stumble like the Phils? My guess is that his time on the shores of Lake Erie will be somewhere in the middle of his two previous stints with more winning seasons than losing ones. If he can help the Indians end their own World Series title drought (last one was 1948), then you might as well get his plaque in Cooperstown ready.
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