Tribe incomplete-o moving forward sans Tito

As we try to shake off the memory of that recent 17-0 thrashing at the hands of the Oakland A’s – capping a humiliating 3-game sweep under the guidance of acting manager DeMarlo Hale – it got me to thinking about the future of the Indians/Guardians without Terry Francona as manager. And it’s not a pretty picture. 

For those of you who may not have received the memo, the Indians manager stepped down recently due to health issues. After lengthy absences in 2019, 2020, and now this year, it’s difficult to envision a happy ending to Francona’s managing career. He’s only 62 (which looks quite young from where I’m sitting), but his issues are serious.

I’ll be the first to admit I was somewhat skeptical when the Tribe hired Francona following the 2012 season. Despite a terrific record as manager of the Red Sox, he was coming off the heels of a disastrous 2012 in which the Red Sox went 7-20 in the final month of the season, blowing a 9-game lead in the process. There were also rumors that he’d lost control of the team, as well as accusations of alcohol in the dugout during games. Not exactly a recipe for success in Cleveland. Well, on second thought, the alcohol part might be.

Then again, after watching Manny Acta manage the Indians – and I use the term “manage” loosely – for the previous two seasons, I had concluded that the Marx Brothers could have succeeded Acta and done a better job. While I was unquestionably right about that, I was clearly wrong about Francona.

Following a tremendously successful stretch of baseball from the mid-‘90s to well into this century, the Indians appeared to be reverting back to the “not-so-lovable losers” tag they had worn so deservedly for their 3+ decades of hideous baseball prior to the great run of the ‘90s. Acta’s team in 2012 went 68-94, and he was canned shortly before the season ended.

Francona’s impact was immediate: The Indians won 92 games in 2013 – snagging the wild card berth with a fantastic run at the end of the season, which began a streak of 8 consecutive winning baseball seasons through 2020, including a World Series appearance in 2016. That streak is in jeopardy this year.

Let me make it clear that I’ve got nothing against DeMarlo Hale, for it’s not about his qualifications. Hale has a long history with Terry Francona, but you never know if a guy is the right fit until he has been given the job.  

While we are on the subject, I’d like to make a pitch for Sandy Alomar Jr. as Tito’s replacement if Francona decides to call it a career. The former Indians catcher has a reputation for making decent catchers into solid performers (at least defensively) as well as doing a super job when filling in as manager for the Tribe – typically under difficult circumstances. He’s “paid his dues,” as it were.

Here's hoping that when a managerial change does take place, the Indians make the right choice, because it will greatly impact the future of the Guardians in Cleveland.

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 13, Issue 16, Posted 10:10 AM, 08.17.2021