At this point, it is fairly well known that the Indians have chosen Terry Francona over Sandy Alomar, Jr as the next manager of the Cleveland Indians. The Indians had two choices, representing two extremely divergent paths in the two managers. Alomar is a representative of the past. He is a huge part of Indians history and one of the most popular players that is still alive. He is loved by the players and respected and would bring in some fans who are looking for some 1990′s nostalgia.
Francona on the other hand, is someone who, while he has played for the Indians and been part of the front office, has no real ties to Indians players or fans. He is a known winner, being the first manager to bring a championship to the Boston Red Sox in an eternity in 2004, then he did it again in 2007. He was able to control players that ended up being very hard to deal with, like Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez and was able to get the absolute most out of some aging players, like Curt Schilling and youngsters like Dustin Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon. His experience in the much more competitive American League East should bring a new view point to the more laid back AL Central.
The Indians made the right choice. While Alomar would have been a fun manager and would have brought a few extra fans in for a short period, Francona is more experienced and has a better chance of winning right off the bat. Bringing a winning team back to Cleveland is what will really bring the fans in long term, not simple 90′s nostalgia. The best of both worlds would be for Alomar to retain as bench coach, where he has been a great influence over the past couple of years. He has helped Carlos Santana immensely on defense and will be an asset to whatever team he is part of. The Indians would probably be the hardest team for him to manage, because he has so much invested in the team already. Instead of thinking mechanically, like Francona most likely will, he may start to manage with his heart, which can never go well. Also, if he does struggle, the players are more likely to lose confidence in him than Francona as he has so much less experience.
Most likely, Sandy will get his managers role with some team this offseason, whether it is with Francona’s former team the Boston Red Sox, or another team who has tired of their leadership. The Tribe showed their goal really is to win, rather than just to placate a few fans who probably don’t know half the players on the current roster. The kind of fans that complain about the Indians not having a Kenny Lofton or Roberto Alomar type player, yet don’t even know Jason Kipnis or Michael Brantley‘s names. The fact that the Indians were so quick to announce Francona, they just interviewed him yesterday, show how easy the decision was for them.
Now that the manager has been hired (it will be officially announced on Monday), Terry Francona can go about assembling his coaching staff. The sooner this whole process is finished, the better off the team will be. Chris Antonetti needs to work hand-in-hand with Terry when deciding which trades to make and which free agents to sign. The faster this is finished, the better off the Indians will be when competing with other teams for talent during the offseason.
Congratulations to new Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona and good luck to Sandy Alomar, wherever you end up in 2012.