After taking multiple absences from the team for health reasons, is it time for Terry Francona to step down as the Cleveland Indians manager?
In Tito we trust. Don’t get me wrong, we still do, but this season has been full of health concerns for the Indians’ skipper and it begs the question, “Is time for Terry Francona to step down as the manager of the Cleveland Indians?”
There’s no question that Terry Francona has been one of the driving forces behind the Indians’ recent success, but this season feels different. Francona has now taken two extended absences from the team for a combined three health concerns. First he had gastrointestinal issues, then a surgery to fix those and then another surgery to fix blood clots from the first surgery.
Luckily, Francona is recovering and Sandy Alomar Jr. has stepped up in Tito’s absence. Still, it feels like the 2020 Cleveland Indians are living out the script of ‘Major League II.’
The beloved manager that is credited for the team’s success deals with health concerns while a former catcher of the club steps up to take over the team. We even have the real life Wild Thing in James Karinchak. However, I don’t think Francona made the Indians’ brass hold on the line during contract negotiations to sell someone white-wall tires and Brandon Guyer isn’t around to step into the batter’s box because the pitcher likes to hit him.
Moving back to reality, since Francona took over in 2013, the Indians have never finished below .500, ending a streak of four straight years of being below .500 before his arrival. His tenure with the Tribe was highlighted by the team’s 2016 World Series appearance, just missing the club’s first title since 1948. The Indians have also always finished third or better in the AL Central under Tito and won the division for three consecutive years from 2016-2018.
Now 61-years old, Terry Francona is the seventh oldest manager in the big leagues. Dusty Baker is the oldest at 71 after returning to Houston following the firing of A.J. Hinch. He hasn’t lost a step on the field in anyway, showing he is still one of the game’s elite managers, but it’s what is happening off the field that should be the concern.
In total this year Francona has missed 18 games. As stated above, Alomar has stepped up and the Indians are still in contention, being just 1.5 games back of Minnesota with one game to go in the series against them. All along, the team has been making sure that Francona understands to take his time.
The solution that could come of this could be a restructure of sorts. There’s no question that fans, players and the front office all want Terry Francona to be part of the Cleveland Indians, but it might not be in the form of manager in the near future. There could very easily be a role created for Francona in the organization as an advisor of sorts. The Detroit Tigers did this with Alan Trammell, bringing him back as a “special assistant” to the club’s general manager.
The other side of the coin is that the Indians’ already have their predecessor in Sandy Alomar Jr. Alomar has received interviews in the past for manager positions across the league, even being a finalist in 2010 for the Blue Jays job. Despite all that, he has turned them down to stay in Cleveland.
He came on as part of Manny Acta‘s staff in 2010 and stayed when Terry Francona arrived. Now, the writing is on the wall for him to step up as the team’s next manager. Alomar was also the club’s interim manager at the end of the 2012 season when Acta was let go, going 3-3. Now, Alomar has been a key part in keeping the Indians afloat this season.
This isn’t to say that Francona is washed up or anything like that. He’s still one of the best minds in baseball, but this season has been a struggle off the field for Tito. At some point the decision will have to be made. With the heir-apparent ready in Alomar, the decision could be much easier for Francona to transition to the front office for the rest of his contract.
We absolutely trust in Tito, but at some point this goes far beyond the lines of the diamond. For Francona’s health, it might be time for Sandy Alomar Jr. to assume the skipper roles permanently beginning in 2021 as the manager of the Cleveland Indians.