How will the Cleveland Indians navigate the rest of 2021 without Terry Francona
In the midst of all the excitement of the trade deadline the biggest loss for the Cleveland Indians didn’t happen on the field. While the front office was busy moving Cesar Hernandez and Eddie Rosario there was a change that happened in the dugout as Terry Francona announced he was stepping away for the rest of the season for health concerns.
Before we continue any further, it should be noted that Francona has only stepped away for the rest of the 2021 season. There’s nothing that has been said that he is done coaching in Cleveland permanently. This is just a move for the rest of year and it isn’t the first time Francona has done something like this.
Fans might recall that during the 2020 season a similar situation occurred that saw first base coach and longtime Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. take the reigns of the team for a bit. While Francona was still the official manager and the wins went to his coaching record, the same that is happening now, it was Alomar calling the shots from the stoop of the dugout.
The 2021 campaign is the 21st in the storied coaching career of Terry Francona. He got his first gig in Philadelphia, managing the Phillies from 1997 through 2000. From there, he went to Boston for eight seasons, winning two World Series. Now, he’s been in Cleveland for nine seasons, the longest stop of his managing career.
Since arriving to Cleveland in 2013, the Tribe have yet to post a losing record under Francona’s watch and he’s won the American League Manager of the Year award twice, being in 2013 and 2016. Of course, there’s also the World Series run in 2016 as well.
So, what does Cleveland do now? The man behind the team’s success isn’t in the dugout during what is sure to be a difficult time for the team. There’s a handful of players getting their first crack at the big leagues already and more could be on the way once September call-ups come around. Luckily, the team seems to be in good hands.
Taking over the helm of the Tribe will be bench coach DeMarlo Hale who joined the team prior to the start of the season. Hale took over for Brad Mills who had been with the club longer than Tito, going back to the 2012 season under Manny Acta and Interim Manager Sandy Alomar Jr.
Hale has been in the majors since the early 2000s and has over 15 seasons of major league coaching experience under his belt. He began with the Texas Rangers organization in 2002 and has made stops in Boston, Baltimore, Toronto and Atlanta.
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Hale has been a frequenter on Francona’s staff before Cleveland. He joined Tito in Boston for six seasons, spanning from 2006 until 2011 after they served on the same staff in Texas as well before Francona took the job with the Red Sox. In Boston, Hale began as the third base coach before transitioning to bench coach before the start of the 2010 campaign.
Hale also has a decent resume as a manager, although it came in a different millennium. Before being discovered by Texas, Hale was a manager in the minors, winning the Manager of the Year award in 1995 and in 1999, while also managing the Unites States team in the All-Star Futures Game.
He won’t be alone in the task either. Both Sandy Alomar Jr. and Mike Sarbaugh will remain the base coaches and know this team well. They’ve been around for a long time and have been key pieces in the team’s success. With Alomar managing a bit last year, there’s sure to be some conversations between Hale and Alomar in keeping this team competitive down the stretch.
So while it won’t be Terry Francona calling the shots for the rest of the year, the Cleveland Indians really shouldn’t miss much of a beat. The culture will remain the same and the values that Francona has been injecting into this team for nine seasons will still be there. It will just be DeMarlo Hale’s signature on the lineup card and his arm waving for arms from the bullpen for the rest of the 2021 season.