Francona's Managerial History Can Give the Indians an Early 2020 Edge in the AL Central

Matt Loede

When the Cleveland Indians open the 2020 season (whenever that may be), there is one very large thing giving them an advantage when they take the field.

That’s the person that is sitting in the Tribe dugout on a daily basis, manager Terry Francona.

When the season begins, Francona will be entering his 20 season of being a Major League manager, and during that time he’s usually been at or near the top of being one of the best managers in the game.

He got his manager’s education when he took over the Philadelphia Phillies for four seasons from 1997 to 2000.

Those years he learned the hard way in a tough media market how to handle the daily ups and downs of being a big league manager.

He also learned quickly that whatever happened the day before, good or bad, has to be put on the back shelf, and that it’s over with.

The teams he was given to manage while in Philadelphia were not all that talented. The first year the Phillies won just 68 games, and then 75 the next year.

The final two seasons with the Phillies the team went 77-85, and took a step backward in 2000 to go just 65-97 and was dismissed when the season ended.

It took four seasons for Francona to get another job, but it was a big one in another massive baseball market as he took the job managing the Boston Red Sox.

It didn’t take long for Francona being the new head man in Boston to pay off, as the first season he led the Sox to a World Series title.

The Sox repeated as champs in 2007, cementing himself as one of the top managers in the game, and doing it in a city that doesn’t forgive much when it comes to not being successful with their baseball team.

Things with the Red Sox didn’t stay great for long, as despite the club winning 90 or more games in three of his last four seasons, the final season letdown in 2011 spelled doom for the manager.

The important thing again for Francona was how he handled the ups and downs in Boston, and how after one season in the broadcast booth he was ready to take over the Indians and bring his experience to a team that had struggled under former managers Eric Wedge and Manny Acta.

Francona has been now the manager with the Tribe for seven seasons, and while the team fell just short of a title in 2016, the success the team has had for the seven seasons can’t be denied.

Four playoff outings plus a pennant is nothing to sneeze at. While some fans have been critical of some decisions Francona has made, there is no denying how the team has been a contender just about every season he’s been running the team.

His style fits the club perfectly, and now that this season is going to have enough distractions already without even playing a game, Francona is an asset to this team and having his running the ship should help as the team starts the 2020 journey.

The other teams in the division do not have the manager pedigree that the Indians do with Francona.

Rick Renteria is going to have a lot of pressure with the new look White Sox who have a high amount of expectations.

Rocco Baldelli did a great job with the high-powered Twins in 2019 leading them to a division title, but they won’t sneak up on anyone this season.

As for the Royals, Mike Mathney starts his first season after Ned Yost left the team after 10 seasons, and in Detroit Ron Gardenhire will be run a team that might struggle to win 70 games.

Francona is very much at the top of the manager heap in the division. While the team might not be as talented as the Twins, or maybe even the White Sox if things come together for them in 2020, but his presence alone gives the team a certain edge that many teams can’t boast.

We will see early how the Indians react with a different looking roster, including some defections from a season ago like Corey Kluber and Jason Kipnis, and some additions like Cesar Hernandez and Domingo Santana.

If Francona can keep the Indians on an even keel with the way this season has the possibility of being very different on and off the field than any other in recent memory, it does give them a heads up that the other four teams in the division don’t have thanks to Francona and his history on the bench.