The Indians' managerial search just started, but it's already going great.
Funny, some teams take months to find a new manager, and they botch it all the way. The Indians have two exceptional options at this point, great future manager Sandy Alomar Jr. and two-time World Series winner Terry Francona.
As Indians GM Chris Antonetti said by text, they are "really fortunate to have two great options at this point.''
They aren't just fortunate, though.
Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro have terrific reputations in the game, and are a draw even if their team's recent record may not be. That goes a long way. Folks know how well the just-fired Manny Acta was treated, and also paid. (His yearly salary was more than $1 million, which isn't always true with small-market clubs.)
With Francona, it goes beyond the reps of Antonetti and Shapiro. The Cleveland duo helped the ex-Indians player Francona prepare for his Red Sox interview, which resulted in a job, and history, as Peter Gammons first mentioned on MLB Network. "I don't think he needed our help,'' Antonetti said by text.
That sort of humble approach goes a long way. Francona, who may meet with the Indians on Thursday or Friday of next week, spoke glowingly of the Indians opportunity in an interview with The Associated Press. A week ago, Francona said in this space that he was seeking the "right'' opportunity. He didn't get into what he meant by that but did mention the word "relationships.''
And while Cleveland may seem less than glamorous to other big names, Francona grew up in the Pittsburgh area and played and/or coached at multiple spots in the Midwest.
Perhaps after nearly a decade in a pressure cooker like Boston, Cleveland appeals to Francona, whose dad also played for the Indians from 1959-64. Some (including me) originally figured Francona might prefer a team with a better chance to win a World Series sooner, but friends say with certain teams Francona is so close to the current manager he'd have a discomfort level about even considering a job there.
The Tigers, another team that's been linked to Francona, are thought to be one of the teams where Francona wouldn't jump at a job since Francona is so close to Jim Leyland.
It's true the Indians are fortunate that no one has snapped by Alomar, who'd been a candidate in Toronto, Boston and elsewhere. But with Francona, it has nothing to do with luck.
It's possible the Indians could still pick Alomar, as he's a young guy who'd fit their young team. But when a star like Francona shows so much interest, it's sometimes hard not to go for it.
The Indians haven't skimped in pay for their top decision-makers in the front office and the manager's seat in the past, so maybe this is a better fit than folks (myself included) first realized. Indians owner Larry Dolan has kept the team's player payroll among the lowest in baseball for years, though, and so it'll still be interesting to see if he'd pay the fair rate for a two-time World Series winner, which would presumably be at least $3 million.
Either way, the Indians can't lose here.