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October Reflections on the Cleveland Indians

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My, how the mighty have fallen. After high hopes early in the season, the Indians fell apart completely after the All Star Break and ended up finishing with a record of 68-94 (just two games ahead of the last place Minnesota Twins in the American League Central Division). As one would assume after a debacle such as this, changes must be coming this offseason for the Tribe to not experience the same results again in 2013.

The Indians brass decided not to wait until the end of the season to start putting these changes into place and it all started with the dismissal of manager Manny Acta with six games left in the season. The reason that General Manager Chris Antonetti gave for the early dismissal of his manager was that he didn’t want Acta to have to go through the interviews after the season when they had already decided he would be fired. He did not choose to comment on why they did not fire him immediately after the last game of the season.

During the last six games of the season, the Indians were managed by promoted bench coach, and fan favorite from his playing days in the 1990’s, Sandy Alomar Jr. Many fans had Alomar pinned as the team’s next manager ever since he appeared as the first base coach a few years ago.

The main issue with Alomar taking over for Acta is that the vast majority of experience Alomar has had as a professional coach has been under the tutelage of the manager who could do no right in Cleveland. Alomar was a strong candidate for the Toronto Blue Jays job last summer before former Indians pitcher John Farrell was pegged as the new skipper north of the border.  

The Indians eventually settled on former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who has had a whirl wind of a year. At the end of last season, he was considered by many to have been forced out of Boston despite bringing them two World Series championships in the past decade. The claims were that Francona couldn’t keep the players happy and there was discord in the locker room. After the Bobby Valentine experiment in Boston this season, it has become clear that Francona was not the problem.

The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948 and Francona is the first manager they  have hired in their drought that has one to his name. Considering that he ended a much longer streak for the Red Sox, perhaps this one will be easy. One has to believe that the Curse of Rocky Colavito isn’t nearly as strong as the Curse of the Bambino.

The team’s new manager was greeted with great optimism during the announcement and the press conference as the city is ready to turn the page on Manny Acta. Days after the introduction of Francona, news spread nationally about the uncommon provision he required in his contract. The clause in his contract allows him to opt out if the current front office management team of Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti were to leave. The provision does not say whether them resigning or leaving because they were fired makes a difference.

This made headlines due to the fact that many are upset with the way the team has been constructed and blame Shaprio, Antonetti, and the owners of the team for it. The hope was that Francona is the first of many changes to come and that perhaps, the Dolans are ready to turn the page on their mindset of only dealing with promising, yet completely unproven, people in all capacities. Francona is a start to what many wanted, and it is the hope that this move will put enough pressure on the front office to deliver talent that actually belongs in the Major Leagues to make the Indians a viable contender.
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