We heard confirmation yesterday that Terry Francona is indeed a candidate for the Indians manager job and is expected interview in the near future. Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 in Cleveland has the latest update on the situation.
There’s some question about whether the Indians will offer Francona enough money to leave his broadcasting job at ESPN and there’s also the matter of managing a rebuilding team without the big budget of the Red Sox. However, Francona spent the 2001 season as a special assistant to team president Mark Shapiro, who was the GM at the time, so there’s some history here. There’s also only 30 of these jobs to go around and fortunes in the American League Central can change pretty quickly.
Interim manager Sandy Alomar, Jr. is the only other confirmed candidate for the permanent gig. Many consider him the favorite for the job and he’d certainly come cheaper as a first-time skipper.
The Tigers have officially named Ron Gardenhire as their next manager. Gardenhire has agreed to a three-year contract.
Gardenhire takes over for Brad Ausmus, who was let go after four seasons as Detroit’s manager. The Tigers went 64-98 this season, finishing tied for the worst record in the majors. Having traded away Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez, they’re poised for a major rebuild, so it’s best to look at Gardenhire as something of a caretaker manager.
As far as caretaker managers go, Gardenhire is not a terrible choice. He was the bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. He managed the Twins from 2002-14, going 1,068-1,039, winning the AL Central six times. He was AL Manager of the Year in 2010. He’ll do a fine job keeping the clubhouse drama free, dealing with the press and making sure the young players know the way to the team bus during road trips. There’s value in having an old hand doing those things with a team in as uncertain a position as the Tigers are these days.
Still, it’s a less-than-imaginative choice. If you have nothing to lose, and the Tigers really don’t, you’d think being somewhat more adventurous with your manager choice might be a way to try something new. As it is, the Tigers took a veteran-laden team in a win-now position and gave it to an unproven Brad Ausmus back in 2014. Now they’re playing it safe with a known quantity when the stakes are low.