Terry Francona’s objective: To galvanize floundering Indians youngsters

Jason Miller - Getty Images

The mandate for new Indians manager Terry Francona is quite clear.

If the Major League Baseball season is comparable to a roller coaster ride, then the first and steepest hill came much later than it should have for the Indians. The first hill on the way to the top is usually the toughest, but it was the final peak that the team could not surmount.

They won five games in August. They were in first place in the American League Central Division as late as June, then spiraled out of control to fourth out of five faster than the Top Thrill Dragster's greatest speed of 120 miles per hour.

Kids love rides, so the Indian's young core should have fared much better than they did in 2012, right?

This is why the Indians gave new manager Terry Francona a seat in the front row of the ride; complete with safety harness and clear view at the head of the organization. He was not handed the job on a silver platter; however, a well-established baseball cognizance is more often than not the best way to elevate young players.

The Tribe got exactly what they needed in Francona: More than 30 years of professional baseball know-how, and perspectives from a player's, coach's, and manager's angle. As the head guy, Francona rarely disappointed, leading the Boston Red Sox to five playoff appearances during his eight year tenure as their skipper.

And previous ties to the organization are always a plus; not that the Tuscon native is a local boy by any means. But the former Montreal Expos first-round pick in the 1980 amateur draft joined the Indians as a player in the '88 season. After his playing career ended, he began his second stint with the team as a special assistant to Mark Shapiro back in 2001.

But his resume as the Red Sox manager was perhaps the main reason the Indians sought to bring him to Cleveland. What people see on the outside is that he came to a Boston club loaded with players (Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez) that were there before Francona took over.

''People who don't know me may have thought I was looking for something different," Francona said when asked why he chose the Indians over other teams. "It's almost a family feeling."

Francona will add some stability to a team looking for consistency. "During his career he has consistently won at a high level while transitioning young players to the big leagues," said Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti. "He is a great communicator and is adept at leading a clubhouse."

He turned up-and-coming players such as Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and others into perennial All-Stars. Hopefully Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, and others are the next bunch. Francona will have to work with what the team has, because the Indians are no Red Sox when it comes to reputable free agent signings. Plus, a high payroll does not mean much, as proven in the past.

"It will make you an analyst," Francona said comically.

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