Terry Francona was officially introduced as the Indians manager on Monday, and the former Tribe player continually cited his past relationship with the organization, specifically Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti, for his decision to take the position. His press conference addressed that history with the team, but the assembled media members were far more interested in what he had to say about the constant hot topic of the Tribe's spending.
The former Red Sox manager emerged as a candidate this month, and the news became official on Saturday that he'd be taking the reins for a franchise repeatedly criticized for their parsimonious ways. The process was wrapped up in quick and tidy fashion, and Francona said he did not inquire about payroll spending nor ask for any payroll assurances during the interview. "I didn't ask for that. I don't want to say it's none of my business, but that wasn't one of the questions," Francona said. "We're going to work together and figure out how to tackle challenges. I don't need to be the general manager nor the owner. I'm perfectly content being the manager. I don't know what the payroll is."
Francona understands that the job in Cleveland will be much different from the position he held in Boston, and he was asked how he'll tackle working for an organization with budget restrictions. He reiterated that it won't affect his role in the dugout, stating, "I don't think it changes my job. Players are players."
The new manager was asked point-blank if, under the current economic system in Major League Baseball, winning has anything to do with budget or payroll. In a moment that he labeled as "frank," the man they call "Tito" did say a bigger budget allows for some wiggle room. "I think having a big budget allows you to maybe cover up some of your mistakes. So you'll have to limit your mistakes." If the past decade is any indication, that limit is extremely low on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
As long as the Dolan family owns the team, payroll will be a continual topic of conversation. If Francona didn't realize how much the team's spending is a source of angst around town, he certainly does now after being constantly asked about it in his first day on the job.
The club is held against the impossible standard of the glory years in the 90s, while playing in a markedly different economic landscape. Francona understands those challenges, and thankfully, he's entering the situation with eyes wide open.