8.09.2017

The One Problem with this Cleveland Indians Team


You look at the team as it stands, in terms of the talent and potential, and I think all year it has been a consensus, no matter how much they've struggled or looked a little lost, the Cleveland Indians are probably the best team in the division.

They may even be the best team in the American League, coasting until they can get to the parts of the season that matter. You look at the invaluable experience of going to the World Series, despite the injuries and the odds, getting back those injured players, adding one of the more potent bats available in free agency, and still having the core group that lead the team last year and this was supposed to be easy, right?

Look, this team is good. I think maybe, and this is probably a bad thing, they know that they are good. So they're coasting a bit and turning it on at certain points. And when they turn it on, look how incredibly dominant they've been. They know if they just get to that point where the games matter for real, their pitching is going to give them a chance and their offense can get the job done.

Is this intentional? No, probably not. It's just a matter of assumption that things are going to go there way. It's not "hey we don't care until it matters" type of a thing I'm sure, it's just complacency. It happens to the best of us, yeah?

That's not really why I'm going to sit around here and complain about the fact that this team isn't doing what it's supposed to do. The division is garbage, and even though they should be running away with it, they'll likely win it (we've still go two months to go, yo) and my only hope with that is that they'll win it relatively healthy and go into the post-season with their best foot forward.

The one problem though with this Indians team that could potentially derail them is something that I think needs to be talked about a little more. In the grand scheme of things, it's hard to provide physical and tangible evidence that it is something that has cost them games. You can probably run some analytics related to certain aspects of what this problem is and come up with some real solid evidence. In fact, some people smarter than me probably have and if I've ever come across it, I've probably shared it with people because that knowledge is good.

The problem with this team is Terry Francona.

You may want to get your pitch forks out at me for this, and you've probably heard it from me before, but Terry Francona is a problem. Does that mean he needs to get fired? No. Does that mean I think he's the worst option this team has? No. This isn't click bait, I have nothing to gain and no agenda. I don't dislike Tito, nor do I want him ousted. I think Tito can be a great asset as a manger and honestly, you can absolutely 100% do far far worse, especially when you look at the AL Central. In fact, I'd take Tito over every other manager in the Central, any day. This isn't "he's a problem and he has to go." We could have to deal with Paul Molitor.

This is more or less, Tito Francona is a problem and the Indians should really consider addressing it. Or figuring out how to cope with the situation before it turns bad.

The core of the problem is Francona because he's the center of the flow chart if you will.

I think about some comments that I've sometimes heard regarding his time in Boston from Indians fans, or even just baseball fans in general. The idea of "how could Boston get rid of him?" seemingly rings in the ears of people. I get it, he won some rings, he's a beloved guy among lots of players, it's not like Boston was a complete dumpster fire, the idea of letting a manager with that resume go and was part of so much with that franchise especially can be a little strange.

But I get it. After a few years of Francona being in Cleveland, I can see it and understand how things went sour there. Whether there was a power-struggle or what have you, I understand why Terry Francona is managing Cleveland right now and not still lounging it up in Boston where he made history.

Francona is a players manager, yeah? Let's look at that and all the other big draws you have in hiring him.

He commands respect. He has that resume, so it's kind of automatic, this guy knows what he's doing, I trust him to make decisions and the word of others give others a trust that they should have in him. It makes sense.

He brings credibility. It's the same deal. He gets Nick Swisher to sign, perhaps Edwin Encarnacion, other than the whole World Series thing and getting a decent contract, is a little more likely to sign with a club that has a manager who is respected. He brings credibility in that regard and I get it and understand it. There's an idea of "I want to play for him."

And guess where I'm going with this?

Yep, that's the problem. That all sounds good, how can it be a problem?

Simple. After awhile, it goes from being an advantage, especially with a younger clubhouse looking for an identity, and really an unset set of rules and ways, to being a disadvantage if it isn't controlled. And I'd like to maintain right here and now that what is occurring has the potential to get out of hand.

Let's start with the primary thing that really prompted me to put words down for the first time in months in regards to the Indians.

Jason Kipnis comes back from an injury and lengthy DL stint to return to the same spot in the lineup that he was in prior to the injury. Let's not even look at the fact that him in that spot isn't really optimized correctly, let's look at the idea that he is coming in pretty cold off his rehab starts. Let's look at the fact that among other players who have returned from stints, Terry Francona has not always put them right in the same spot they previously had.

I'm almost sure this isn't an "injury can't cause you to lose your job" sort of thing, because I feel like that idea is a thing of the past.

What I'm pretty sure it is is the idea that Jason Kipnis has a bit of clout that is hard to combat. I'm not going to pretend to know about Kipnis or the clubhouse, but I sort of surmise that he is looked upon as a bit of a leader. I think we can also look back to some of the reports that Francona went to both Kipnis and Brantley earlier in the year for input on the lineup.

Yeah, that, that's um...pretty easy to use as evidence here. Why is the manager going to his players for input in the lineup? Why is he entrusting in someone else for something he's getting judged for?

Because he's a player's manager?

There lies the problem with that and when you start losing that advantage of having a player's manager. All of a sudden, the manager isn't the manager. He isn't making the best decision possible with the best info at hand with all the logic behind it. He's getting one, two, or three other opinions that are potentially jaded to help inform him to make a decision.

Terry Francona is now surrendering some power. By being a player's manager, he's now letting some of his more seasoned players who are considered leaders in the clubhouse have some say in the decision making process. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it can be. And it can create problems. And it can create this idea that some players have a say in what's happening and others don't and that can really piss some people off.

Are you starting to see how things went south up north in Boston? Starting to kind of "get it" as to how something like that is maybe possible?

I hope so. Am I saying the Indians are headed down that road?

Look, there was this idea that we heard from the very start that Francona came here for the relationships. And it's no secret that the whole Antonetti-Shapiro-Francona trio was ready to work together because they wanted to. A super-team if you will.

But it also seems pretty evident that the decisions made on the field don't always seem to fit how they were probably intended to be made based off the decisions that were made in the front office. And that has kind of taken more and more of a shape year after year. I don't know if it's a power-struggle, but do you really believe that everything that Tito has done and some of the decisions he's made are 100% backed by Antonetti and Chernoff?

I doubt you could go to a franchise and find that to be the case, but year after year, it keeps happening and can you start to see even a little more as to how things went bad up there? It CAN be enough to strain a relationship, even one that was initially formed with the idea of working together. In fact, it can lead to even more strain considering that was how the partnership was formed. The idea of working together.

Look, there'a a myriad of other things that I would put on the outer parts of the flow chart. But this is the centralized part of the problem. If it doesn't get addressed, it could cause some problems. I mean, up until this point, like whatever right? This team went to the World Series and very well should have won it. As noted earlier, they're probably cruising to the point where they need to shift into gear to finish the race. So, until there's a problem, why worry?

Well, because I'm tired of seeing Jason Kipnis hit in a non-optimal part of the lineup, ESPECIALLY coming off an injury, because he has some clout in the clubhouse. Or even the idea that moving him could cause a disturbance. It's not what's BEST for the team and it defies logical reasoning. It doesn't best utilize your talent. It hinders it and it puts even Kipnis in a more unfavorable position to not only not succeed, but cause his team to fail.

Get ahead of the problem. A player's manager is fine, until it isn't fine and is a problem. It doesn't happen over night of course, but it can happen without really noticing it is happening. It's how a situation like the one that unfolded in Boston can happen and how it could cause some disturbances in Cleveland.

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