CLEVELAND -- It's been an eventful week for Cleveland, which officially announced on Monday that the organization is ready to change its “Indians” nickname at some point after the 2021 season. But as manager Terry Francona said on Friday, this is a conversation the club has been having for longer than the past week.
“We've always said we didn't ever want to be disrespectful,” Francona said. “But I think we found in 2020 that just saying that wasn't correct anymore.”
The organization first announced in July that it would start having conversations with local and national Native American groups and other appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward for the club. After those discussions, Cleveland determined that a new name would go into place as early as the 2022 season.
“Regardless of how we felt about it, what was really, ultimately, the most important is how other people that it was affecting felt about it,” Francona said. “So as an organization, we do what we always try to do -- [which] was do the right thing. And I'm really proud of our organization for trying to do the right thing.”
No matter what the new name will be (the team hasn’t decided just yet), Francona was quick to say that the history of Cleveland baseball does not need to be erased.
“What's important for people to understand is what we're really proud of is the first name of our team, which is ‘Cleveland,’" Francona said. “I hope you'll never hear a player say something that's contrary to that. And maybe in the next year or so, the fans and people can have some fun with something moving forward. I just don't ever want it to get lost, we're not trying to be disrespectful to anybody, believe me. We're trying to be the opposite, and that's being respectful.”
While the name change has been one of the most important topics to address for the club this offseason, Cleveland has plenty of questions to answer before the 2021 season rolls around. Who will play first? Who will start at second? What will next season look like? Francona also addressed these issues on Friday.
Here’s what he had to say:
The skinny: As of now, Spring Training is set to get underway in mid-February, like usual, but as 2020 has taught us, nothing can be predicted ahead of time. Francona said the team had a meeting with Commissioner Rob Manfred earlier this week to get an update on the schedule.
Francona: “They told us to prepare as if Spring Training is going to start on time. I would say the one thing we learned in 2020 is we need to keep the word 'flexible' and be open-minded. I think that's going to continue. They try to update us as much as they can the best they can. We all know there might be the need to be flexible.”
Is it time for Bradley?
The skinny: The Indians did not pick up Carlos Santana’s option for 2021 and the first baseman signed with the Royals earlier this month. That leaves first base open, with players like Jake Bauers and Josh Naylor in the running. But is it finally time that prospect Bobby Bradley gets a real chance at earning a regular spot on the big league roster?
Francona: “It certainly is. And there's gonna be other guys that are included in that. … Right now, there's a few guys we want to see if they can do it. And sometimes, unfortunately, the answer is no. And we've all seen that. You know, not everybody that attempts to play the game is going to be a Major League everyday player. But finding out is important, especially the guys that we think have the ability to do it. We need to find out.”
Who’s on second?
The skinny: Like first base, second base is also open right now. Who is the club looking at internally to take that spot?
Francona: “We really like Yu Chang, and I think we’d like to -- I should’ve said his name earlier when I was talking about Bobby Bradley -- we’d like to give him some everyday at-bats and see where that takes him. There’s a lot of talent in there, and I think one of the worst things we can do is not find out. Sometimes the answer’s no, unfortunately. But I think the worst answer is not knowing.”
Reyes at first?
The skinny: Although Franmil Reyes has almost strictly been a DH since he was acquired by the Indians at the 2019 Trade Deadline, the slugger posted a video on his Instagram account of him taking ground balls at first base. Could he be an option at first moving forward?
Francona: “I want to talk to him and see how he thinks it’s going. One, we appreciate what he’s doing, which is important. Two, we want to always put the best defensive team out there that we can. If that means that Franmil is either playing in the outfield or at first, that means he’s done a really good job and then would open up for us to be more versatile as a team. I want to make sure Franmil always understands that going into it. So where that leads, we don’t have that answer yet.”
Hill’s recovery time
Francona: “Well, the information is that the timetable is going to be somewhat dependent on when he gets that arm and that hand back to being mobile, how his strength and how his range of motion is. That's going to be a huge factor, and then the next segment of his rehab, how quickly he comes back throwing. And I don't think they can put a timetable on that now just because some guys are different.”
Is 2021 a rebuilding year?
The skinny: There’s no secret that Cleveland has been trimming its payroll, and with the possibility of shortstop Francisco Lindor being traded before the season begins, the 2021 Indians will look a lot different than recent years. However, Francona is adamant that the team’s goal will not change.
Francona: “The one thing you'll never hear me say is that we're going to make an excuse for not winning. Regardless of what we -- again, we may have to change our philosophy a little bit or develop more at the Major Leagues, however you want to say it -- but we're never going to make an excuse for not winning. Our goal every day is to win, and that'll never change. Ever.”