NEW YORK -- When it comes to Guardians manager Terry Francona, Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor has nothing but good things to say about his first big league skipper, who is expected to retire after a 23-year managerial career, the past 11 spent with Cleveland.
Lindor made his Major League debut with Cleveland against the Tigers on June 14, 2015. At the time, he was considered the fourth-best prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. A few hours before that game, Lindor had a closed-door meeting with Francona -- who told him to stay humble. Before Lindor’s arrival, the Guardians were not getting much production at shortstop.
“The first thing Tito said in his office in Detroit was, ‘Remember, be yourself. But when you walk into the clubhouse, someone is losing their job today.’ I was like, 'Ah, OK. Thank you.' I just left,” Lindor remembered. “People lose jobs when guys come up to the big leagues.”
In the next 2 1/2 weeks, Francona was in Lindor’s ear giving sage advice. The biggest one was telling Lindor to respect the game of baseball.
“He told me to show my peers and teammates that you are here to win and you fit in. That’s true,” Lindor said.
During his six years under Francona from ‘15-20, Lindor was a four-time All-Star, won two Silver Slugger awards and two Gold Gloves. After getting traded to the Mets following the ‘20 season, Lindor said he became a mentor to the Mets' younger players such as Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez because he followed Francona’s advice.
"A lot of the things I tell the rookies, it comes from Tito,” Lindor said.
In 2016, the Guardians came close to winning the club's first World Series title since 1948. Cleveland had a 3-1 lead in the series but lost to the Cubs in seven games.
“I wish we won that World Series for Tito,” Lindor said. “The city of Cleveland deserved that World Series. The Cubs played better than us, so congrats to them. But I wish we could have closed it out for the city of Cleveland and Tito.”
In his 11 years as manager of the Guardians, Francona’s 921 victories entering Sunday are the most in franchise history. What made him so successful in C-town?
“He just let us be ourselves, but held us accountable,” Lindor said. “It was a bunch of young professionals and old professionals. We gave everything we had for our manager.”