CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona won’t be leaving Cleveland any time soon.
President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and the club announced a two-year contract extension for Francona on Wednesday morning, keeping the manager with the organization through 2022.
“I have no ambition to ever work somewhere else,” Francona said. “I mean, there's gonna come a time when I can't do this job the way I want to, because of age or you know, that may happen some point, but I don't have any ambition to ever go somewhere else. That's because of the people here.”
Francona has always been one to praise the work of everyone around him and take very little credit for himself. But on Wednesday morning, he was forced to sit and listen to Antonetti discuss how much the veteran skipper has meant to the organization.
“He's really helped unite us,” Antonetti said. “Whether it's our scouts that come in and are welcomed and embraced in the clubhouse, his engagement with our front office, not just [general manager] Mike [Chernoff] and me but everyone throughout the front office, our player development staff. So you know, as you think about the future of the organization, that's incredibly powerful and meaningful thing."
While there has been plenty of focus on the challenges the Indians have faced after trimming their payroll, Francona has enjoyed the puzzle that’s been put in front of him, piecing together the best lineup he can with the players who are available and healthy. And it’s obviously not something that has caused him to consider turning away from the club he’s been with for the past six years.
“In those moments when we’re struggling or we're facing challenges or there are those moments of adversity, that's when Tito is that is best, and he's always helping us find a way to make it better,” Antonetti said. “So we couldn't be more excited to continue to partner alongside Tito. Everyone throughout the organization feels the exact same way and is equally excited.”
Both Antonetti and Chernoff said over the offseason that the only reason they could trim the Indians' payroll they way they did was because they have Francona at the helm, who could bring any team together despite how many new or young faces were added to the roster.
“For me, it was easy when I came up because he just let me play,” catcher Roberto Perez said. “I’m sure some other managers, they are hard to play for. But with younger guys, he does a pretty good job. That’s why everybody comes here and they feel like they belong on this team. I feel like that’s very important.”
Francona is in his seventh season managing the Tribe and 19th overall in his managerial career. The 59-year-old skipper has led the Indians to the American League’s best record (547-427) since beginning his tenure in 2013. Under his leadership, the club has won three consecutive AL Central titles, the AL pennant in '16 and appeared in the postseason four times. Francona ranks sixth in managerial wins in the 119-year history of the franchise, while his .562 winning percentage is third best in club history.
“I think because of the way I'm treated, I think I'm allowed to be myself, which takes I think a lot of patience on other people's part, which I appreciate,” Francona said. “But I think it's made me better. I know it's made me a better person. … I don't think the guys above where I am get the credit that they deserve, because I know it starts with them and it trickles down, and we take our lead from them.”
Affectionately referred to as “Tito” after his late father, who was also a Major Leaguer, Francona began his managerial career in 1997 with Philadelphia after spending 10 seasons in the big leagues as a player (’81-90). He spent four years managing the Phillies and eight with the Red Sox, leading Boston to World Series championships in 2004 and ’07 before joining the Tribe in ’13.
Francona’s 1,576 wins rank second among active Major League managers. He has guided his clubs to 14 consecutive winning seasons, and he won the AL Manager of the Year Award in both 2013 and ’16. Francona has led his teams to at least 90 wins 10 times in his career (four times with the Indians), which is the most among active skippers.
“When we started our managerial search process in 2012, we really sought to find a leader that could help transform and elevate our organization,” Antonetti said. “[We wanted someone who could] really help establish a culture in which people thrive and someone who can help find ways to relentlessly push us to continue to get better, bring us together as an organization and partner with everyone in to create the best environment possible. We had exceedingly high expectations when we hired Tito, and the unbelievable thing is as high as those expectations were, he's gone on to exceed those every day.”