Reporting Matt Loede
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) - It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for the Indians since the disappointing 2012 season ended, as the team already has hired a new manager, and now will start to look forward into making 2013 better.
One man that has a lot to do with trying to get the team better is team President Mark Shapiro, who on Monday spent a few minutes with “Cleveland’s Talking Heads” on 92.3 The Fan.
Shapiro spoke about the teams recent decision to hire Terry Francona, passing over Sandy Alomar Jr., who most think would land the job. Shapiro says the history that he, GM Chris Antonetti and Francona have went a long way into the hire.
“The relationship part is always good because respect and trust are always good when collaborating and getting the most dynamic possible,” Shapiro said. “The reality is the manager looks at the game different from the front office does, he watches the game from different vantage points, he feels a different set of emotions, as he watches it, so having that underlying respect and trust is important.”
Francona brings two World Series rings and a wealth of Major League knowledge from being a manager with the Phillies and there’s another key according to Shapiro – his ability to talk to players.
“The base of what he does is built around his ability to communicate,” Shapiro said. “I think that has a chance to make an impact here.”
The new manager will bring a new look to the Indians in 2013, as the Indians are hoping that Francona can energize a team that last season underperformed greatly in the second half.
Shapiro feels that coming from the outside looking in is a good thing for the Indians.
“The guy has been around the game, was a baseball kid growing up, he’s been in different organizations, has a whole different set of experiences,” Shapiro said. “He brings that diversity of thought to the equation here, there are things that are a huge plus for him.”
As for Alomar, he has been offered a bench coaching position on Francona’s staff, and while he hasn’t made up his mind, there’s no doubt it would be a great fit for the Indians to still have him around.
Shapiro said that he knew the organization could not go wrong with the manager they picked, and he felt they were in a great spot with either man.
“We were very fortunate to have two guys we thought were excellent,” Shapiro said. “Terry’s vision of the way he wanted to manage, his set of experiences, and his clear ability of what he wanted to do with this team was a little more crystal clear, it was a very difficult decision, and it was difficult in the right way.”
So where do the Indians begin when it comes to getting better in 2013? The issues of 2012 clearly started with a pitching staff that was terrible in their decline of the second half.
Shapiro says he knows the club must go out and find a way to improve in that area.
“The challenge for us really centers around the pitching, I think the position players are a lot better than they played last year, and will be ok in that area,” Shapiro said. “The question is how do we get the pitching from where it is now to being a contending team, that takes development.”
As for doing it with a small payroll? That’s another story, and one that Shapiro has had to hear about from fans for the past few seasons. The Indians President is aware daily of the fact of being in a mid-market doesn’t mean you can’t win.
“I think it’s highly possible for us to win, I think what we hear from our fans is they want us to sustain it, that is extremely challenging,” Shapiro said. “It is time for us to win, we need to win, we did recently have seasons that were 93 and 96 wins, we need to string them together again.
“The challenge I think about winning with a small payroll is not there, the challenge is sustaining it, and that is a significant challenge.”
A challenge the fans want to see overcome starting with Francona in 2013.