CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – While the Cleveland Indians were in the midst of their American League record 22-game winning streak, Manager Terry Francona did not pay it much mind. Five months after the fact, he not only has seen the value of the accomplishment, it seems to be fueling his drive for more.
The streak garnered the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission’s Moment of the Year Award at the 18th Greater Cleveland Sports Award. When he stepped out to receive the award, Francona promised fans a better ending than what followed their regular season run.
“After the sting of losing to the Yankees, in 28 days I can guarantee we’re coming back with a vengeance,” he said, counting down until the start of Spring Training.
At the time of the streak, the two-time World Series Champion was almost defiant in his refusal to acknowledge what was happening, and for good reason.
With their division seemingly in hand, the order in which the 22 wins came did nothing to help the Indians, while the focus on the accomplishment could only distract from the bigger goal. A goal that wound up escaping them.
It took until four weeks removed from the 2018 campaign for Francona to put what had happened in perspective. Ever focused on the task at hand, it took the fans’ perspective to shift his own outlook.
“I honestly didn’t realize at the time what it meant to people,” he said. “When I got back to Tucson this winter, more people were like, ‘Wow, it was amazing. I stopped what I was doing when you guys got to like 15.’ It was pretty cool to hear that, because when you’re living it, you heard me every day, it was like, ‘We’re going to turn the page and move on.’ And we’d do that pretty good. So, I don’t know that I took the time to maybe enjoy it as much as I should have. When you look back on it, it’s pretty special.”
That excitement was encapsulated by the award Francona received on behalf of his team, the final award of the night.
When the awards were all handed out, the past officially became the past, and the view turned forward to the campaign all involved in Cleveland baseball hope will be a rebound from the stunning ALDS loss to the New York Yankees.
With five big names from the 2017 roster out the door, the shouts of contention windows closing have drowned out the whimsical tales of August 24th through September 15th, 2017.
Francona was of course asked to address an offseason of mostly attrition thus far, but was quick to point to there still being more road ahead.
“I mean, we’ve lost some pretty good players. We’ve lost Santana and Bryan Shaw. Jay Bruce signed with the Mets,” he said. “We signed Yonder, which will certainly help us at first base. There’s still some of the winter to go. We have some bullpen innings to replace. Losing Bryan Shaw, you almost need a pitcher and a half.
“So, we’re not done yet. But, we’re still a team that won 102 games, so I think we’re in pretty good shape.”