Terry Francona just completed his 12th consecutive winning season as a big league manager — eight in Boston and four in Cleveland.
With the announcement that John Mozeliak is going to meet with Mike Matheny and start talks about a possible contract extension and all that goes with making that kind of announcement. Several in Cardinal Nation have made reference that things could have been much different if the Cardinals had just chosen a different manager back in 2012.
Terry Francona did interview with the Cardinals. It was right after the Red Sox imploded with fried chicken and boozing during games. Terry Francona was the sacrificial lamb.
No one had ever doubted that Francona was a good manager. He had survived and thrive in Boston which is not easy to do. However, there were questions at the time questioning how could Francona let things get so far out of control. Was Francona too much of a player’s manager?
It seems that Terry Francona was never a serious contender. If I remember correctly John Mozeliak was wanting to have someone who had an attachment to the Cardinals.
That has proven to be a mistake that Mozeliak and DeWitt are going to give an extension to.
In my opinion, the one issue that is holding the Cardinals back is the lack of integration of the front office and the field staff. It just hasn’t happened. Matheny ignores data. Matheny ignores organizational goals.
If you are asking well how would that work?
Matheny should use Francona as a role model.
Cleveland.com posted the following:
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Terry Francona said there are times when he asks Sky Andrecheck a question that makes the Indians’ senior director of baseball research and development want to run around the room screaming.
Sometimes the Indians manager is serious; sometimes he’s just trying to add fuel to the conversation.
The Indians are deep into analytics, have been for a long time. How deep? Well, Keith Woolner, a member of the department, has the title of “principal data scientist, baseball analytics.” That sounds deep.
Chris Antonetti, Indians president of baseball operations, is right there as well.
“I’ve said some stupid things in those meetings and Chris just lets it roll off him,” said Francona with a laugh. “He knows two days later I’ll come to my senses.”
Francona always says Antonetti is the smartest guy in the room, he just doesn’t show it. Well, Francona goes about managing the same way – and it has led the Indians to four straight winning seasons, highlighted by this year’s AL Central title.
It was the Indians’ first division title since 2007 and gave Francona 12 consecutive winning seasons in the big leagues.
When Francona was hired to manage the Phillies in 1997, he wrote the batter-pitcher matchups on the back of his lineup card for every game.
“I didn’t have a computer, and when somebody made a lineup change it was like, ‘Oh, man,’ ” said Francona with a laugh.
“I didn’t know the word sabermetric then, but I was probably trying to figure it out – OK, it just doesn’t have to be left-on-left all the time. This guy is hitting .380 against lefties, but the people in the upper deck might be second guessing you. But it’s probably not the right thing to do (to let a left-handed pitcher face a left-handed batter who is hitting .380 against lefties).”
Francona received a computer in 2003 as Oakland’s bench coach. In 2004, he was named manager of the Red Sox and got another computer. He’s been papering parts of his dugout wall game-in-and-game-out with printouts, matchups and other pertinent information ever since.
Does that make Francona, 57, a New Wave manager? Somebody who runs a game strictly by the numbers instead of his gut or emotions? Hardly, but Francona has taken what works for him from baseball’s analytical revolution.
“I’ve always tried to learn as I go,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re missing the boat.”
It was Francona’s idea to move Carlos Santana from the middle of the lineup to the leadoff spot against right-handed pitching. The analytics people weren’t sure. Francona was taking a power hitter out of the middle of the lineup and letting him hit at least once a game with no one on base.
The move worked as Santana hit .260 (85-for-327) with 19 homers, 41 RBI and .886 OPS as a leadoff hitter. Overall, Santana hit a career-high 34 homers.
But what Francona does best is manage players. He does it by talking to them.
“Tito is the total package,” said reliever Andrew Miller. “It’s his ability to communicate with anybody. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pitcher or position player, he has the ability to put players in a position to succeed.
“Cleveland brought him here for a reason. He’s backed it up.”
In a game against the Phillies on April 29, Francona used closer Cody Allen in the 10th inning with the score tied, 3-3. Using your closer on the road in a tie game is always a dicey situation for a manager. Allen grinded through six batters in the 10th, but ended the inning with the score still tied.
Francona sent Allen out for the 11th and he allowed a game-winning, lead-off homer to Ryan Howard on a 3-2 pitch. More than five months later, Francona was still kicking himself for that.
But he said that one mistake turned into something good.
“It spurred me to sit down and talk to Cody, (Corey) Kluber and (Josh) Tomlin,” said Francona. “I said, ‘Hey, man, we’ve been together four years now. We need to have our communication be so much better. That needs to be one of our advantages.’
“And it was because I messed up. But, we turned it into something better, and it has helped.”
Said Allen, “I didn’t communicate certain things properly. We talked the next day and we came to the conclusion that in order for us to be good, and for each individual guy in the bullpen to be at their best, we need to communicate.
“That was a fault on my end. That’s one thing Tito is so good at. He communicates so well with his players. Especially when it comes to managing a bullpen – you have to be able to communicate with guys, and he does an unbelievable job.”
Antonetti and the rest of the front office have given Francona one of MLB’s most versatile lineups. Indians batters enjoyed the platoon advantage this season 70 percent of the time to lead the big leagues. Tribe pitchers enjoyed it 54 percent of the time, tying Atlanta for the first in the big leagues.
Francona has juggled platoons at the three outfield positions and for part of the season at third base. There were several times in September that he had five switch hitters in the lineup.
Stress factor? What stress factor?
“When you’re getting cooperation and people are kind of selfless, where they’re willing to do this to make it work, it’s actually pretty fun,” said Francona.
It has been the same story in the bullpen where Francona has taken Miller, one of baseball’s top relievers, and used him in a variety of late-inning roles in conjunction, while still respecting the tenure and work of Bryan Shaw and Allen.
“Tito is a master at it,” said Antonetti. “He really understands people. He builds relationships. He creates connections. He has the right balance of providing a professional prepared group, but also having fun doing it.
“If there’s anybody better, I’m not sure I’ve been around him.”
We have never read a post like this when referring to Mike Matheny’s management and relationship with the front office. Mozeliak needs to make this happen.
If Matheny is going to be extended this has to happen. The Cardinals will not be a serious contender for a World Series victory until it does.