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The Sportsman of the Day
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“Would it be newsworthy for the fans,” two Indians’ reporters asked me as they debated at the Tribe game Tuesday night, “to report that a highly placed source with the Indians said Terry Francona was the front-runner for the managers’ job heading into the interviews? Or is that pretty much common knowledge for everybody?”
“Common knowledge?” I responded. “Absolutely not! In fact, I think there’s a high percentage of Indians’ fans who automatically assume that Sandy is getting the job. He’s cheaper and the fans love him because of his connection to the ‘90s.”
Judging from social media activity and talk radio calls received, I’m right.
A great number of fans in this town would rather see the beloved Alomar have the “interim” tag removed from his title manager than see Francona, the former Red Sox skipper, take over in Cleveland.
I’m just not one of them.
While I have nothing against Alomar, who may indeed go on to a successful career as a big-league manager, I believe it would be foolish to select a man who has precisely one week of managerial experience over a guy with two world championship rings on his fingers.
The dissenters argue, naturally, that Francona had an easy path to those rings due to the huge payroll and high-priced talent he had to work with in Boston. Anyone can win with those resources, they argue.
Those dissenters are wrong.
There’s no doubt that a $170 million payroll, funded by radio and television revenues that can only be generated in the largest United Sates markets, makes it easier to compete year in and year out. But just having big-money talent doesn’t guarantee anything in this game. Ask Bobby Valentine.
Francona’s successor in Boston was handed $173 million worth of players this season, and the Red Sox are a last-place club.
The Phillies have a $175 million payroll this season, and they’re a .500 baseball club.
The Angels spent $154 million this season after adding the ridiculous contracts of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and they didn’t make the playoffs.
In other words, high payrolls don’t guarantee championships, but Terry Francona has won two of them.
Let us not discount the fact that, unlike many A-List free agent players, Francona is an A-List free agent manager who is interested in coming to Cleveland. Who knows, maybe the sight of the highly respected Francona with a Wahoo on his cap could even entice top-flight free agents who would have never considered Cleveland to take a second look.
If Larry Dolan ever felt compelled to open his wallet and dig deep for his ball club, that time should be now. Give the reigns to a proven winner for a change, rather than to a perceived up-and-comer.
The front office shook up the clubhouse Sept. 27 when they fired Manny Acta. Now let them shake up the entire franchise and hire a true champion to take his place.
And now, like a perfectly placed pass ricocheting off the hands of Greg Little, let’s go here, there, and everywhere …
• • •
Precisely what, again, did the Browns’ front office do to improve the receiving corps this offseason? Greg Little lost weight but still can’t catch. Mohammed Massaquoi is still a No. 2 guy and is still dealing with injuries. Jordan Norwood is lucky to be on an NFL roster. Travis Benjamin has talent and speed, but is afraid of contact. And Josh Gordon still isn’t sure where he is. Like Colt McCoy before him, Brandon Weeden deserves, and needs, better.
• • •
I’ve been a supporter of the outspoken Chris Perez for most of the season, but his parting shot at Manny Acta on Tuesday was below the belt. Perez declared that a lot of the Indians’ problems “walked out the door” last week, when the Tribe fired their manager. Acta, Perez determined, didn’t show enough fire nor make enough speeches to his club when the chips were down. True or not, there was no need for Perez to kick a man who displayed nothing but class throughout his tenure, and who personally stood up for him during his many off-field controversies this season, when he’s down. Perez says he wants to stay in Cleveland, but whether or not Cleveland wants him around is an unanswered question right now.
• • •
We here in Cleveland often refer to “OIC” moments, referring to unbelievably negative events in sports that usually happen “Only In Cleveland.” Well, the White Sox had a three-game lead over the Tigers two weeks ago, before losing eight straight and 10 of 12 to lose the division. Sure, Sox fans, you can borrow the phrase for a while. OIC: “Only In Chicago.”
• • •
It’s been 45 years since someone won the Triple Crown in the American League. That means it’s pretty tough to do. No offense to Mike Trout, but if the guy who just did it, in the middle of the lineup for a division champion, doesn’t get the AL MVP award, then they should stop giving it out.
• • •
Panthers’ QB Cam Newton has struggled in his sophomore season, leading to some criticism in North Carolina, which has in turn led to allegations of racism for criticizing a black QB. If criticism automatically equals racism, thank goodness Jay Cutler and Tony Romo aren’t ethnic minorities. It would be 1963 all over again.
• • •
Am I supposed to be happy for the low-payroll Orioles and A’s for making the playoffs and proving you can win without overspending, or disgusted that the Indians can’t seem to do the same thing?
• • •
The NBA has officially adopted an “anti-flopping” policy, which fines players for intentional flops designed to fool the referee into thinking he had been fouled. Upon learning the news, Anderson Varejao fell to the floor.