Francona’s hiring this offseason generated plenty of buzz, and pieces have since fallen into place. The Indians signed Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, Jason Giambi and others, which seems to indicate that the Tribe are more focused on contending than they are on rebuilding.
Giambi is among those who think that Francona — known throughout his career as a players’ manager — is the perfect guy to turn around a team that lost 94 games last season.
“All those years I played for the Yankees, I always told [Francona], ‘One day, I’m going to play for you,'” Giambi told USA Today. “I always believed that. He’s really the dream manager everyone wants to play for.
“I mean, you saw what he did in Boston. We used to always beat those guys. But once he got there, he transformed that team.”
Giambi isn’t the only player in the Indians’ clubhouse excited about playing for Francona. Closer Chris Perez, who has often found himself in the doghouse for questioning the team’s direction, is actually trying to figure out why Francona chose the Indians in the first place.
“When I first heard he was coming, I didn’t believe it,” Perez reportedly said. “Why would somebody that pretty much could cherry-pick his next job come to us? We lost 94 games.”
The Indians certainly struggled in 2012, which seemed to only set the organization back even further. Now, there’s an expectation that the team could turn things around in 2013.
“If you go by our M.O., you figured they would tear it down, rebuild and start all over,” Perez reportedly said. “This winter was just the exact opposite. They finally got us players. They finally got us talent. None of this happens without Tito.”
Thanks to Francona, loftier expectations are in place in Cleveland. Now, it’s up to Tito and his group of players to live up to the hype.