“This is a clean slate for everybody,” said Francona. “Dealing with players is fun. Dealing with young players is really fun.”
Francona said the year working as a broadcaster has re-energized him. He acknowledged making mistakes during his final season in Boston as the Red Sox collapsed by going 7-20 in September and missed the playoffs. The pressure took its toll on Francona, forcing him to withdraw from the game and reflect “on what mattered to me.”
“To do this job and do it correctly, you’ve got to be all in all the time,” Francona said. “I was showing some signs of wear and tear. But I wouldn’t have interviewed here if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do.”
Francona has some simple goals for the Indians.
“We’re going to compete,” he said. “We’re always going to compete. We may not win every game, but we won’t back down from anyone.”
With Cleveland, Francona won’t enjoy the same hefty payroll he had with the Red Sox, who were able to add high-priced free agents to complement their stable of young talent. While some fans fixate on baseball’s economic imbalance, Francona said success and failure isn’t predicated on dollars spent.
“Tampa has done if for years in the American League East,” he said. “They’ve gone toe to toe with Boston and New York. Oakland is doing it. That’s not something I spend a whole lot of energy on. My job is to get the players that we have to play the utmost of their ability, and then even beyond that to care about each other on the field fiercely and start building loyalty.
“I don’t really care what players are making. What I want them to do is play the game right.”