CHICAGO -- There is no two ways about it. The Cleveland Indians love playing for manager Terry Francona.
Known for his vehement passion when it comes to defending his players, Francona has always been supported by those in his command, and they have full trust in him, especially after he has led the organization back to the World Series for the first time in 19 years.
“Tito's just so genuine,” Indians infielder Mike Napoli said. “Everything that comes out of his mouth, he means. He wants you to do well. All he wants to do is talk about you, brag about you. You know, you come in, and I mean, I play Cribbage with him every day. I just got done playing with him before I came here.
“You can go into the office and talk to him about anything. It's not just baseball, life and whatever's going on. He makes you feel really comfortable. He gets the best out of everybody. Me coming into this year, I got to talk to (Dustin) Pedroia about him a lot, so there was a high ceiling already, and it definitely exceeded what I heard about him.”
Unfortunately, for the Indians, there was one uncomfortable conversation with Francona prior to Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, and it was regarding their second starting pitcher, Trevor Bauer.
Bauer suffered a laceration to the pinkie finger on his throwing hand while doing “routine maintenance” on his drone prior to Game 1, and because the wound took 10 stitches to close, the Indians bumped him back in the rotation.
Despite pushing him back to Game 3 of the ALCS, Bauer lasted just two-thirds of an inning when bleeding from his cut could not be stopped.
“He's the same guy every day, no matter what the situation, where we're at, who we're playing, whether or not Trevor Bauer,” closer Cody Allen said. “He's the same guy every day. You'll probably find him in his office playing cards with some of the players. Thirty minutes before the game, the clinching game in Toronto, he's in there trying to win money from guys playing cards.
“He's very loose, you know, but you know exactly what you're going to get out of him every, single day. So it's a pleasure to be around him.”
Reliever Andrew Miller added, “He is who he is, and that is -- everything, in a sense, can be turned into a joke, despite whatever moment it may be. I think a lot of times, he probably uses it as an icebreaker in a sense or a way to relax guys. He's got such good people skills. He's just trying to push buttons and that's a pretty popular one of his to go after.”
To second-year shortstop Francisco Lindor, what makes Francona special is the fact that he does not try to change who his players are as people while tweaking their play on the field.
“Since day one, he has let me be me,” Lindor said. “He has never told me to be someone different or to be how he wants me to be. He emphasized day one when I got called up, he said, ‘I want you to be yourself, but at the same time, respect everyone here. The only way you're going to earn respect from your teammates and everybody around is if you show them that you want to win and you play hard.’
“And that's exactly what I'm doing. I want to make sure I earn my respect with my teammates. I want to win, and that's why I go all out. I try to do whatever it takes to make sure at the end of the day, we end up with the victory.”