Thank you, Tito.
Inspirational. Practical. Smart. Adaptable. A Role Model.
Those are the first words that come to mind when I think of Cleveland Guardians manager Terry "Tito" Francona, who will be retiring at the end of this season after 11 seasons with the Guardians/Indians.
As Terry Pluto in Cleveland.com pointed out, only the Dodgers (.613), Yankees (.565) and Cardinals (.559) have a higher winning percentage than the Guardians under Francona (.557). It's been a wonderful run of baseball for Cleveland fans, and it's bit disconcerting to see the 64-year-old retire.
Tito will be in the Hall of Fame as a manager. In his first year as manager for the Boston Red Sox in 2004, he helped break the Sox's 86-year-old championship as they won the World Series. They had come back from an 0-3 deficit in the ALCS to beat the Yankees, and then the Red Sox won the World Series again in 2007.
Our Cleveland Indians got the Worlds Series in 2016 under Tito, had a 3-1 lead over the Cubs, but couldn't seal the deal. I didn't fault Tito at the time because he was an absolute magician getting them that far. In fact, he probably was the main reason they were there in the first place.
In 2016, Tribe fans had the attitude that it was a surprise we were there and we were ecstatic for that. Plus, LeBron had just lifted our own curse with the Cavs' championship. Tito seems to often have his hand with lifting curses as the Cubbies won for the first time in 108 years.
A baseball season is like life or teaching. It's a long grind. There are constant decisions. We get up and down, and, at the end of the day, we're only in charge of so much.
Although I never met Tito and am just a fan, it appears that he connects with his players. He makes decisions to the best of his ability, and players and fans have total trust in him. It happens. But it's rare that he makes a blunder. He has been a major asset to the Tribe and Northeast Ohio. He even rides a scooter from his downtown apartment to the games: