Terry Francona reminds me of a good boss I once had.
I worked in a shipping office for a wholesale nursery. Our boss, Jim, was a man who wasn't afraid to yell, who took our job seriously but not life, overall, too seriously, and who used colorful language freely. Why was Jim a great boss? Jim always had our backs. If something ever went wrong, Jim never threw any of us under the bus to his superiors. He always took full responsibility on himself.
Once I tagged a whole flat of plants with the wrong tags. I came into the shipping office sheepishly, and looked at Jim. He looked back at me and said, "Had a bad day, huh?"
My parents had told me that previous night they were getting a divorce and I was realizing my girlfriend at the time wasn't serious about our relationship. Jim didn't know any of that. But, he was a good enough judge of people to see I wasn't irresponsible or lazy... I was just having a bad day. And in that moment, I knew I would give Jim 100% every day I worked at that company.
I am as far away from a major league baseball player as any human being can be, but I do feel like I have a sense of why Tito is a great manager. It isn't because he's a math whiz - he isn't anti-analytics, but he's not making decisions off of spreadsheets. It isn't because he's a brilliant strategist - he loves defense and "moving the runner" just a LITTLE too much, but he knows not to bail on a talented player because of a rough stretch. It isn't because he never makes a mistake - it is because Tito never gives up on his guys.
Now, this can get him in trouble. We'd be remiss not to mention the Mickey Callaway situation. Tito was loyal to a fault. We're all faulty people, and Tito would admit that, but I do hope the organization has done all it can to make it a safe and healthy place for women to work in and around since the sordid Callaway days.
But, we don't have to indulge in hagiography to appreciate Tito. My boss wasn't perfect, nor would he claim to be. What he was was committed to always getting better, always learning how better to meet our organizational goals while being unfailingly fair and loyal to his guys. I think that's Tito's mindset.
Since the numerous times Francisco Lindor tried to sacrifice bunt in 2018, I've privately questioned if Tito was the right choice, from time to time. Every time, I realized that he very likely was because the guys he coaches would die for him if he asked him to do so. When the 162 game season is beating them to a pulp, Guardians players generally won't give half-hearted efforts because they know that Tito believes in them and has probably put himself on the line to stand up for them- likely numerous times.
Props to Jim! Props to Tito! I'll always remember his incredible bullpen management in the playoffs, the way that guys blossomed into leaders under him, and his hilarious stories and one-liners that help people find perspective on the game through humor. Tito is as good as it gets.
I'm excited to see whom the Guardians hire next, but in the meantime, I'm going to spend a little time remembering a guy I am 100% convinced was the best manager the Cleveland baseball franchise has seen yet. I'll read and listen to Zack Meisel and read Tim Kurkijan on Tito's legacy. I'll laugh at his jokes and his giving Triston McKenzie a hooded sweatshirt wedgie after every win. I appreciate your leadership, Tito! Good luck in the next stage of life, get healthy and have fun.