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Indians add credibility by adding Francona

By Pat McManamon

Instant cred.

That’s what the Cleveland Indians gave their suffering fan base Saturday night when the team announced it would hire Terry Francona as its next manager (he will be introduced at a Monday news conference.)

This would be the same Francona who led Boston to an ALCS win over the Yankees after the Red Sox were down 3-0.

And the same Francona who managed Boston when it turned a 3-1 Indians lead in the ALCS into a 4-3 Boston win.

In both those years, Boston went on to win the World Series.

If Francona brings the same magic to Cleveland, they’ll name buildings after him.

How ironic that the only reason the Indians have hired Francona is because of the two guys fans have loved to start … disliking.

Were it not for Francona’s friendship with President Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti, there would be no managerial experience and no World Series rings walking into the Indians dugout. (Francona is the first manager ever hired by the Indians who has won a World Series.)

The Indians staggered to the finish so poorly last season that they knew they had to do something dramatic this offseason.

This qualifies as dramatic, and it prompted one season ticket holder to post on Twitter that Francona’s hiring would make her re-up when she was pondering canceling. The Indians hope a lot more folks share that attitude.

Francona does not bring players or a payroll with him, but he does bring managerial credibility and juice.

And perhaps the Indians believe that is what is needed. Perhaps they believe the team that was 50-49 after beating Justin Verlander can contend all season, but it needs the right guy to prod and/or lead them.

Antonetti said earlier this week that the Indians have more talent than the record showed. So perhaps they believe a different manager can make the same team better.

One advantage Francona will have is the Indians will $15-to-$17 million in salary to work with this offseason, assuming Travis Hafner ($13 M) and Grady Sizemore ($5 M) will not be back at close to their 2012 salaries — if they’re back at all.

Replacing them with the right guys — think left field and first base — might be easier with Francona in the dugout because he might attract a free agent, or two.

Yes, it’s a longshot.

The Indians climb is still uphill.

But the first step in the climb is surprising — and positive.

Now it’s time to get some players.

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