From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- Terry Francona is getting back with one of his baseball families.Francona, who guided the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, has been hired as manager of the Cleveland Indians, a team that collapsed in the second half this season after a promising first four months. The sides continued working Saturday night on the length of Francona's contract.The 53-year-old will be formally introduced as Cleveland's 42nd manager during a Monday news conference at Progressive Field."I'm really excited," Francona said on the air as an ESPN analyst, his job for the past season. "People who don't know me may have thought I was looking for something different."The Indians chose Francona over Sandy Alomar Jr., who served as the club's interim manager for the final six games after Manny Acta was fired on Sept. 27. Francona and Alomar, who spent the past three seasons as a coach in Cleveland, were the only candidates to interview for the Indians' opening.Alomar has been offered a spot on Francona's staff, most likely as bench coach.The Indians have always held a special place for Francona. After he was fired as Philadelphia's manager, he worked in Cleveland's front office as an adviser in 2001. He also spent a portion of the 1988 season on Cleveland's major league roster and his father, Tito, played with the Indians from 1959-64.Francona has stayed close with Indians president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti over the past decade. He said the chance to work with them again is what intrigued him most about the Cleveland job, which will have its challenges because of a much smaller payroll than he enjoyed in Boston."It's a good story, almost a family feeling," Francona said after his interview on Friday. "I don't think you can take a job because of that, but it still means a lot to me. Because of Chris and Mark and my relationship, I am excited to try to tackle, or attempt to tackle, every challenge that comes our way and do it together."There are some major challenges in Cleveland, where fans have been waiting for a World Series winner since 1948.The Indians were a major disappointment this season, going 68-94. They were within 3 1-2 games of first place on July 27, but went 5-24 in August -- the worst month in the franchise's 112-year history -- and finished 20 games out in the AL Central. Acta didn't get to finish his third season with the club."We have better talent than our record shows," Antonetti said earlier this week.With shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, second baseman Jason Kipnis, center fielder Michael Brantley and catcher Carlos Santana, the Indians have a solid core of young position players to build around. Cleveland's bullpen was the strength of the team this season, but All-Star closer Chris Perez caused distractions with his comments and actions.The Indians lacked a proven power hitter -- DH Travis Hafner was injured much of the season -- and it remains to be seen if Cleveland owner Paul Dolan will spend in free agency to add talent.Francona interviewed with the Indians one day after Alomar, a six-time All-Star catcher for Cleveland and fan favorite. Alomar managed the Indians to a 3-3 record after Acta was dismissed. Alomar will likely be courted by other teams seeking a manager. He interviewed with Boston last year before the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine.Francona spent eight seasons with the Red Sox but was not brought back after the club fell apart down the stretch in 2011. This season, Francona worked as a TV broadcaster and said it was while preparing for telecasts that he realized how much he missed managing and being around players."We appreciate Terry's great contributions to our baseball coverage and we wish him the best,"? ESPN said in a statement, adding Francona will appear as a guest analyst during the network's World Series coverage.Francona has managed for 12 seasons in the majors, compiling a 1,029-915 record."I played for Tito (Francona) and everybody knows his track record is a good one," said Indians pitcher Justin Masterson, who was with Francona in Boston for 2008-9.Antonetti said part of Francona's appeal was how he developed young players like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester as they came up through Boston's system."In addition to that, he's a great communicator and an accomplished leader," Antonetti said.
After four wins in a row, Rex Ryan’s employment status had been taken off life support in Buffalo and was -- almost -- good as new.
But a Sunday toe-stub in Miami in which Buffalo suffered a 28-25 loss to the Dolphins set the Bills back a bit. Now, instead of hosting the Patriots this Sunday with a chance to secure a season sweep and move into a first-place tie in the AFC East, Buffalo’s back there at 4-3 just trying to get close.
“Sure we have to learn from things, there’s no question about it, but the more we dwell on (the loss to Miami), it doesn’t help us. We’ve got a bigger task in front of us,” said Ryan.
There is a myriad of differences between Ryan and Bill Belichick but one of the starkest is Ryan’s inability to treat ‘em all the same.
While Belichick will acknowledge that some games carry more import than others -- division games, conference games, etc -- he’s not going to allow his team to poke its head up and look down the road at what’s coming next.
Ryan lets it all hang right out there.
“I don’t know how much more important it could be than this one,” Ryan said when asked about Sunday’s matchup with the 6-1 Pats. “I mean, I could lie to you and say that it’s not important, but yeah, this is a critical game for us. There’s no doubt about it. Does it break your season if you lose? I hope I don’t have to worry about that. We’ve got to find a way to win this game.”
The Bills reveled modestly after their 16-0 win at Foxboro when Jacoby Brissett scuffled in the final week of Tom Brady’s suspension. The gloating was mild. Ryan acknowledged plainly that shutting out the Patriots without Brady wasn’t really shutting out the Patriots.
But there’s no question that game at the start of this month was one the Bills approached with a helluva lot more swagger than normal. The “Where’s your big brother now?” vibe of the pregame scuffle in which the Bills jostled rookies Brissett and Malcolm Mitchell as the two players took the same sideline jog Brady and the Patriots quarterbacks have done at Gillette for a decade set the tone.
And then the Bills went out and had their way. Asked about that scuffle, which resulted in fines for some Jets players, Ryan said, “Well, these two teams don’t like each other. There’s no question about that, but I don’t think there was a real fight, you know? A real fight would be outside in the parking lot. You know what I mean? Then you’ve really got something to write about, but that thing was hardly a fight, I think.”
The blanking and the bullying may be talking points in Foxboro this week but they probably won’t rallying cries. Odd as it sounds, the Patriots don’t merely compete against opponents when they play but measure the day’s success on how well they performed relative to perfection. You could see after the 11-point win in Pittsburgh that there was dissatisfaction on both sides of the ball with how things went.
That fact alone will make it an arduous week of practice as much as the reality that the Patriots are playing the team right behind them in the division.
Ryan knows it’s a much different team he’ll face Sunday.
“It’s not about validating ourselves,” he said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win. In regards to who we’re playing, you know, [Brady] looks great. He’s got those two great tight ends -- they’re big. They’ve still got [Julian] Edelman out there. They’ve got everybody they had out there last time, but they’ve got their player back. So we know the challenge in front of us.”
Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while having watched the Curious George Halloween special about eight times over the last three or four days thanks to my three-year-old son.
*Alex Radulov is earning some early respect for his play from his Habs teammates and the fickle Canadiens fans, but let’s see how the whole season plays out for the notoriously combustible Russian winger.
*Zach Werenski has taken an early lead among his NHL rookie peers for the Calder Trophy, but it looks like it’s going to be a crowded field this year. Just a couple of weeks in, Brandon Carlo certainly looks like he could be in the conversation as well.
*A more mature David Perron is having greater success the second time around with the St. Louis Blues while contributing in many different areas.
*For something completely different: a really fun story of a Hollywood Reporter contributor recording the reactions of her 7-year-old son watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time. I was around the same age when Empire came out, so I’m sure my reactions were pretty similar to his at different points in the movie.