CLEVELAND -- Money never came up.
Well it came up in the brief negotiations about his salary, but new Indians manager Terry Francona said he never asked if the Indians would commit to spending more money on players, or if the payroll would increase.
I dont want to say its none of my business, Francona said Monday morning at his introductory news conference. But that wasnt one of the questions. I dont need to be the GM or the owner.
What Francona wants to be is the guy who guides the team on the field.
And what he really wants is work with Indians president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti.
I didnt come here to go to pasture, Francona said. I was either gonna work here or go back and work at ESPN (as an analyst). I came here because Im not afraid of a challenge, and (because of) the people here that Im doing it with.
Francona respects Shapiro and Antonetti so much that he said he knew he wanted the job the second he took Antonettis call about succeeding Manny Acta.
But the world in which he now resides is far different from the last one he left. As manager of Boston, Francona won two World Series titles with two of the largest payrolls in baseball.
In 2003 the Red Sox opening day payroll ranked sixth at 99.9 million. In 2007, it was 143 million, which ranked second. In Franconas last season in Boston, the payroll was 163 million.
The Indians highest opening day payroll since Francona won his first World Series was 81.6 million in 2009, and its average was 57.9 million.
Bostons lowest in the same time: 99.9 million.
Consider the teams that advance in the playoffs and the challenge for Francona seems even more daunting.
Since 2003, the average opening day payroll of the four teams that reached the League Championship Series is 102.5 million. Since 2008, 14 of the 16 teams that reached the championship series had payrolls higher than the Indians peak since 03.Thirteen of the 16 had payrolls higher than 90 million.
But Francona shrugs it off -- almost as if he ignores the payroll numbers.
Thats not something I spend a whole lot of energy on, he said. My job is to get the players that we have to play to the utmost of their ability, and even beyond that to care about each other on the field, fiercely. And start building some loyalty. If we do that, if we get our team to play to the most of that ability, thats what were supposed to do.
Did he pay attention to payroll more in Boston when he had one of the leagues higher ones?
No, he said. Again, that wasnt my job. I know the payroll was a lot there. It wasnt limitless, but it was a lot. I understand that. But Ive also been in Philadelphia. I dont really care what players are making. What I want them to do is play the game right.
A higher payroll, he said, does allow you to cover up some of your mistakes, so the Indians have to limit mistakes. But clearly Francona believes a team like Cleveland can compete, and win, regardless of payroll. A guy with two World Series rings does not join a team like the Indians or a market like Cleveland if he doesnt have faith in himself and the people around him.
I would say Tampa has done it for years in the AL East, Francona said. Theyve gone toe to toe with Boston and New York. Theyre to be commended. They make great decisions. Oakland is doing it.
He also knows having a high payroll does not guarantee success.
Youre darn right it doesnt, he said. Itll make you an analyst.
Antonetti said Francona truly did not ask about the financials.
He understands the challenges, Antonetti said. Hes a very smart guy. Very humble, but very smart. He understands we have to build teams a little bit differently than they built them in Boston. But as he told you, that foundation starts with young players, scouting, player development and making sure (players are) improving at the major league level, that their development doesnt stop when they get here. Thats paramount for us to be successful.
We talked about that, but as for specific payrolls, and things like that, no.
Franconas response to the money talk?
According to Antonetti, it was to the point: Im all in.