Francona well versed in adversity in championship series
CLEVELAND — If there is anyone who is well versed in managing through adversity in playoff series, it is Indians manager Terry Francona.
During his eight seasons in Boston, Francona led the Red Sox to two World Series championships but had to overcome deficits in the American League Championship Series both times.
Francona was asked before Sunday’s game against Baltimore if he can empathize or relate to Cavaliers coach David Blatt going into Sunday night’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Golden State won Game 1 in overtime on Thursday and the Cavs go into tonight’s game depleted again with Kyrie Irving lost for the remainder of the series.
"You have a responsibility to your team and what makes them go and how they tick," Francona said. "So much so in sports there is nothing more rewarding than fighting the odds and certainly with the Cavs they are fighting the odds. That gives players unbelievable motivation.
"You have motivation anyway but then you see people do extraordinary things and that’s why it is played on the court. If you look at the numbers it doesn’t look real good. I bet you it is far from over."
Francona remains the only manager in baseball history to steer a team back from a 3-0 series deficit as the Red Sox beat the Yankees in seven games in the 2004 ALCS. After Boston lost Game 3 19-8 at Fenway Park, Francona remembers getting pelted with debris while taking a golf cart to the interview room.
After the game, Francona talked to Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. Things appeared dire to the point that Francona didn’t know if Boston would be able to rally.
"We all had our ideas and I told him that I didn’t know if we could win the series but I know if we change the lineup we won’t," Francona said. "We stayed consistent and then one thing leads to another and I know how special it was.
"You have to be good, a little lucky and you have to take advantage of that. Every time someone won there has been a point where it can go the other way. It doesn’t ever look quite as easy."
Boston won games 4 and 5 in extra innings at Fenway Park before winning the final two at Yankee Stadium. In 2007, the Indians led the Red Sox 3-1 in the ALCS but Boston took the next four games. In both cases, the Red Sox would go on to sweep the World Series. No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA and it has happened three times in the NHL.
Said Francona on what a Cavaliers’ championship would mean: "I think it would be wonderful. I hope it happens when we’re at home so I can go. What do you think it would look like a 56-year old bald man jumping up and down with a LeBron jersey on?"
Unfortunately for Francona, the only time he would be able to catch a game is Thursday. The Indians have a day game against Seattle with Game 4 of the NBA Finals that night.