Skipper Francona betrayed by son as Angels defeat Indians
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Nick Francona stands in the tunnel at Angel Stadium just outside the Angels dugout and overlooking the batting cages while recalling a pivotal moment in the Halos’ 6-4 win over Cleveland the night prior.
Mike Scioscia won a challenge in the bottom of the fifth inning of a 2-0 game. Angels left fielder J.B. Shuck grounded into what would have been an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Scioscia challenged the ruling on the field. Erick Aybar was called out at second while the replay showed Shuck beat the throw to first.
That set the table for Howie Kendrick, two batters later, to come through with a two-out, two-RBI single to extend the team’s lead to 4-0.
Without the challenge, the Angels don’t score those runs.
In the background, there was Francona.
By now, you’ve seen just about every major-league manager look in the dugout for a thumbs up or a thumbs down to decide rather to go ahead with a challenge or not.
In Scioscia’s case he looks to Angels bench coach Dino Ebel for the signal. Ebel is on the phone with Francona, 28-year-old Marine who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan turned Angels coordinator of major-league player info.
Francona sits in a room where during games, at his fingertips, he can toggle through "12 to 14" different camera angles directly from the FOX Sports West TV truck. This is how he deciphers if he should give the Angels coaching staff the go ahead to challenge a play or not.
If the name sounds familiar, Francona is the son of Indians manager Terry Francona.
In a sense, Tuesday night, the younger Francona had the chance to stick it to his old man.
"It’s cool, I’ll take beating them regardless of how it happens," Francona said. "I’m not going to rub it in his face, but they can wait to win until they get out of here."
Father and son spoke Wednesday morning and Nick thought his dad was still "frustrated" about the challenge he didn’t win late in Tuesday’s game.
The Angels’ challenge, thanks in no small part to the younger Francona, was successful. With Francona’s efforts, Scioscia is converting challenges at a 60 percent clip, including Tuesday night’s eventual game changing effort in the bottom of the fifth inning.
"I thought that was, kind of, weak on his part," the elder Francona joked prior to Wednesday night’s game in Anaheim. "He may work for Scioscia, but he’s my son.
"I thought that was, kind of, (messed up), to be honest with you."