CLEVELAND — Indians manager Terry Francona took some time to reiterate previous comments made regarding the potential name change to the franchise, saying the team can’t only make a statement if they don’t also live the words that were spoken.
The Indians on July 3 released a statement to The Athletic announcing they were open to having a discussion regarding a potential change with the franchise’s name. It came shortly after a similar announcement from the Washington Redskins of the NFL.
The Redskins on Monday announced that they would, in fact, be eliminating the name and logo of the franchise at some point. Following the Indians’ July 3 statement, Francona and several players in the following days spoke to positivity and were in support of the discussion to alter the team name.
Francona spoke on it again this week to clarify and reiterate some of his remarks.
“I said something about having mixed emotions, and I didn’t mean mixed emotions about them going with their name. I meant because of where we are right now,” Francona said via a Zoom call. “I hope that … I want to say this correctly. Nobody is more proud to represent the city of Cleveland or to work with the people I work with. I love them, and I think anybody who has spent five minutes with me knows that. I also don’t think it’s right to just say, ‘Well, we’re going to keep the status quo because that’s what we’ve always done.’ I’m of an age where I know just what we’ve always done isn’t appropriate all the time and being old enough to listen and try to learn even at an advanced age, we need to do and we need to be sincere.”
“We can’t just make a statement and say, ‘We made a great statement.’ We need to live it and I think we have the people in this organization, because I’m around them all the time, to lead in this area and not follow.”
Indians starter pitcher Mike Clevinger also shared some thoughts this week, pointing to another angle: historical accuracy.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Clevinger said via a Zoom call. “This is in fact the United States of America, if I’m not mistaken, and not India. So, it would just seem like it would be politically correct not to call us Indians if they’re not in fact from India, they were Native Americans.”
Francona added that the team will be having multiple meetings, one regarding the code of conduct needed to keep everyone healthy and another on social and racial issues. Indians outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. is one player who has spoken out on those issues already, as he recently shared some thoughts on Twitter and on Tuesday appeared in a Zoom call with reporters wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt. According to Francona, the team meetings will take place in the Home Plate Club, so the team can be outside and spaced out.
“One day is the code of conduct and then the next day is I think some of the diversity and racial issues, things that may be on players’ minds, things that we’d like to start the conversation about,” Francona said. “And, if it goes the way we hope, it wouldn’t just be a one-time meeting, that’s for sure. It would be the start of listening to everybody on our team and trying to attack this challenge like we always do, as a team and I think the best way to start that is by listening.”
Command and conquer
James Karinchak, the 24-year-old option for the Indians’ bullpen who put up the video game strikeout numbers in the minors last year, could find his way to a prominent role in 2020, though finding the strike zone has become his No. 1 focus.
Karinchak struggled with his command in an earlier summer camp outing but looked better on Tuesday night. His fastball-curveball combination has been called “nasty” by teammates. Throwing it all for enough strikes is one of the final steps. When asked about his velocity, hitting triple digits isn’t at the top of the list.
“Never got up to 100 yet. Hopefully I’m throwing strikes this year,” Karinchak said via Zoom.”One hundred is nice, it’s just hopefully limiting the walks.”
With Emmanuel Clase suspended for the 2020 season, there’s an extra potential opening in the Indians’ bullpen. Karinchak has the stuff to complement Brad Hand in the back-end of the bullpen, if he can reign in the command.
“You know what, I liked the fact tonight that he came out and attacked the strike zone,” said pitching coach Carl Willis Tuesday night. “Really felt like he had good life to his fastball, which he always does, but it was a little more controlled tonight and that allows his breaking ball to play. He had really good shape of that breaking ball tonight. So, there’s never a question of James’ stuff. It’s more a matter of it’s not even that he has to command it that well, but more so attack the strike zone and allow it to work. I thought he did a much better job of that tonight.”