CLEVELAND – There are a lot of variables that go into structuring a World Series caliber roster.
Aside from the players themselves, the interconnected nature of the coaching staff and front office tends to play an integral role in the day-to-day operations of a franchise.
For the Indians and their magical run to the biggest stage in baseball in 2016, the impact of former assistant general manager Derek Falvey will always be remembered.
“He had a really special way of connecting with me and the coaches,” said manager Terry Francona on Friday. “He crossed over where you could impact everybody. And then as you get to know [Derek] though, I think he did it with everybody, not just with the coaches. He has a special way of communicating and connecting with people. I know with me and the coaches, he earned every bit of the trust and then took it and ran with it. He’s really special.”
Falvey took over as the Twins’ Head of Baseball Operations this past September after spending nine years with the Tribe in the scouting and baseball operations departments. His trip to Progressive Field on Friday was his first since taking on the elevated role in Minnesota.
“Well I asked Chris (Antonetti) if I could be in there when [the ring] was given to him,” Francona said. “I don’t know that [Derek] didn’t touch everybody here in one way or another. For a guy to get a job [of] that magnitude at age 34, you have to be pretty special.”
Not only did Falvey build relationships in Cleveland, but he also utilized analytics as a way to mold together one of the best pitching units in the major leagues. His communication with the coaching staff yielded a seamless transition for Francona once he signed with Cleveland in 2013.
“I’ve seen both where sometimes it works great, sometimes it works so-so and sometimes it’s like us against them,” said Francona in regards to the chemistry between his staff and the front office. “That was something when I came here, I never wanted to have. I wanted it to be us. But when you have people like Derek, “us” becomes a lot easier. When I came in here, I don’t think you just throw your trust into a 28-year-old kid. But after being here for a little while, you’re like, man it’d be silly not to and then it grows as you get to know him.”
That growth in trust has led Falvey to a challenging project with a Twins team that finished last in the 2016 AL Central Division ladder with a record of 59-103 (36.4% wins), their lowest winning percentage since 1957 when they scraped out a 55-99 mark (35.7% wins) and were named the Washington Senators.
If there is anyone up for the task of turning a club around, it’s Falvey.
“We all miss him – I mean we’re thrilled for him and that outweighs (it) – but we miss him a lot,” Francona said. “He’s not just a valuable person in the organization, but he was also our friend – and still is.”
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.