From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- Terry Francona is getting back with one of his baseball families.Francona, who guided the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, has been hired as manager of the Cleveland Indians, a team that collapsed in the second half this season after a promising first four months. The sides continued working Saturday night on the length of Francona's contract.The 53-year-old will be formally introduced as Cleveland's 42nd manager during a Monday news conference at Progressive Field."I'm really excited," Francona said on the air as an ESPN analyst, his job for the past season. "People who don't know me may have thought I was looking for something different."The Indians chose Francona over Sandy Alomar Jr., who served as the club's interim manager for the final six games after Manny Acta was fired on Sept. 27. Francona and Alomar, who spent the past three seasons as a coach in Cleveland, were the only candidates to interview for the Indians' opening.Alomar has been offered a spot on Francona's staff, most likely as bench coach.The Indians have always held a special place for Francona. After he was fired as Philadelphia's manager, he worked in Cleveland's front office as an adviser in 2001. He also spent a portion of the 1988 season on Cleveland's major league roster and his father, Tito, played with the Indians from 1959-64.Francona has stayed close with Indians president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti over the past decade. He said the chance to work with them again is what intrigued him most about the Cleveland job, which will have its challenges because of a much smaller payroll than he enjoyed in Boston."It's a good story, almost a family feeling," Francona said after his interview on Friday. "I don't think you can take a job because of that, but it still means a lot to me. Because of Chris and Mark and my relationship, I am excited to try to tackle, or attempt to tackle, every challenge that comes our way and do it together."There are some major challenges in Cleveland, where fans have been waiting for a World Series winner since 1948.The Indians were a major disappointment this season, going 68-94. They were within 3 1-2 games of first place on July 27, but went 5-24 in August -- the worst month in the franchise's 112-year history -- and finished 20 games out in the AL Central. Acta didn't get to finish his third season with the club."We have better talent than our record shows," Antonetti said earlier this week.With shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, second baseman Jason Kipnis, center fielder Michael Brantley and catcher Carlos Santana, the Indians have a solid core of young position players to build around. Cleveland's bullpen was the strength of the team this season, but All-Star closer Chris Perez caused distractions with his comments and actions.The Indians lacked a proven power hitter -- DH Travis Hafner was injured much of the season -- and it remains to be seen if Cleveland owner Paul Dolan will spend in free agency to add talent.Francona interviewed with the Indians one day after Alomar, a six-time All-Star catcher for Cleveland and fan favorite. Alomar managed the Indians to a 3-3 record after Acta was dismissed. Alomar will likely be courted by other teams seeking a manager. He interviewed with Boston last year before the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine.Francona spent eight seasons with the Red Sox but was not brought back after the club fell apart down the stretch in 2011. This season, Francona worked as a TV broadcaster and said it was while preparing for telecasts that he realized how much he missed managing and being around players."We appreciate Terry's great contributions to our baseball coverage and we wish him the best,"? ESPN said in a statement, adding Francona will appear as a guest analyst during the network's World Series coverage.Francona has managed for 12 seasons in the majors, compiling a 1,029-915 record."I played for Tito (Francona) and everybody knows his track record is a good one," said Indians pitcher Justin Masterson, who was with Francona in Boston for 2008-9.Antonetti said part of Francona's appeal was how he developed young players like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester as they came up through Boston's system."In addition to that, he's a great communicator and an accomplished leader," Antonetti said.
While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.
Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.
“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.
Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.
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Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.
The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.
“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen.
It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.
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Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.
“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”
There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.
LOS ANGELES -- The natural progression after a team such as the Wizards upsets the defending NBA champions on the first game of a five-game road trip and then play the lowly L.A. Lakers is to discuss the possibility of a letdown. Coach Scott Brooks hopes his insistence that all 82 games of the regular season schedule represent equal importance gets through.
The Wizards (45-28) are trying to hold off the No. 4 Toronto Raptors, who are just one game back of the No. 3 seed and have won the season series with Washington 2-1 to give them the tiebreaker should both end with the same record.
"I talk to the guys all the time is our job is 82 games. We got to focus, give ourselves the best chance to win by locking in on what we do. Any team can beat you in this league," Brooks said. "Theyr'e still pros. They still put points on the board."
In a 127-115 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, the Wizards dropped 40 first-quarter points. John Wall was 8-for-8 with 18 of his game-high 37 points.
With the second game of back-to-back on Wednesday vs. the L.A. Clippers, also at Staples Center, getting the Lakers put away early so the starters can recharge quicker.
“When we play with great energy in that first quarter we get a chance to win," Brooks said. "When we just don’t play at the pace we need to play at then the game seems like it takes forever. We have speed and athleticism and shooting. We want to be able to utilize that from the opening tip.”
The Lakers (21-52) have lost 15 of their last 17 games and don't look much like the team the Wizards beat 116-108 on Feb. 2 at Verizon Center.
They're playing for better draft lottery odds and have rested key veterans such as Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for the rest of the season.
The Wizards went 4-1 in their last five-game road trip, and if they can match that success they'll be in a good position to finish strong and reach the 50-win mark for the first time in four decades.