We miss him. We’re happy for him, but we miss him.
— Indians manager Terry Francona on Falvey before the Tribe-Twins series this week
Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona was behind the bench with the Boston Red Sox when they won the World Series, breaking the 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino in 2004. Minnesota Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey? The Lynn, Mass. native was attending Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
“We must have [talked about it], but I don’t really remember,” said Francona, 55, of the 33-year-old Falvey, who was an assistant general manager with Cleveland last year. “I know he’s young, but he never really … it didn’t ever come across that way. I always felt like I was with a peer, I really felt that way. To be that young and to pull that off, you have to be pretty special. But I think you can tell from the things I’m saying, he is. He’s very special.”
All of those things? Well, for about 10 minutes he lavished praise on Falvey from the visiting team’s dugout in Target Field. It’s the first time that the two will face off as members of opposing AL Central teams this season.
Nobody here liked him. Nobody here misses him
“I would say, with the time at the end of the season, when I knew I had the job here and was transitioning,” said Falvey, “what it afforded me the opportunity to do was really, genuinely appreciate the day to day that I have with those guys, and that comes back a little bit when you see everybody again for the first time.”
“I think they miss me, that feels good in some ways,” he added. “I might be wrong about that. Maybe they were glad to kick me out the door.”
“I’m trying to think of how to say this: Nobody here liked him. Nobody here misses him,” said Francona in jest. “It’s hard to talk to him, everybody wanted to say hello to him, which speaks volumes of him, and he’s one of all our favorites. It’s not just mine, he found a way to connect with everybody here. Whether it was in the office or with players or coaches, he crossed over every line there was. He was a favorite.”
Francona said that while Falvey was a young rising star in the Indians organization, he was willing to do the small things. Early on Francona was interviewing pitching coaches, something that he says “isn’t real second-nature to him,” and Falvey, a college pitcher with expertise in the craft, volunteered to take notes and help him with the process.
“That was really the second time I’d met him,” said Francona. “We just kinda hit it off that day. But when you get relationships that are that strong, they don’t happen overnight. But it started that day, and I think the glasses story, it’s funny but it’s indicative of D, there’s nothing that is beneath him. He’s part of the group.”
Falvey was also called upon to find glasses for Francona shortly after he was hired. He was still working for ESPN and was staying in a Marriott in downtown Cleveland before he went to Detroit to cover a World Series game and stepped on his glasses after they fell off his nightstand. It was the third day they knew each other, 7:15 a.m. and Francona couldn’t see.
Falvey found a glasses store and delivered the spectacles to Cleveland’s new manager. “We figured it out so he could see,” Falvey said with a laugh.
The Twins CBO says he sees Francona as a mentor. He regularly calls him, not only to speak baseball strategy, but for help as a parent and with other issues. In turn, Francona said that Falvey was a guy he went to when he was feeling down.
“When I had bad days, there were a lot of times I’d go to him. A lot of times. He knows that,” said the Cleveland manager. “Because even at such a young age, he had a very good way of looking at things, and kind of the voice of reason a lot of times.”
Falvey feels fortunate that Indians GM Chris Antonetti included him on many of the big picture conversations during his time in Cleveland, which prepared him for his current role with the Twins. In turn, he includes everyone from various front office people to former players — including Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins — in major decisions with the team like adding catcher Jason Castro in the offseason.
“What we realize is that everyone brings a different perspective to the conversation,” he said, “so whether it’s some of our scouts, our player development staff, guys like LaTroy, Torii, Cuddy — that group, they all bring different pieces of information to the conversation, and then it’s ultimately my job to and [senior VP and general manager] Thad [Levine]’s job to synthesize that and make the best decision we can. But I crave more and more information at every juncture, and so the more people we can involve, the better.”
Francona pointed out that Falvey invited Levine to his introductory press conference with the Twins. “I saw in his initial press conference, he did it with Thad, and I’ll bet you that was by design, because I don’t think D ever wants it to be about himself,” he said. “And even on a day when he gets probably the best job of his life, he includes somebody else in it. That is kinda how I would view Derek.”
Falvey said he has no regrets about leaving the Indians, a team that lost Game 7 of the World Series last year, and an organization with many of his supporters behind to join the Twins. “Never second thoughts,” he said. “I would say, with the time at the end of the season, when I knew I had the job here and was transitioning, what it afforded me the opportunity to do was really, genuinely appreciate the day to day that I have with those guys, and that comes back a little bit when you see everybody again for the first time.”
“We were really happy that the Twins people let him stay with us last year during our playoff run, because they didn’t really have to, and we weren’t gonna stand in his way,” said Francona. “But we didn’t know what we were gonna do without him, so it worked out pretty well.”
Throughout the 10 minutes he spoke to the media, Francona appeared to be pressing to offer Falvey all the praise he could. It was clear that a man over 20 years his junior had made an impression on the baseball lifer.
“You’re always looking for something nice to say,” said Francona, “but with him it’s easy.”