The Baseball Writers Association of America has thrown Terry Francona’s name into the hopper for the American League Manager of the Year award, along with Oakland’s Bob Melvin (himself a two-time winner with Arizona in 2007 and Oakland in 2012) and Boston’s John Farrell, who is fresh off of a World Series victory in his first season as their skipper.
Should Francona win, it will be his first managerial award. The fact that he hasn’t won the award yet in his career is mindblowing, considering he captained the “Idiot” Red Sox to their first two titles in generations. For my money, there is no one more deserving of the honor this year. This was a team that no one expected much from and was expected to be “a year away” for what seemed to be for all perpetuity. The analysts wondered why a “brand-name guy” of his stature would settle for the dregs of a small-market difficulties and challenges.
Maybe he was bored. Maybe he needed a “challenged” team to reinvigorate his brilliant baseball acumen after the Boston fishbowl started to spill over and shatter. Nobody thought he could make a winner out of a ragtag bunch that was made mostly out of retreads and castoffs; a franchise willfully incapable of splurging on the nine-figure free-agent du jour.
He was going to do it the old-fashioned way: Coaching ’em up and doing the little things and steering them gently through adversity both on the field and off of it. Add in a little luck with the unearthing of a future ace in Danny Salazar and career-saving returns from Ubaldo Jimenez (who was a revelation through the second half of the year) and Scott Kazmir. Naysayers point to a cushy September schedule to top it off, but it was the perfect stepping stone to being more than just a throwaway at the end of the late-night highlight shows. Regardless of how the Tribe got there, it still amounted to a 24-game improvement following a disheartening finish in 2012.
This is why Terry Francona should be an odds-on favorite to win the award: He did so much more with less. Even though the season ended with a disheartening crash, just getting to October was a feat in itself.
If Francona doesn’t win, they should just call it off from now on. There should be no debate.
11/12 EDIT: He won. He deserves a hearty pat on the back. The BWAA know where to look!
(In case you’re wondering, the National League’s finalists are Atlanta’s Fredi Gonzalez, Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle and Los Angeles’ Don Mattingly.)