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.)

12 Comments

  • Cale says:

    Man, I hope you are correct, but I see it going to Farrell. The Red Sox had a bigger turnaround record-wise (28 game improvement), and were pretty much unanimously projected to finish last in the AL East after all the moves the Blue Jays made, NY and Bal coming off playoff appearances, and TB always hovering around 90 wins.

  • medfest says:

    I’d love to see Francons win,but honestly Farrell and Melvin deserve it too.Farrell will win it and it won’t even be that close.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Other than that SF team a few years ago that won the World Series with a bunch of scrap heap waiver pickups, I can’t think of any manager in the last 10 years who did more with less. The Indians have talent, but to turn that rotation of question marks into a stalwart, and win all the 1-run and extra inning games when your closer and setup man are both injured and ineffective, is amazing. Francona always seemed to push the right button and get the right guy in there at the right time. He coaxed a 1.000 OPS out of Ryan Raburn and .900 out of Yan Gomes by managing their playing time and matchups perfectly, and Giambi had so many game winning hits you almost forget he hit .180.

    • Cale says:

      I think the rotation arguement is a wash between Tito and Farrell. ERA decreases from 2012 to 2013 for the top of the rotations…

      Masterson: 4.93 > 3.45
      Jimenez: 5.40 > 3.30
      Kazmir: ??? > 4.04

      Lester: 4.82 > 3.75
      Lackey: 6.41 > 3.52
      Buchholz: 4.56 > 1.74 (granted, only 19 starts due to injury)

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      Recent teams that got more from less than the 2013 Indians: 2012 Orioles, 2012 A’s, 2010 Twins, 2009 Rockies, 2007 D’Backs, 2006 Tigers

      What Francona accomplished was nice, but hardly anything special. Teams overachieve like this every year. To say he’s in some sort of elite category because of what he did is kinda crazy. I’d like to see him win, but Farrell and Melvin are both deserving as well.

  • steve kozyk says:

    I think Francona lost more games than he won.He was more worried about Chris Perez and his feelings about himself than whether the team wins or loses a game.Francona cost Cleveland the division title.He is getting credit for an improved pitching staff that he had nothing to do with.

    • medfest says:

      So he gets the blame for Chris Perez pitching badly but he doesn’t get the credit for the rest of the pitching staff having a good season?

    • Peter says:

      Sorry Steve,I’m not buying this. What cost us the division title was losing 18 games(or how ever many) to Detroit. Finishing one game out was a statistical mirage. Detroit had it won the week before and laid down the last week of the season.

      But it was a fun ride, a freaking roller coaster ride, but fun.

  • Swift says:

    Francona won it! How about that!

  • Cale says:

    Glad to see I was wrong!