Terry Francona’s uncanny managing in this postseason has put the Cleveland Indians within one game of the World Series. It’s also gotten some to look at his place in baseball history.
Had I voted for Manager of the Year this season, Francona would have been my choice. It would have been a close one because I thought Buck Showalter did arguably his best job as Orioles manager this season.
Before fans start screaming about the wild-card game, votes must be cast before postseason play begins.
There were other notable jobs. Boston’s John Farrell and Jeff Banister, last year’s winner with Texas, are likely to get some support.
So are Detroit’s Brad Ausmus and New York’s Joe Girardi. Ausmus’ Tigers’ recovered nicely from a rocky start and the Yankees played surprisingly crisp ball after remaking their roster after the trading deadline.
A personal favorite of mine was the job done by Seattle’s Scott Servais. In his first year as a manager on any level, Servais kept the Mariners in the wild-card hunt until the final few days.
It’s hard to say if this was Francona’s best season though he’s been masterful handling his bullpen—especially on Monday night—this postseason.
If Francona adds a third World Series title to the two he won in Boston, he’d be in rarefied air.
Francona already managed a team, the 2004 Red Sox that won for the first time in many years, and now he can do the same with the Indians. He also won with the 2007 Red Sox, and both series were four-game sweeps.
His 34-18 postseason record with Boston and Cleveland is outstanding, and overall he’s in 30th place among managers with 1,381 wins. (Showalter is 25th with 1,429.)
Francona lasted eight seasons with the Red Sox in a notoriously difficult place for managers. Only Hall of Famer Joe Cronin, who managed 13 seasons lasted longer.
In six of his eight seasons with the Red Sox, Francona won at least 90 games and never fewer than 86.
He was fired after the 2011 season, and his final game came in Baltimore when Robert Andino drove in the winning run to knock Boston out of the postseason.
Showalter has many times generously said that without the expanded September rosters, the Red Sox make the playoffs and Francona keeps his job.
Interestingly, Francona had a chance to be the Orioles manager. Just before he was hired by Boston, he was one of eight candidates who came for interviews after the 2003 season.
He met with the press as part of the interview process and discussed his four-year stint with the Phillies that ended with the 2000 season.
After three years, Francona felt ready for another shot, and shortly afterward, the Orioles hired Lee Mazzilli. Francona replaced Grady Little in Boston, who was the eighth and final candidate at the insistence of Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos.
Francona has said that he and the Orioles weren’t the right fit, but it’s worked out well for him. His father, Tito a fine player in the 1950s and 1960s, made his major league debut with the Orioles in 1956.
The Indians have a chance to sweep Toronto on Tuesday and go to the World Series for the first time since 1997. Francona’s managing is a huge reason why.