THIS ONE’S A HEAD SCRATCHER
I like Terry Francona. He’s a good manager and whenever I dealt with him he seemed like a good guy, what you get from his public personna. I like the Cleveland Indians, the team I tried to become a fan of to make up for the loss of my beloved Dodgers when I was 10 years old, mostly because the kid next door was an Indians fan. But I still don’t get it.
Francona over John Farrell as American League Manager of the Year. In baseball terminology it came out of left field, at least for me. I have a feeling I’m not alone, even discounting the expected uproar from Boston.
Francona had a great year in Cleveland. There’s no denying the 24 game improvement over the year before. He didn’t have Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and John Lester, or other high profile stars that Farrell had to help the situation in Boston, but Francona didn’t work inside the pressure cooker that is Fenway Park, though he does know the feeling, which means he also appreciated the comfort level he had this season.
While Francona had a bit of a mess to clean up in Cleveland, where the Indians hadn’t sniffed a playoff berth in six years, he didn’t have to try to bind the wounds left from a season under the caustic Bobby Valentine, after a season of chicken and beer and a great collapse. Granted, the voting for Manager of the Year, and all the other awards, is done before the post season, giving everyone a chance, even guys who work for organizations that don’t make the annual committments of the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers.
Granted, Francona didn’t have a general manager with the carte blanche to meander through the free agent market with the margin for error that Ben Cherrington has in Boston, and Cherrington does deserve a lot of the credit in Boston for the salary dump deal he engineered with the Dodgers the previous year to set up last summer, but Farrell went into the season amid predictions that the Red Sox could finish anywhere in the American League East, a much tougher, much more competitive, division than the Central, but first place.
“Two things are certain in the American League East”, trumpeted one highly regarded prognostication service, “The Blue Jays will not finish in last place and the Red Sox will not finish first.” Under Farrell’s guidance the Red Sox were the most consistent team this season from the All Star break on, never suffering a major losing streak, losing back to back games at home just once. No one expected a rotation with John Lackey and Jake Peavy at the back end to turn in one stop after another, particularly when first half ace Clay Buchholz was sidelined for most of the second half, but if there’s one area where Farrell is a certified genius, it’s pitching. Granted Koji Uehara stepped up as the next Mariano Rivera, but only after Farrell lost his number one closer, then his number two.
Farrell didn’t do it with smoke and mirrors or band-aids and paper clips. He held this team together with a steady hand and old fashioned baseball savvy. For the third time in 10 seasons an underdog Red Sox team came on to win the World Series. For the third time their manager was not the Manager of the Year. Ironically, the first two times it was Terry Francona who was slighted. This is his first such honor.
Okay, the post season doesn’t count. If it did John Farrell would have been the hands down winner. In my mind, he should have been anyway.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.