Tribe Turnaround Earns Terry Francona Top Honor
On Tuesday evening, Terry Francona was named manager of the year in the American League. Thanks to 112 points on 16 first place, 10 second place, and two third place votes, he was able to edge out Boston’s John Farrell and Oakland’s Bob Melvin for the prestigious honor. Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle took home the honors in the National League.
Terry Francona is the second Indians manager to take home the hardware as the league’s top skipper. Eric Wedge was the first recipient for the Indians back in 2007 when he led the team to an AL Central crown and within one win of the World Series. Even with his success in Boston, this was also the first time Francona has received this award.
Terry Francona received the honor of being named AL Manager of the Year thanks largely in part to the epic turnaround he helped the Indians make in 2013. After finishing the 2012 season with a miserable 94 losses, Manny Acta was relieved of his duties and Francona was brought in little more than a week later. All he did was help lure in two of the team’s biggest free agent acquisitions in Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn and then guide the Indians to a 92-70 record. The 24 game turnaround was tied with the 1986 Indians for the best ever in team history.
However, for as great as that accomplishment was, it does not take into account the totality of Francona’s impact on the Indians. Not only did the team win more games, but he brought a sense of legitimacy to the organization. As a two-time World Series champion, Francona’s hiring signaled a change in direction and organizational philosophy. No more cutting corners, the Indians were all in and going for it.
In the footnote to this award in the Indians record books, they should also make note of how Terry Francona changed the culture within the clubhouse. The issues with Manny Acta and the deterioration of the clubhouse were well documented, but under Francona everything changed. As a player’s manager, Francona allowed the team the freedom to police themselves while also holding them accountable for both their successes and failures. His ability to bring the team together through even the most unconventional of means, i.e. the Cleveland Indians Harlem Shake, made for a strong clubhouse environment and a group of players who legitimately enjoyed playing together. You can’t put a price on that.
That’s not meant to take away from the accomplishments of either John Farrell of Bob Melvin. Both put together fine seasons with their respective organizations. Farrell led the Red Sox to the World Series championship while Melvin guided the A’s to their second straight AL West crown. However, neither of their team’s successes were completely unpredictable. The Red Sox had the resources to turn things around immediately while Melvin won the award in 2012 after guiding the A’s on an improbable run to the postseason. For Francona and the Indians, 92 wins and a playoff berth were completely unexpected and helped make the job he did that much more impressive.
So while the season may not have ended the way Terry Francona or his players would have liked, it was still a complete and total success. Now with the foundation properly laid, there is all the reason in the world to expect that the Indians can and will be better in 2014 provided they can make the right offseason acquisitions and avoid losing several key pieces to the machine that won those 92 games. However, as long as Francona is in charge of righting the ship, there is no reason to think this team can’t be better in 2014.