The Rise of Tito Francona

By Jason Fryer

Why 2013 has been Terry Francona's second best managerial job, and will finally culminate with him being awarded Manager of the Year.

Like others, Terry Francona has had a number of ups and downs during his thirteen years as a professional manager. From the highest of highs in 2004 and 2007 as a World Series Champion to the lowest of lows when he was fired from the Philadelphia Phillies (not recording any winning seasons) and the debacle of the 2011 Red Sox who "chocked" a 9 game September lead as Boston missed the playoffs, leading to the departure of Francona in Boston.

Following a successful  broadcaster stint (had he not returned to managing, he would have been the perfect replacement to Tim McCarver), Francona decided to return to the bench and take over the 64-98 Cleveland Indians. People couldn't believe a two-time World Series Championship manager would take over a team in the middle of rebuilding project. The Indians decided to make a number of changes to their offense, which included trading Shin-Soo-Choo for Drew Stubbs, along with adding veterans Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.

The lineup it seemed would be improved, but what about the pitching? The Indians already had their rotation in place (Justin Masrerson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, and Brett Myers). Cleveland was able to get off to a fast start but their big free agent signing to their rotation (Brett Myers) went down with an injury and was placed on the 60-day disabled list.

Cleveland knew they need someone to step up and become a veteran third starter to go along with Masterson, Jimenez, and two youngsters. Fortunately for the Tribe, that's exactly what they found in former left handed All-Star Scott Kazmir. Following a poor April, the 29-year old two time All-Star went on to become the Indians lone left-hander in their rotation and was a great leader to a younger rotation.

The Rise of Tito Francona
Sep 22, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA: Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona after a 9-2 win over the Houston Astros at Progressive Field. Photo courtesy by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports.

In the end, Francona was finally able create a positive environment all while developing the young talent in Cleveland. As All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis said when the Indians clinched the number one playoff spot:

The chemistry Francona and his coaching staff developed has developed on this roster been remarkable as the Indians needed a big finish to make the playoffs and that exactly what they did, finishing the season on a ten game winning streak en-route to the 2013 #1 wildcard. Outside of the final eight games of the 2008 American League Playoff, there's no question this has been Francona's best managerial job. What a career: from managing the greatest athlete of all time, having the greatest comeback in baseball history, and eventually a member of the Baseball Hall-of-Fame.

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Other Award Winners:

  • AL MVP: Mike Trout
  • NL MVP: Clayton Kershaw
  • AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish
  • NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
  • AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers
  • NL Rookie of the Year: Jose Fernandez
  • AL Manager of the Year: Terry Francona
  • NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle

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