Francona claims Manager of the Year Award after successful debut

Offseason shifts last year lead the Tribe back to winning ways

David Hoffman, Staff Reporter

Last offseason, the Indians, coming off their third 90-loss season in a four year span, hired Terry Francona to become their new manager in the hopes that he could help lead the team out of its rut and guide them in the right direction. Behind the newfound leadership instilled by Francona, the Indians experienced a remarkable turnaround this past season, emerging from the depths of the abyss to win 92 games during the regular season before ultimately falling short to the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild card game.

This past week Francona was rewarded for his excellence, winning the American League Manager of the Year Award. Despite previously guiding the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, this marks the first time in his managerial career that he has won the award.

When Francona was initially brought on board last winter, the Indians’ outlook for the immediate future was bleak. The team seemingly lacked competent starting pitching and had little in the way of a bench to complement the usual starting lineup. The front office attempted to resolve those issues with some free agent acquisitions, including Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Scott Kazmir.

However, pundits looked past those additions to the squad, predicting that the Tribe would be doomed to yet another dismal season. Even the addition of Francona was dismissed by the teams’ critics, contending that he had the benefit of managing some juggernaut teams in Boston and that without the benefit of a collection of all stars his performance as a manager would suffer.

These predictions did not seem to matter to the actual team on the field, though, as they proved their doubters wrong time and again throughout the course of the season. They took great advantage of the soft spots in their schedule finishing with 56 wins against losing teams versus eighteen losses. Francona more than held his own in close games, as the Indians went 30-17 in games decided by one run and 10-2 in games that went to extra innings. Most notably, the Tribe had eleven “walk-off” wins during the season, including two games that were won on pinch-hit home runs by Jason Giambi.

Perhaps most importantly, the Indians saved their best stretch of play for the season’s final month. The team won 17 games in the month of September against a mere six losses, a hot stretch that was highlighted by the team’ s ten game winning streak to close out the regular season. The hot streak not only propelled the Tribe into the American League wild card game, but also enabled them to claim home field for that game.

Although the Tribe’s sensational run was cut short in that contest, there was no denying the team had taken a big step forward from years past. Some of that progress was attributed to an improved roster and some surprisingly successful seasons from certain players, but there was no doubt that the presence of Francona as the team’s manager also contributed to the franchise’s resurgence, which culminated with the Manager of the Year award.