Credit has been given where it is due as Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has been named the American League Manager of the year for the 2013 season. Francona beat out his former coach, John Farrell of the Red Sox and Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics. While being the best manager in the league is not all about the difference in wins between seasons, that was the big talk this year as both Farrell and Francona took over underperforming teams during the last off-season and brought them to the play-offs.
Francona won the award because he meant more to the Indians than Farrell did to the Red Sox. Boston has been one of the top spending teams in the league for years now and remained so in 2013, despite dumping loads of talent and personality problems onto the Dodgers during a late trade in 2012. Even without Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox still had a loaded rotation including Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz and World Series MVP David Ortiz. The Indians on the other hand, were not so talent laden when Francona took over.
When the Indians hired Francona, the only former All-Stars were closer Chris Perez and Asdrubal Cabrera, but his joining the team changed everything. By signing a two time World Series champion, the whole aura around Cleveland changed and free agents like Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, who otherwise would have likely passed by the Indians, decided to make Cleveland their new home. While player recruitment isn't usually the job of the manager, Francona went far beyond the line of duty to ensure the Indians had a complete roster going into the season.
Once things started, Francona brought about a sense of relaxation and family, all while keeping the idea that not only could the Indians win, but the Indians would win. The Indians did win early on and Francona stuck with his players, no matter how they performed. He gave extended chances to the struggling Lonnie Chisenhall and Mark Reynolds, while still managing not to hurt the total offensive performance. He also stuck with Scott Kazmir in the rotation even he had issues with command and velocity and Kazmir repayed him with a fantastic September that helped propel the Indians into the play-offs. While some of this may have been luck and coincidence, it seemed almost every move he made was the right one at the right time.
This end of the season surge was likely what put Francona over the competition for Manager of the Year and he received votes from all but two of the 30 writers (George King of the NY Post and Asuka linuma Brown of the Jiji Press). In total, he earned 16 first place votes (Farrell got 12 and Melvin two), ten second place and two third for 112 total points (Farrell: 96, Melvin: 36). It was Francona's first time winning the award and just the second ever won by a Cleveland Indians manager (the other was Eric Wedge in 2007) since the award was created in 1983.