After the epic worst-to-first season, after the knee-jerk pronouncement that the magical 2013 Red Sox championship run was greater than the 2004 title that relieved 86 years of frustration, Terry Francona somehow gets the final word on the 2013 baseball season.
Francona Tuesday was named American League Manager of the Year for 2013.
It was a shocker in Boston. And it was not a party-starter for the bosses who fired Francona after the 2011 train-wreck finish.
First, know this. Voting for 2013 AL Manager of the Year was conducted before the postseason. The Sox’ 11-5 playoff run and ride down Boylston Street was not a factor in this election. This vote was based strictly on the 2013 regular season.
Sox fans are going to believe that John Farrell was robbed. That is certainly the local angle. A Hub scribe Tuesday submitted that Farrell should be a unanimous selection as Manager of the Year.
Yikes. No one has been wrong more than myself this season, but coming in second is a long way from unanimous victory.
In the interest of disclosure, this is where I need to remind you that I work for a paper owned by the Red Sox owner, John Henry. And I wrote a book with Terry Francona. It would be impossible to have more conflicts of interest. But the book is long gone, and the Red Sox have emerged from the post-Francona rubble in spectacular fashion. Farrell and the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series. Compared with that, this is nothing.
All that said, the award to Francona is loaded with irony and symbolism. Think of it this way: the Red Sox won three World Series in this century and the only time Francona was named Manager of the Year was the year in which he was not managing the Red Sox. What’s up with that?
Francona managed the Red Sox for eight seasons. His teams averaged 93 wins, went to the playoffs five times, won two World Series, and never played a Fenway game that was not a sellout. It ended badly for him in Boston. A Globe story crushed Francona in October 2011, citing the ex-manager’s troubled marriage and use of pain medication. Henry ignored Francona’s e-mails in 2012. To this day, team president and CEO Larry Lucchino contends Francona was not fired.
This is what Francona said in our book, which was released in February of 2013: “There’s one thing I’m going to be proud of after I’m gone. I think they’re going to find there’s more [expletive] that goes on than they realize.’’
Mission accomplished. When Francona left, the Sox hired Bobby Valentine and responded with a last-place finish and their worst season in 47 years.
Enter John Farrell. One of the unprobed angles of the Farrell 2013 success story was its roots in the Francona Way.
This is not to diminish Farrell’s accomplishments. Farrell is his own man and has his own style of managing. But the Farrell regime represented a return to Francona’s style. It’s only natural. John Farrell and Terry Francona were big league teammates with the Indians. They were great friends. Their wives and kids were friends. Francona brought Farrell to the Red Sox as pitching coach for four seasons, starting in the championship summer of 2007.
“He knew the game,’’ Farrell said of Francona in 2012. “He taught me a lot. He has a keen intuitive feel for the game.’’
Farrell’s performance with the Red Sox in 2013 represented a return to the Francona style. Before leaving the ballpark on Sunday, Sox players were told who would be in the lineup on Monday. Players were told when they were going to have a day off. If a player was going to be outrighted to Pawtucket, he learned about it from the manager, not through the media. Firestorms were kept in house.
Francona did not invent this style. But he passed it on to Farrell. And both men had tremendous seasons in 2013.
Let’s not pretend Farrell was robbed. It’s provincial. It’s yahoo. Both men were worthy. Francona won 92 games with a fraction of Boston’s payroll. The Indians, not the Red Sox, were “scrappy underdogs.’’ The Sox were a top-five payroll team that recovered from a terrible 13 months. The Indians were a team of gypsies, tramps, and thieves that somehow landed a spot in the playoffs. The Tribe won 21 games in September, including 10 straight at the finish to qualify for a wild-card playoff spot.
“I talked to John this morning and said I thought it was kind of funny that me and him were finalists for this award,’’ Francona said Tuesday night. “I didn’t view it as against Bob [Oakland manager Bob Melvin] or me against John. When an organization does good things these types of things happen.’’
The Indians come to Fenway Park June 12. Francona can show off his Manager of the Year certificate. Farrell will have to settle for his 2013 World Series ring.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.