The Cleveland Indians have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs thanks to some luck and great managing by Terry Francona.
Remember the final week of the regular season when Terry Francona decided to rest his starters after his Cleveland Indians clinched the American League Central title?
It was supposed to be a time of excitement, but some were angry at the fact Francona was not continuing to play his starters in order to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Well, that sentiment was just wasted energy because after securing home-field advantage in the ALDS, the Indians now have it all the way through the World Series, if the team advances that far.
Earning home-field in the ALCS is thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays defeating the top-seeded Texas Rangers, but how it was earned does not matter as long as Game 1 is in Cleveland.
When looking at that final week of the season, Francona proved why he is considered one of the best managers in the game today. After clinching the division crown, he rightfully gave most of his starters the next day off. It was being dubbed a “hangover game,” but it was also just a much-needed day off for a ball club featuring several players eclipsing the 150 games played mark. No need to rush them back out on the field a day later just in the hopes of the Rangers collapsing, opening up the top seed for the taking.
Then came the final series in Kansas City, one in which the likes of Ryan Merritt, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin all earned victories at a time when the pitching staff was at its most depleted this season. Francona received great starts from Tomlin and Trevor Bauer, entrusting them with the task of still fighting for home-field advantage, while also preparing them for the upcoming postseason.
While some fans put too much emphasis on one decision or one game, Francona understands the ups and downs of a baseball season. He knows that home-field advantage is important, but not if the team is too tired to take advantage of the situation. With the team being hit with so many key injuries this season, giving players rest if a much better idea than pushing them beyond their limits in the regular season.
His managing, and his revolutionary bullpen usage, has gotten this team back in the ALCS for the first time since 2007. But most importantly, he got this team home-field advantage by being smart and working with his players to make sure each individual was prepared for the pressure of the postseason. And as of now, his team seems to be handling that pressure quite well.