Terry Francona took the Cleveland Indians to new heights in 2016 and deserves the AL Manager of the Year award.
Postseason play is not supposed to be a factor when deciding postseason awards, but it is going to be hard for any voter to ignore what Terry Francona did for the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 postseason.
Francona, in his fourth year in Cleveland, may have changed the way future managers will manage bullpen pitching staffs, getting rid of defined roles and simply using the best pitcher in the most high-leverage situations.
His revolutionary managing saw his team hold a 3-1 lead in the World Series, and although that final win never happened, he still took this team farther than anyone outside of Cleveland expected.
But during awards season, the regular season is what matters. And for Francona, he is still the easy choice if postseason baseball is left out of the discussion.
He led the Indians to 94 wins, (in only 161 games), and also oversaw a 14-game winning streak during the summer. This all came with injuries to his pitching staff and an outfield that was never fully formed until the final month of the season.
Add in the narrative of missing Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes and one sees the unexpected run the Indians had in 2016. It helps when the front office went out and got Andrew Miller to anchor the bullpen, but other managers may have not used him in the same manner as Francona did. Think Buck Showalter‘s management of Zach Britton in the AL Wild Card game as an example.
The other award finalists are Showalter and Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister but, homer bias aside, Francona did much more with what he was given than the other two. It would also keep the rotation alive, as Francona won in 2013, followed by Showalter in 2014 and Banister in 2015.
Francona led the franchise to its first division title since 2007, and its first World Series berth since 1997. Even if he had a healthy team all season, it would still be impressive enough to make him worthy of this award.
Perhaps I am just in the election spirit, but a vote for anyone other than Francona is just throwing the vote away. It would mark his second time winning the award as a manager in Cleveland, and will hopefully not be his last as this team looks to be back in the World Series once again next season.