11/13/2013 3:45 P.M. ET
Manager of Year voting should include postseason
Francona deserving, but finished out of top three in '04, '07 Series title runs
By Phil Rogers / MLB.com
More than just about anyone, Terry Francona should have been able to empathize with his former pitching coach, John Farrell, when Francona was named the American League Manager of the Year on Tuesday.
By taking the Indians to the playoffs in their first year on the job, Francona did wonderful work. But was it really better than the job that Farrell did in his first year as the Red Sox's manager?
After all, Farrell not only reached the postseason with a roster that had behaved dysfunctionally under Bobby Valentine in 2012 and Francona in '11, but also rolled through October with it. Unfortunately for the historical accuracy of the hardware that was just handed out, the voting took place before the Red Sox had rolled through the Rays, Tigers and Cardinals to win the World Series.
Francona is a terrific manager -- a player's guy who understands the abilities of everyone on his roster and knows which buttons to push during games -- and showed that for eight seasons in Boston. He didn't win his first Manager of the Year Award until he was in Cleveland, however, and in a twist was selected over the Red Sox's Farrell, who would have been my choice, whenever the vote was taken. But that's just my preference; the issue here is the timing of the vote.
Francona and his right-hand man, Brad Mills, did a great job to get the Indians into the playoffs after they had become irrelevant in recent years. And, yes, Farrell had the benefit of two of baseball's best players in Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, and he helped Jon Lester rebound to be one of the AL's top pitchers. He had a lot of things going in his favor. But it's wrong that his work will be discounted by historians who view awards as a standard.
Not that this is anything new, of course. Here's the really interesting part about Francona, who edged Farrell, 112-96, in voting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Francona never received a single first-place vote while managing the Red Sox. This would include 2004, when his team won 98 games in the regular season and then rallied against the Yankees before winning the World Series, and '07, when Boston won its second championship in four years.
It's crazy that Francona wasn't viewed more highly in the votes those seasons, when, as always, the ballots were collected at the end of the regular season, not the playoffs. Buck Showalter, then with the Rangers, won in '04; Eric Wedge, with the Indians, in '07.
Francona was fifth in the voting in '04; fourth in '07. Think about that.
The year that Francona broke the curse in Boston, letting his happy band of self-proclaimed idiots act out their roles even after they had fallen into a 3-0 hole against the Yankees in the ALCS, he finished behind Showalter, Ron Gardenhire, Mike Scioscia and Joe Torre in Manager of the Year voting. He finished behind Wedge, Scioscia and Torre in '07.
If you combine the vote totals from '04 and '07, Francona slides to a distant sixth (21 combined votes) behind Wedge (119), Showalter (101), Scioscia (93), Gardenhire (91) and Torre (79).
Really? Sixth in the two seasons that his Boston teams won the World Series? Doesn't that strike anyone as just a wee bit crazy?
Over the last 15 years, Ozzie Guillen, Jack McKeon and Scioscia are the only managers who were named Managers of the Year after their teams won the World Series. Only one out of every six who got his team to the Fall Classic has been named to the award.
It's always easy to undervalue a guy who is blessed with a strong team. Torre, for instance, won only one Manager of the Year Award (1998) during his run atop the Yankees' dynasty. Bobby Cox won in 1991, then had to wait 13 more years before his work with the Braves was recognized by the BBWAA.
When the BBWAA added the Manager of the Year category, four teams went to the playoffs. There was more importance on the regular season. But with the postseason format being expanded to include 10 teams, it's silly to not take it into consideration when evaluating managers.
Voting at the end of the World Series would change the perspective of voters, sure. But it wouldn't eliminate the ability to remember what happened during the regular season. That would still matter. But why act like October doesn't?
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.