Naylor, Bibee among Cleveland BBWAA award winners

November 19th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

In the spirit of awards season, the Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has a couple to hand out.

On Sunday, the Cleveland BBWAA announced that first baseman Josh Naylor was selected as this year’s Bob Feller Man of the Year, while the Frank Gibbons-Steve Olin Good Guy Award was given to rookie starter Tanner Bibee.

Those two awards are given out every season. In the past, the writers have also honored individuals with the John Krepop Special Achievement Award, which was created to honor career achievement or dedication and service to the organization, when a candidate arises. But this didn’t feel like a big enough honor for Cleveland’s former skipper.

Instead, the local media decided to recognize Terry Francona, who stepped down from his managerial position at the end of the season, with a special award to honor his unique and meritorious service as the winningest and longest-serving manager in Cleveland franchise history.

The votes this season were decided by a landslide, beginning with Naylor. The first-time Man of the Year winner owned a .308 average with an .843 OPS, 17 homers and 97 RBIs in 121 games. His importance to this offense became glaringly obvious in August, when he was out with an oblique injury. The Guardians went 11-16 during that month.

Other nominees for the Man of the Year Award included Bibee, second baseman Andrés Giménez and third baseman José Ramírez, who won the award the past two seasons.

And while Bibee was up for the Man of the Year Award for his impressive rookie season, owning a 2.98 ERA in 25 starts, it was the way he handled himself off the field that stood out even more. The Good Guy Award focuses mostly on a person’s relationship with the media and those who are the most considerate and reliable are often honored. In his first experience dealing with reporters on a nightly basis, Bibee acted like a seasoned veteran.

The 24-year-old righty consistently made himself available to the media, even after difficult losses when he was struggling to find the words to express his disappointment in himself. If a reporter needed to talk to him, Bibee would go out of his way to make sure an interview was scheduled and completed.

Joining Bibee in the Good Guy Award nominations were righty Xzavion Curry, center fielder Myles Straw and former third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh.

To honor Francona with a special award was the easiest decision of them all. Aside from accruing the most wins (921) as the longest-tenured manager in the club’s 123 years of existence, Francona brought life to this organization that it hadn’t seen in more than a decade. In his first season in 2013, he led Cleveland to 92 victories, 24 more than it had the year prior. That marked the largest year-to-year improvement Cleveland had ever seen, and led to his first AL Manager of the Year Award.

His second came in 2016, when he guided his team to Game 7 of the World Series before falling just short of Cleveland’s first title since 1948. In ’22, Francona earned his third Manager of the Year honor when baseball’s youngest roster unexpectedly clinched a playoff berth.

Francona will have to wait a few years before he inevitably is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the Cleveland chapter of the BBWAA wanted to get a jump start on honoring him for his managerial efforts.