CLEVELAND -- The Indians did not surprise anyone with their dominant run during this past season, but that did not make all that Cleveland accomplished any less remarkable. It is through that lens that it is easy to understand why Terry Francona was one of the finalists for this year's
CLEVELAND -- The Indians did not surprise anyone with their dominant run during this past season, but that did not make all that Cleveland accomplished any less remarkable. It is through that lens that it is easy to understand why Terry Francona was one of the finalists for this year's American League Manager of the Year Award.
In balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Francona finished second for the award, which was won by Twins skipper Paul Molitor. Astros manager A.J. Hinch and former Yankees manager Joe Girardi finished third and fourth in the voting, respectively. Molitor led the way with 18 first-place votes, while Francona received 11 of the 30 first-place votes cast.
"Tito is an exceptional manager, the best I've ever been around," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said at the General Managers Meetings on Tuesday. "The culture that he creates in the clubhouse and his execution of strategy on the field is unmatched in my mind. I get to be around him every day. I think he's a master out there. I certainly think he deserves [the award]. He's brought so much to the organization in so many different ways."
:: AL Manager of the Year voting totals ::
Fans can still vote Francona for Best Manager in the Esurance MLB Awards, where baseball legends, media, front-office personnel and fans come together to pick the winners, with postseason accomplishments factored in. Then tune in Friday at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.com as this year's best stars and moments are revealed.
For Francona, this marked the fourth time in his five years in Cleveland that he received votes for the annual honor, which he took home in 2013 and '16.
This season, Francona's Indians ended with an AL-leading 102 victories, representing the second-highest total in a season in the franchise's long, storied history. That also marked the best single-season win total of Francona's managerial career, which currently includes the longest run of consecutive winning seasons (13) among active managers. Francona has also guided Cleveland to an AL-leading 454 wins in his five years at the helm.
• All-time AL Manager of the Year winners
Cleveland's memorable season ended with a loss to the Yankees in the AL Division Series, but was still filled with historic highlights. Among the team's accomplishments was a 22-game winning streak that stretched between August and September, and marked the longest run of consecutive wins in AL history. The streak was second only to the 1916 Giants' 26-game streak in baseball history.
"We try so hard to stay in the moment and come in every day feeling like today's goign to be our day," Francona said on MLB Network on Tuesday night. "It's a little bit easier when you're in a run like that to kind of feel that way. But one of our biggest challenges, one of the things I was most proud of was, when we lost, we came back the next week and played the same brand of baseball and we gave ourselves a chance to win every night. I was really proud of that."
The Tribe's historic stretch fueled the Indians' strong second half, which included a 55-20 record and 33 wins in the club's final 37 games. That helped Cleveland to its second straight AL Central crown and gave Francona his ninth season with at least 90 wins (most among active managers). The postseason berth was the third in five years for the Indians under Francona and his eighth trip to the postseason in 17 years as a manager.
At the end of the season, Francona noted that this was one of the most challenging seasons for him physically. The manager missed time in July due to a minor heart procedure, which forced him to also skip his role as AL manager for the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. Bench coach Brad Mills filled in for Francona both for the games missed with Cleveland and for the AL showcase in Miami.
"It was hard physically," Francona said. "What I felt worse about, I think, was I leaned on our coaches so much. Brad Mills, who took over and probably did better than I could. It should be the other way around. That's why, when the season was over, I came back to Arizona. I need to get stronger and healthier, because it does take it out of you the older you get. And I want to be able to get out there. I don't want to short-change anybody."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.