The 2016 Cleveland Indians took us all on one heck of a ride. Despite multiple injuries, suspensions, and obstacles that were supposed to be insurmountable, the Tribe was able to take home the AL Pennant and were one run away from putting their nameplate on the World Series trophy. At the helm to navigate the storms and guide the team through those choppy waters was manager Terry Francona. In leading the Indians to arguably their most impressive season since the ’90s, Tito was awarded for his expert handling by being named the BBWAA AL Manager of the Year. He finished with 22 of the possible 30 first-place votes and accumulated 128 points in all. In second was Texas Rangers’ Jeff Banister, who had four first-place votes and 64 points in all.
For the second time in four years:
Congrats to Terry Francona, the American League Manager of the Year! pic.twitter.com/x4yyGtgzsW
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) November 15, 2016
The award is purely a regular season award, so the MLB postseason where Francona reinvented bullpen usage models was not a factor for consideration. However, it is still pertinent to point out that his usage of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw in October was a fantastic example of getting the most out of the resources on hand.
During the season, Francona utilized platoon advantages more than any other team in MLB. He moved Carlos Santana to the lead off lineup position. He unleashed the fury of Rajai Davis on the basepaths (led AL in stolen bases) alongside making smart, aggressive baserunning the hallmark of the 2016 Indians offense.
Francona is not without his faults as he leans on over-using specific veterans, has not curtailed bunting (and worse, bad bunting), and more. However, Tito is a calming influence on the clubhouse and has guided the Indians to more wins than losses in each of his four seasons.
The AL manager of the year award is an award for the entire coaching staff as well. There are great coaches throughout the Indians system, but for the MLB team:
Of course, Francona is not the only member of the Indians to be showered with praise during award season. Rookie outfielder Tyler Naquin finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Shortstop wunderkind Francisco Lindor won his first Gold Glove award and picked up the AL Platinum Glove for good measure. And, Corey Kluber awaits the final tally of the AL Cy Young Award votes.
The AL Central is primed for the Indians to win again in 2017. The corps players will all be back to defend those division and league titles. And, Francona will be there to provide perspective and make the pertinent moves to keep the Tribe winning.