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Forget his success thus far in the playoffs. John Farrell has a huge case for AL Manager of the Year. This is thanks to a worst-to-first regular season finish for the Boston Red Sox after winning the AL East in 2013 with a 97-65 record. This was the best record in the American League after the Red Sox finished with the 69-93 record under Bobby Valentine last year.
The one thing Farrell got in 2013 was a commitment from almost all 40 players that could be used all season long that Valentine did not get during his one-year tenure with the club. Valentine did not get much respect from the starting pitching or the likes of Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and even Kevin Youkilis disapproved of what the former Red Sox manager was trying to do with the younger guys on the squad. Guys like Will Middlebrooks and Felix Doubront were trying to find their way on to the team and showed exactly how deep the farm system was for the Red Sox, but Valentine could not get much out of these guys.
In 2013, Middlebrooks had to be demoted to Triple-A after a tough start to the season where he hit under .200 and Farrell showed great leadership skills and was one of the main reasons he was sent down to the minors.
Farrell’s ability to judge the players as the manger was a huge reason the Red Sox were so successful this season. He gave guys rest when they needed it. Players like Shane Victorino, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury all needed time off and the manager was able to play it just right that they all got the rest they needed.
Not only that, the 51-year-old played well with matchups. He would pinch-hit very often depending on the situation late in games. Guys like Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes flourished in these roles and hit a combined six home runs as pinch-hitters, including several walk-off hits and one go-ahead grand slam in extras against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Even with the return of the starting pitching, especially Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, Farrell still had some work to do and he managed this team passed the Rays and into the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers so far. However, there is still one former Red Sox manager who is standing in his way: Terry “Tito” Francona.
Francona took what was a 68-94 Cleveland Indians team to its first postseason appearance since 2007 with a Wild Card berth as the top team other than the division winners. He did this with a decent lineup and an alright pitching staff that had a good run against below-.500 teams in the second half.
The Indians were helped with a huge second half from Ubaldo Jiminez and some slugging from Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley. The 92-70 record for the Indians was actually only one game shy of tying the Tigers for the AL Central title, but the 56-18 record against teams under .500 helped in the regular season before losing to the Rays in the Wild Card contest on October 2.
Francona got great play from guys like Jason Kipnis and Scott Kazmir and deserves the credit of carrying this team into the playoffs, even though they didn’t play any playoff teams after September 1.
So, it look as if Farrell has a huge advantage in the AL Manager race and it is only a matter of time before Farrell has a new award up on his mantle. Maybe, even more than just the one.