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Terry Francona absolutely deserved to win AL Manager of the Year this past Tuesday. In his first year in Cleveland he took a team that went 68-94 in 2012 to 92 wins and a wild card birth. During the winter before the 2013 season the Inidans added Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, but many still felt they were a longshot to make the playoffs. During the season Francona dealt with rashes of injuries and a mostly ineffective bullpen. Francona deserved to win Manager of the Year. There only problem is, John Farrell deserved it more.
Coming in off of one of the Red Sox franchise’s worst season ever both on and off the field in a season, Farrell navigated the team to 97 wins and an AL East Division title. Right before the beginning of the season, no one at ESPN, the Boston Globe, or Sports Illustrated picked them to win the AL East and many picked them to finish last. The offseason moves made over the winter were met with skepticism and doubt. Victorino and Napoli were coming off down seasons and there was no way to know how Dempster would handle the AL East. The sour taste of September 2011-2012 still lingered in many mouths and felt it would be a victory just to have a winning. Even the most outrageously optimistic Red Sox fans could hope to fight for a Wild Card spot. John Farrell’s Red Sox did more than that. They helped a city forget a dreary past couple years and they were fun to follow again.
Farrell had to change his closer three times in 2013 before he decided on Koji Uehara. It began with Joel Hanrahan and then he went down. Then Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa, and Bailey again. Farrell was ultimately able to stabilize the back end of the bullpen with Koji Uehara, and got through most of the season with only two to three viable relievers (Koji, Tazawa, and Craig Breslow). What Farrell did was astounding, yet still the Baseball Writers of America thought it wasn’t enough.
The biggest argument against John Farrell is that Boston is a big market team and because of this he had an easier job. Christina Kahrl of ESPN while explaining her vote says “with the Red Sox committing a franchise-record $175 million or so to payroll, they were supposed to win, and they did…He did a great job helping sort and re-sort his bullpen in a fluid situation that forced him to switch closers repeatedly; he also got to pick between three save generators making more than $4 million per annum apiece.”
Using the money argument is short-sighted at best. The saying “you can’t buy a championship” rings true here. Since 2001, the team with the highest payroll has won the World Series just once. Last year, of the top ten highest payrolls, five did not make the playoffs.
Another problem with Kahrl’s argument is that she is attributed players getting paid well as a guarantee of performance. How has that worked out with Albert Pujols? Josh Hamilton? Alex Rodriguez? Money can be used as an advantage but many more factors go into winning a World Series. Isn’t it odd too that Ben Cherington, who won AL Executive of the Year, is not penalized because he had more money to construct a team, but Farrell is for managing the team he is given?
Again, Terry Francona was truly a deserving winner of the honor this year. Francona was a first class manager here in Boston and continues to have a great career, it’s just a shame that John Farrell did not get the recognition he deserves.