Terry “Tito” Francona claimed his third AL Manager of the Year award with the Cleveland Guardians franchise on Tuesday night. The Guardians were expected to finish either second or third in the AL Central with mere playoff hopes. Francona was able to lead them to win the division comfortably with a record of 90–72. They weren’t just some flash-in-the-pan team either. The Guardians were able to beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card round, and they took the New York Yankees to Game Five in the second round of the playoffs.
The Terry Francona Effect
The 2022 Guardians’ average player age was the youngest in major league baseball at 26.42 years old. In baseball, experience is a huge factor when it comes to success. Francona was able to rally his team to believe in themselves, and play with heart in every game. He had 17 rookies make their debuts during the 2022 season.
“It doesn’t matter your age, It matters how much you want to compete, and how much you’re willing to put a team first ahead of your own personal circumstances… and for that, I have a tremendous amount of respect for that group,” Francona said in an interview with MLB Network.
The superstar veteran Jose Ramirez has a great relationship with Terry Francona. He has been his only manager in the majors, and has an ample amount of respect for him. Ramirez bought in to lead a rebuilding team to the postseason. He took a generous contract offer for the franchise to stay with them, and helped bring success to the team. Every year he puts up MVP-level numbers, so it wasn’t a surprise that he performed so well in 2022.
In baseball today, there are a lot of teams that are loaded with power hitters and rely on the long ball. Cleveland stuck to the “small ball” narrative all year. They finished the season eighth in on-base percentage (.269), and first in strikeout percentage (18.2%). In his fifth year managing in the majors, he joined the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Everyone remembers how that panned out. Not many believed in that team, especially when they were down 3–0 in the ALCS. But, you can never count out a team led by Francona. They went on to win the World Series that year and in 2007. He has always been a well-liked manager that creates a spark in the clubhouse.
One of Francona’s first years managing in the minors was in 1994 with the Birmingham Barons. Michael Jordan played his only season of professional baseball with Birmingham. After a few years with them, he finally got his first job in major league baseball with the Philadelphia Phillies. He couldn’t find success in his four years there. Flash forward to ‘04, he joined the Red Sox where his legacy began.
He never had a losing season with Boston. Francona finished his time in Boston with a 744–552 record. After the debacle that went down in the 2011 season, the Red Sox’ front office decided that it was time for a change when they missed the playoffs. There were a lot of mixed opinions on whether he should have been let go or not. He took the blame for the season falling apart, but it really should not have been so heavily weighed on his fault.
Strong Track Record
His track record put him in a great position for another team to pick up the Hall of Fame skipper. Cleveland decided to sign Terry Francona in 2013. Although they haven’t been able to win the fall classic, it is one of the best decisions the Guardians franchise has ever made. He led the 2016 team to Game Seven of the World Series, where they would eventually lose to the Chicago Cubs in one of the best baseball games in history. Then, what better way to bounce back from a heartbreaking end to a season like that, than to then go on and win the AL manager of the year award the year after?
Is Retirement Soon?
Terry Francona will return as the Guardians’ manager in 2023. He noted he’s thought more about when the end of his career could be this season, but said this group energized him this year.
“I want to see that group grow. I want to be a part of that.”
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) October 21, 2022
Who knows how long Terry Francona will stay as the Guardians’ manager? Fans are hoping that he will be there for at least a few more years with this group. It would be extremely hard for another manager to take on the challenge that he did and improve, let alone have the same amount of success he was able to achieve.
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