Posted on November 16, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
MLB awards continue to come out one by one, and Tuesday night it was time to recognize the managers who had outstanding seasons. Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona was named the American League Manager of the Year, while Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was given the National League Manager of the Year award. Of course, Francona once managed Roberts, doing so most notably when Roberts helped Francona and the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.
Voters credited Francona with taking a team with modest expectations to within one game of a World Series title. The Indians emerged from a crowded division to win the AL Central and then proceeded to dominate the American League playoffs despite missing key pitchers to injury. Francona was particularly impressive in his handling of Cleveland’s bullpen during the postseason, as his core of relievers became the catalyst for the Indians reaching the World Series.
“I’m honored,” Francona said after being named Manager of the Year. “It also does give me a chance to brag about our guys. If somebody thinks it’s an individual award, it’s the furthest thing from the truth. One, it’s incredible players. It’s front office, ownership. The coaches work so hard every day. I wish we could take a bow together.”
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As for Roberts, he led the Dodgers to a fourth consecutive NL West division title in his first year as a manager. He guided Los Angeles all the way to the NLCS despite losing 28 different players to the DL during the course of the season, the most injuries any team has suffered in the last 30 years. The most significant injury was that of ace Clayton Kershaw, who missed more than two months. The Dodgers were forced to utilize 15 different starting pitchers during the season, but Roberts helped hold the team together despite that, as the Dodgers completely turned the tables on the Giants during the second half of the season to win the NL West.
“I think, you know what, it’s about the process, and I think this is actually the first day I’ve had a chance to reflect on what happened from the first day of spring training to now,” Roberts explained Tuesday night. “And even after the postseason, I didn’t really play the season out in my head too much. But I think to set goals, to play every out and try to get better, I think that as a group, as an organization, we did that. Obviously we came up short in the sense of winning a world championship, but I’m just proud of the way our guys battled adversity all year.”
Fittingly, Roberts acknowledge the influence that Francona has had on his managerial success. “He definitely influenced me, and I think that the way he related to players, his relationship to the front office and fans,” Roberts said. “To me, the main thing with Tito is that he just let players play, and when you as a coach or manager can empower your players, it goes a long way. From Tito to a lot of different managers and coaches that I’ve had the great pleasure of being around, helped me form, I guess my managing, I guess, style.”
Jeff Banister of the Rangers and Buck Showalter of the Orioles were the top runners up in the American League, while Joe Maddon of the Cubs and Dusty Baker of the Nationals received plenty of votes in the National League. But in the end, the voters got it right by awarding Francona and Roberts the Manager of the Year award.