Terry Francona would surely trade his American League Manager of the Year awardand presumably every other piece of hardware in his trophy casefor another crack at the 2016 World Series.

His Cleveland Indians got to Game 7. They could taste it. Their first championship since 1948. 

Instead, it was “wait until next year.”

Since Francona can’t make that trade, he’ll accept Manager of the Year honors as a consolation prize and another line on an increasingly unimpeachable Hall of Fame resume.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced Tuesday that Francona won the AL version of the award for the second time in his career—he also won it with the Indians in 2013—in somewhat of a landslide.

Francona received 22 of 30 possible first-place votes. The Texas Rangers‘ Jeff Banister received four first-place votes, while the Baltimore Orioles‘ Buck Showalter and Boston Red Sox‘s John Farrell got two each.

Voting is based only on regular-season results, but it’s safe to assume Cleveland’s deep postseason run would have tipped the scales further in Francona’s direction.

The 57-year-old skipper ushered the Tribe to a 94-67 finish and an AL Central crown despite losing his best hitter, outfielder Michael Brantley, for all but 11 games.

The Indians also lost two of their top three starting pitchers—Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco—in the season’s second half and limped into the playoffs with a deeply depleted rotation.

That’s when Francona’s boldness and creativity took over, as he utilized his bullpen in unorthodox ways—admittedly with a massive assist from super-reliever Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen. That duo combined for 33 innings and yielded just three earned runs in the playoffs. 

Miller, especially, was Francona’s lifeline. He went to him early. He went to him often.

The Indians fell short of the finish line by a few agonizing inches. Without Francona at the helm, though, they likely wouldn’t have gotten that close.

He accepted the accolade with humility, per USA Today‘s Jorge L. Ortiz:

When something like this happens, if somebody thinks it’s an individual award, it’s the furthest thing from the truth. One, it’s players, incredible players. It’s front office, ownership, the coaches. The coaches work so hard every day, and I’m the one who gets to take a bow every once in a while. I wish we could do this together because they deserve it.

That’s a nice sentiment. Francona, though, has reached a point where he can bow alone.

Through 16 seasons as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Red Sox and Indians, he owns a 1,381-1,209 record, good for a .533 winning percentage. Since his four forgettable years in Philadelphia, he’s never endured a losing season.

He’s also won three pennants overall and two World Series titles with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.

The first of those titles was the one that busted the Curse of the Bambino and featured Boston’s legendary American League Championship Series comeback over the archrival New York Yankees.

The Red Sox were down 3-0 in the series. The momentum turned in the ninth inning of Game 4 when a pinch runner named Dave Roberts stole second and ultimately scored the tying run.

That same Dave Roberts was named National League Manager of the Year on Tuesday, per the BBWAA, for his work with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a cool factoid CSN Chicago’s Christopher Kamka highlighted:

Francona is signed with Cleveland through 2020, so he’ll have more chances to end the Indians’ World Series drought. Even if he doesn’t, he appears destined for a Hall of fame bust.

He’s now won 38 postseason games, which places him sixth on the all-time list behind Joe Torre (84), Tony La Russa (70), Bobby Cox (67), Bruce Bochy (44) and Jim Leyland (44). The first three are in the Hall of Fame, and the other two likely will be.

He’s currently 30th on the all-time list for regular-season managerial wins. Of the men ahead of him, 24 are either active managers or in the Hall.

Wins and losses ultimately define a manager, but the job is as much about the unquantifiable stuff, including keeping players happy and motivated.

“Tito does such a good job of setting the tone in the clubhouse,” said Miller, who played for Francona in Boston and Cleveland, per Sporting News’ Jesse Spector. “It’s loose. That’s his style.”

He also pulls the right levers. Every skipper is open to second-guessing, but what Francona did with the Indians pitching staff this October was nothing short of remarkable.

It was a strategy born of desperation,” as The Ringer’s Michael Baumann noted, “but from that desperation sprung a solution that was, through 10 of the 11 wins Cleveland needed to take home a title, practically unbeatable.” 

“Practically” is the key word. Francona’s machinations didn’t result in champagne and confetti. Ultimately, he left Cleveland fans hungry rather than satiated.

But he added another feather to his decorated cap—and moved himself one step closer to Cooperstown.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com