Terry Francona is one of three finalists for the BBWAA's American League Manager of the Year Award, joining Boston's John Farrell and Oakland's Bob Melvin. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 12.
Despite leading the Red Sox to two World Series victories, Francona has never won the award before, or even finished in the top three in the voting, so this year represents his strongest finish in the balloting. Being named a finalist is a fine honor in its own right, but I would be very surprised if Francona won the award. The Red Sox finished in last place in 2012, but in Farrell's first year as skipper, they finished with the best record in the league. That kind of narrative, especially in a high profile setting such as Boston, is exactly the kind of narrative many voters love to reward.
I certainly don't have anything bad to say about the job Farrell did in Boston, or Melvin did in Oakland, but I'm hard-pressed to believe anyone did the job any better than Francona in 2013. Even after the Indians signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, most projection systems had them as an 80-82 win team, so they far exceeded expectations. Players like Ryan Raburn flourished as the team trotted out different lineups on different days, taking advantage of platoon splits and such, and the team finished with the league's best record in extra innings, and second-best record in one-run games.
Another method you might use, is to look at a team's Pythagorean record, which uses its runs scored and runs allowed to determine how many games a team should have won. The Red Sox won 4 games fewer than 'expected,' the Athletics won the same number, and the Indians won 2 additional games. Should that matter? I don't know. Frankly, I don't really know how managers should be evaluated at all. Most of the evidence you might look for points to Francona as having aced his first season in Cleveland though, and no matter what comes of next week's announcement, the Indians are in good hands.