CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has experienced unparalleled success in the postseason, in particular, the World Series.
The first manager in Major League Baseball history to win his first nine World Series games, Francona broke the 87-year championship drought for the Boston Red Sox in 2004, and again led them to a title in 2007. And now, Francona has the Indians just three wins away from winning their first World Series Championship since 1948.
But rather than accepting the credit, Francona has deflected the praise to his players, who have to get the job done in-between the white lines in order for the manager to be successful.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around some really good players,” Francona said. “In baseball, you can’t make your team better than they are. I think in football, there are systems, things where quarterbacks might throw for a lot of yards, things like that.
“Baseball, your players are your players. You try not to mess them up, and you certainly want to use them where you think they can excel, but I just think I’ve been pretty fortunate. I’d be lying if I said something different.”
Although to a man, Francona’s players would and have said they feel fortunate to play for him, it is the veteran manager who is proud to stand at the front of the room and support his players in whatever way possible.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate to be around some pretty amazing players,” Francona reiterated. “I know I’m lucky. I feel like that a lot.”
Infielder/designated hitter Mike Napoli is one of those players Francona is particularly proud of because above all else, he does whatever is necessary to win games.
Napoli has platooned at first base and DH with Carlos Santana, and still managed to collect 133 hits, including 22 doubles and 34 home runs. Those 34 home runs were the most ever in a single season by an Indians player over the age of 34.
Additionally, Napoli proved to be a motivating factor for Santana, who had a 31-double, 34-home run season, his most productive year in Major League Baseball.
“You can’t go to a World Series on your own, especially in our game, but there is more to it than that with him,” Francona said. “He’s had a huge impact in where we are this year, more than just the numbers. The numbers are really good, but all of the other things aren’t overstated.
“We were fortunate enough to have Jason Giambi here for two years, even to the point where he didn’t play very much. He would get a big hit every once in a while, but just his presence in our organization was so helpful. And then, Napoli comes, and sometimes, you just get lucky along the way where you get pretty special people and you try to take advantage of it.”