TORONTO -- When it comes to decisions made about the Cleveland Indians, no one within the organization is going to question manager Terry Francona, not especially after he led the franchise back to the World Series for the first time since 1997.
To reliever Andrew Miller, the Indians were able to win the American League Central Division, sweep the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series and wrap up the Championship Series against an offensively-minded Toronto Blue Jays club in just five games because of how Francona handles the players in the clubhouse.
“Tito does such a good job of setting the tone in the clubhouse,” Miller said. “It's loose. That's his style. I think players, in a sense, run it. It doesn't mean we're not prepared. It doesn't mean we're not working hard.
“There's card games, there's cribbage all over the place. Guys are loose. The trash talking is kind of going back and forth, but guys are prepared at the same time and we work really hard, and it shows. It pays off. We wouldn't be here if that wasn't the case.”
Throughout the ALCS, Miller pitched his way through the middle and late innings, registering 21 strikeouts and allowing only seven of 41 batters faced to reach base over 11.2 innings of work. In doing so, Miller became just the fourth relief pitcher to be named the ALCS Most Valuable Player.
“His ability to just put us in good situations and his ability to communicate from maybe the front office or ownership to us or whatever is asked of us, it's exceptional and he's special,” Miller said. “He wouldn't be accomplishing the things you mentioned if he weren't special as a manager.
“I think Tito’s so good at what he does. He puts everybody in good situations. He rides guys when they’re going well. He finds ways to get guys successful in situations to hit or pitch, whatever it may be. He’s just an incredible manager, deserves all the credit, and what a blast to play for him.”
Miller was quick to credit Francona for having confidence in the bullpen, particularly himself, set-up man Bryan Shaw and closer Cody Allen, after they had their struggles early in the postseason.
“We had to grind through a couple innings, but these two teams are special,” Miller said. “They worked really hard to get here as well. It’s not easy to go through lineups like this, but from top to bottom, we found a way. Shoot, we had guys that had layoffs of 10 or 15 days go out and pitch their butts off and have success. I think it’s just the preparation, the work. It all paid off and we’ve got one more series to go.”