Roberts, Fran­cona earn top man­ager awards

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Ben Walker

Long be­fore they were hon­ored for guid­ing teams to first-place fin­ishes, Dave Roberts and Terry Fran­cona were for­ever linked. Fans in Bos­ton and be­yond will al­ways re­mem­ber that sig­na­ture stolen base.

Long be­fore they were hon­ored for guid­ing teams with de­pleted ros­ters to first-place fin­ishes, Dave Roberts and Terry Fran­cona were for­ever linked.

Fans in Bos­ton and be­yond will al­ways re­mem­ber that sig­na­ture stolen base.

It was Roberts’ dar­ing swipe as a pinch-run­ner in the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning that helped the Red Sox — man­aged by Fran­cona — rally from the brink of be­ing swept in the 2004 AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries and sped them to­ward end­ing their 86-year World Se­ries curse.

Fran­cona went on to win two ti­tles with Bos­ton, and he earned his second AL Man­ager of the Year award with Cleve­land.

But what if Roberts had been thrown out, could that have al­tered a path that might some­day land Fran­cona in the Hall of Fame?

“The truth of it is, it prob­a­bly would’ve been com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” Fran­cona said on a con­fer­ence call.

“There’s al­ways a Dave Roberts-be­ing-out from be­ing the other way,” he said.

The 44-year-old Roberts won the NL Man­ager of the Year honor in his first sea­son as a skip­per, lead­ing the Los An­ge­les Dodgers to the NL West crown.

Roberts and Fran­cona each won hand­ily. The vot­ing fig­ures to be much closer Wed­nes­day for the Cy Young awards.

Bos­ton’s Rick Porcello (ma­jors-lead­ing 22 wins), Detroit’s Justin Ver­lan­der (league-high 254 strike­outs, best wins above re­place­ment for pitch­ers by base­ball­ref­er­ence.com) and Cleve­land’s Corey Klu­ber (second among pitch­ers in WAR) are up for the AL prize.

Chicago Cubs team­mates Kyle Hen­dricks (ma­jors­best 2.13 ERA, 16-8) and Jon Lester (2.44, 19-5) and Wash­ing­ton’s Max Scherzer (20-7, ma­jors-most 284 strike­outs) are com­pet­ing for the NL honor.

Roberts didn’t bat in the 2004 post­sea­son and didn’t even play in the World Se­ries sweep over St. Louis. But to just “play a small part” in his only sea­son in Bos­ton was re­ward­ing, and he still re­tains lessons taught by Fran­cona.

Be­ing un­selfish and play­ing “for the right rea­sons ... the game hon­ors you,” he said.

Known for that one slide into second base, Roberts cer­tainly had to scram­ble this sea­son.

The Dodgers put 28 dif­fer­ent play­ers on the dis­abled list, more than any team in the last 30 years. An in­jury to ace Clay­ton Ker­shaw was among the rea­sons they em­ployed a fran­chise record-ty­ing 55 play­ers, in­clud­ing 31 pitch­ers.

Among the Dodgers who man­aged to stay healthy: short­stop Corey Sea­ger, cho­sen NL Rookie of the Year on Mon­day.

Roberts said he was par­tic­u­larly proud of “the way our guys bat­tled ad­ver­sity all year.”

Roberts made a record 606 pitch­ing changes while go­ing 91-71. Twice, he pulled pitch­ers in the late in­nings when they were throw­ing no-hit­ters, try­ing to pro­tect their arms from overuse.

In the post­sea­son, Roberts took a cre­ative ap­proach to his bullpen. He used Ker­shaw against Wash­ing­ton in the de­cid­ing Game 5 of the Di­vi­sion Se­ries, then brought in closer Ken­ley Jansen early while tak­ing a 2-1 lead over the Cubs in the NLCS.

Mem­bers of the Base­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica voted at the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Roberts got 16 first­place votes to top Joe Mad­don, whose Cubs won the World Se­ries. Mad­don, who earned the award last year, was picked first on eight bal­lots.

Wash­ing­ton’s Dusty Baker was third and got four firsts. Terry Collins of the New York Mets had the other two firsts.

Roberts was the lone NL man­ager cho­sen on ev­ery bal­lot. This marked the third straight year a first­time man­ager has been hon­ored, fol­low­ing Texas’ Jeff Banis­ter and Wash­ing­ton’s Matt Wil­liams.

The 57-year-old Fran­cona guided the In­di­ans to the AL Cen­tral ti­tle at 94-67. They over­took the de­fend­ing cham­pion Roy­als and high-spend­ing Tigers de­spite los­ing starters Danny Salazar and Car­los Car­rasco, All-Star out­fielder Michael Brant­ley and catcher Yan Gomes to in­juries and out­field­ers Mar­lon Byrd and Abra­ham Al­monte to drug sus­pen­sions. Cleve­land came close to win­ning its first World Se­ries ti­tle since 1948, but the Cubs ral­lied from a 3-1 deficit.

“It was an un­be­liev­ably sat­is­fy­ing year,” Fran­cona said.

It’s al­ready been a busy off­sea­son for him, too. The In­di­ans picked up op­tions for his con­tract in 2019 and 2020, then he had a right hip re­place­ment op­er­a­tion.

Fran­cona drew 22 first­place votes and was the only man­ager cho­sen on all 30 bal­lots.

Banis­ter was second and got four firsts. Baltimore’s Buck Showal­ter, who was third, and Bos­ton’s John Farrell both drew a pair of firsts.

AP FILE PHO­TOS

Dodgers’ Dave Roberts, left, and In­di­ans’ Terry Fran­cona were named NL and AL Man­agers of the Year, re­spec­tively.

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