The Indians went into first place in the American League Central by themselves on Monday night, beating the Red Sox when Carlos Santana hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. The Indians were 26-26 in the last week of May. They were 11 1/2 games behind the Twins the first week of June. Since June 4, their record is 43-17, the best in baseball. It means here come the Fighting Franconas again. You can never talk about the Indians doing something great without talking about one of the great baseball managers of all time.
Oh, yeah. Terry Francona is absolutely one of the best of all time. It started in 2004 in Boston, when his Red Sox were down 0-3 to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and never lost another game that season, winning four in a row against the Yankees and then four in a row against the Cardinals in the World Series, making history and changing history in Boston and New York at the same time.
Here are the managers Francona was up against that October: Mike Scioscia, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa. All three of them had already won the World Series. Torre and La Russa are in the Hall of Fame already. Sciosia might be there someday. Francona probably will be. In 2007, his Red Sox won another World Series. They were down 1-3 to the team he now manages, the Indians, in the ALCS. The Red Sox won their last seven games.
When Francona’s Indians were ahead 3-1 on the Cubs in the 2016, his lifetime record as a manager in the World Series was 11-1, before the Cubs came back on him the way the Red Sox had come back on the Yankees and the Indians in ’04 and ’07. Even then, it took the Cubs 10 innings in Game 7 to finally put the Indians away. Bruce Bochy, who is retiring this year, has managed more World Series than Francona, and won one more. Bochy is one of the all-time greats as well. But nobody is better at this kind of work than Francona, doing it this year with the 19th biggest payroll in the sport, the Indians spending $100 million less on baseball players this season than the Red Sox team they beat on Monday night at Progressive Field.