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 ALCS and sped them toward ending their 86-year World Series curse.
Francona went on to win two titles with Boston, and yesterday 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 today for the Cy Young Awards. Boston’s Rick Porcello (majors-leading 22 wins), Detroit’s Justin Verlander, and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber are up for the AL prize. Cubs teammates Kyle Hendricks (majors-best 2.13 ERA, 16-8) and Jon Lester (2.44, 19-5) and Washington’s Max Scherzer (20-7) are competing for the NL honor.
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.
Roberts got 16 first-place votes to top Joe Maddon, whose Cubs won the World Series. Maddon, who earned the award last year, was picked first on eight ballots.
Francona drew 22 first-place votes and was the only manager chosen on all 30 ballots. Texas’ Jeff Banister was second and got four firsts.