The current manager of the Cleveland Indians has enjoyed great success throughout his 21-year managerial career and there is no denying that he has earned every bit of it.
Francona spent the first four seasons of his managerial career with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997-2000.
He then spent some time as a bench coach for the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics before starting his next head managerial venture with the Boston Red Sox in 2004.
That run lasted until 2011.
From 2013 on, he has held his current position with the Indians.
Over his lengthy career, Francona has won three pennants, two of which resulted in World Series titles.
Today, we’re going to rank his three best seasons as a manager.
3. 2016 Cleveland Indians Season
It’s been 73 long years since Indians fans were able to enjoy a World Series title.
Francona would love nothing more than to change that, and in 2016, he got oh-so-close.
This 2016 club went 94-67 and won the American League Central in a runaway.
The team’s strength was its lethal bullpen which was complemented by an extremely solid starting rotation.
Offensively, this team wouldn’t blow you away.
There were five everyday players with an OPS over .800, but none with an OPS over .900.
In the postseason, the Indians swept the Boston Red Sox out of the ALDS, beat the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS in five games, and met the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.
That World Series was an all-time classic.
In a battle between teams with massive World Series droughts (108 years for the Cubs and 68 years for the Indians at the time), fans were given an unforgettable series.
Ultimately, it went seven games.
Words can’t do that Game 7 justice, so we will leave you with this clip.
— Today in MLB (@Todayin_MLB) January 22, 2018
Baseball fans will never let that series go.
Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Francona and the Indians.
It was a special year for that Cleveland team regardless, but Francona is still there today trying to end the drought.
2. 2007 Boston Red Sox
The 2007 Red Sox were one of the most dominant postseason teams in MLB history.
After going 96-66 in the regular season to win the AL East, the Franconia-led Red Sox swept through the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS, got pushed to seven games before ultimately beating the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, then swept through the Colorado Rockies to win the World Series title.
That 96-win team marked the second-best regular season of Francona’s managerial career to this point (the 2017 Indians went 102-60).
The 2007 Red Sox were led offensively by future Hall of Famer David Ortiz, who batted .332 with a 1.066 OPS and 35 home runs that season.
He finished fourth in the MVP race that year, an impressive feat as a designated hitter.
That Red Sox club bailed out an underwhelming starting pitching staff with its elite offense and deep bullpen.
Here’s the final out of that 2007 title:
October 28, 2007
“Game over, series over and the Red Sox are World Champs again.”
Red Sox defeat the Rockies in Game 4 (4-3) and sweep the series (4-0)
I went from thinking the Red Sox would never win a World Series to would they ever lose a game in the World Series. pic.twitter.com/ZhHmUGrAS8
— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) October 28, 2020
1. 2004 Boston Red Sox
Not all championships are created equal.
The 2004 Red Sox were a team of fate, and they gave the city of Boston a title that will never be forgotten.
After a 98-64 regular season, the club ran through the Anaheim Angels with no trouble in the ALDS.
Then the Red Sox met the Yankees in the ALCS with the height of their rivalry at an all-time high.
New York took a 3-0 series lead, a deficit that had never been overcome at any point in MLB history.
In Game 4, the Yankees came within three outs of closing the thing out.
With a 4-3 lead in the ninth, New York turned to arguably the greatest closer in baseball history in Mariano Rivera.
He issued a leadoff walk to Kevin Millar.
Dave Roberts pinch ran for Millar, and swiped second.
That set the table for a Bill Mueller game-tying knock.
Hours later, Ortiz left the yard on a walk-off two-run home run to extend the series.
The Red Sox were ultimately able to pull off one of the most iconic comebacks in sports history by rattling off three more wins—each game with its own ridiculous storyline—to take the series.
YOUR 2004 RED SOX ARE
WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/jxBPWBmdel
— Red Sox (@RedSox) May 9, 2020
In the World Series, there was zero doubt about the outcome.
After an 85-year drought, the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first MLB title since 1918.
The historic season came in Francona’s first year at the helm.