Rick Rowand explains why the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians American League Division Series is filled with ghosts of playoffs past and present.
Every post-season series has side stories, and this one is no exception, with numerous common threads between the teams, players, and managers.
The Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox last met in the playoffs in the 2007 ALCS, with the Red Sox taking the series in seven games. A lot has changed for both teams since then, but many of the actors are still involved, albeit in different roles.
The strongest connection is between managers Terry Francona and John Farrell, who were teammates on the Indians in 1988. After his playing career was over, following stints managing in the minors, coaching for the Detroit Tigers and as the manager for the Philadelphia Phillies, Francona rejoined the Indians in 2001 as the special assistant to the general manager for one year.
When his playing career ended, Farrell went to work as a coach for his alma mater, Oklahoma State, until he too re-joined the Indians organization as their Director of Player Development at the end of the 2001 season. He stayed with the Indians in that capacity until he was hired by Francona as the Red Sox pitching coach following the 2006 season. Together, they helped guide the Sox to their second World Series title during the Francona era in 2007.
They worked together until the end of the 2010 season, when Farrell was hired to be the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Francona remained with the Sox until he was let go after the team collapsed late in 2011.
Farrell returned to the Sox as the manager after the 2012 season and the failed experiment of Bobby Valentine as the skipper.
Francona has been the manager of the Indians since October of 2012, and he and Farrell have remained very close friends. It was Francona who accompanied Farrell on his first day of treatment following his diagnosis of lymphoma.
Current Indians, ex-Red Sox
Mike Napoli was one of the heroes of the Red Sox World Series championship in 2013, and he remained with the team until he was traded to the Texas Rangers when his ability to hit a baseball seemingly disappeared. Many, well I, thought that his career was over, but he has come back to be a valuable member of the Indians run to the playoffs. My favorite memory of Napoli will always remain this:
Uber-reliever Andrew Miller is another player who was managed by both Francona (2011) and Farrell (2012-2014) before signing with the New York Yankees as a free agent. The Yankees traded him to the Indians earlier this season, where he’s been his usual lights-out self.
Fan favorite Coco Crisp broke into the majors with the Indians in 2002, then moved to the Red Sox from 2006 to 2008, earning a WS ring in 2007. After one year in Kansas City and six-and-a-half in Oakland, he has come back to the Indians to finish the 2016 season. Near average on offense, Crisp was always known more for his defense and afro.
Marlon Byrd has bounced around 11 teams in his career, ending up in Cleveland this season. With so many stickers on his suitcase, it’s almost inevitable that one of those stops would have been Boston. Byrd was traded to the Red Sox in April of 2012 and was released in June of that year so his roster spot could be used for pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. He was suspended later that season for 50 games because of a failed drug test for a banned substance.
Four players remain on the Sox roster who were managed by both Terry Francona and John Farrell – Junichi Tazawa, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz and David Ortiz. They have nine World Series rings among them. Here’s hoping they increase that total to fourteen.