The Manager of the Year award will be announced this afternoon by the Baseball Writers Association of America. You don’t usually see managers of perennially good teams win the award because they are expected to win. The writers prefer rags-to-riches stories, but sometimes it is harder to win with a bullseye on your back.
I agree with the consensus, which has Washington’s Davey Johnson and Baltimore’s Buck Showalter the heavy favorites.
JOHNSON: As we remember him.
No Mets manager has won the award, which was instituted in 1983, for those wondering about Gil Hodges. San Francisco’s Dusty Baker – who is a candidate – beat out Bobby Valentine in 2000. As far as Johnson in 1986, he probably wasn’t considered after his declaration the Mets “would dominate,’’ that year.
He made no such statement this spring.
NATIONAL LEAGUE: Baker and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy are also under consideration, but both their teams were recently in the playoffs, with the Giants winning the World Series in 2010.
As for the Nationals, they have been traditionally bad since moving to Washington from Montreal.
The expectations for the Nationals heightened this year with the influx of free-agent Gio Gonzalez, return of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and rookie Bryce Harper. The Nationals were considered in some circles to compete for a wild-card, but won 98 games.
Johnson had more to deal with this season than many realized. He’s been more comfortable with veteran teams, but was patient with the young Nationals. And, despite what he thought privately, he handled shutting down Strasburg, which was a controversial decision in the sport.
The Nationals were ousted in five games by St. Louis – Mike Matheny, who replaced Tony La Russa and didn’t have Albert Pujols, should also be considered – but that experience should be something to build on, much like the disappointment of his Mets losing in 1985 to the Cardinals.
AMERICAN LEAGUE: Showalter, who won the award in the 1994 strike season, and Joe Torre in 1996 and 1998 won the award for the Yankees.
American League finalists include Oakland’s Bob Melvin and newcomer Robin Ventura of the White Sox, both with Mets’ ties. Melvin worked in the Mets’ minor league system and interviewed for the job won by Terry Collins, and Ventura played for the team, 1999-2001.
The Orioles hadn’t had a winning season since 1997, coincidentally, the last year Johnson managed the team.
Behind the Yankees, Boston and Tampa Bay, the Orioles were given no chance to win and .500 was the goal. Instead, they won 93 games and took the Yankees to five games in the ALDS.
The Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games and went 16-2 in extra innings, including their last 16. In addition, Baltimore had just a plus-seven runs differential.
Did Showalter do it with mirrors? It seems that way as the Orioles made 178 roster moves involving 52 players; had only one starter make as many as 20; and didn’t have a .300 hitter.
They also prevailed down the stretch without their best hitter, Nick Markakis.
As much as Ventura and Melvin did, Showalter is the clear choice.