With the postseason into the LCS phase, I thought this would be a good time to start talking about awards. The first official award (other than gold gloves & silver sluggers) won’t be handed out until November 11th – Rookies of the Year. I’m going to start, however, with manager of the year. There are several good candidates this year in each league. So, let’s get started.
First of all, let’s consider the reasonable candidates: John Farrell (BOS), Joe Maddon (TB), Joe Girardi (NYY), Terry Francona (CLE), Ned Yost (KC), Bob Melvin (OAK). I don’t include Jim Leyland as a reasonable candidate, because the Tigers were inconsistent all year long. Everyone expected them to run away with their division, and they didn’t. Everyone expected that lineup and pitching staff to be absolutely dominant – and they weren’t. So, let’s start eliminating from the 6 reasonable candidates I see.
First out is Bob Melvin. He won this award last year after winning the division with a very unproven team. However, I can’t give the award to him again for essentially doing the same thing with the same group of guys. 96 wins is impressive, and worthy of being on the short list for consideration. But, he didn’t really do anything to wow you this year. Next out is Joe Maddon. The Rays never seemed to be consistent. They would win in spurts, and at one point were actually winning the division. But, most everyone expected them to do well this year. They have a stellar pitching staff, and it would have been an incredibly disappointing year if they had failed to make the playoffs – which they almost did.
Next, I have to scratch off Joe Girardi. The reason he’s on the list is because of what he accomplished with a depleted Yankees team. This team is old, injured, and a far cry from the kinds of Yankees teams that put together successful seasons. But, for them to finish 8 games over .500, I think speaks volumes to what kind of manager he is. Especially when many preseason predictions picked them to finish last in the division. Very close to Girardi on my list is Ned Yost. I take him off the list at this point primarily because the Royals didn’t quite make the playoffs. They did, however, finish 10 games over .500 – their first winning season in a decade! But, I imagine very few took notice of how well they played this year, because they weren’t in serious playoff contention until the last couple weeks of the season. But, if you took away an abysmal May, in which they went 8-20, the Royals were 78-56 the rest of the season. That’s a .582 win pct. – which would have won their division if they’d played that way all season! In fact, if they had simply had a .500 record in May (14-14), they would have finished with the same record as Cleveland – the #1 Wild Card team. But, they dug such a hole for themselves early in the year, no one paid much attention to how well they were playing until the end.
So, we’re down to the final two. I have a feeling that John Farrell is going to win this award. He took a team that finished in last place a season ago, and took them to 97 wins, and a division title in just one year. But, as impressive as that is, here’s why I don’t think he should win this award: Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara. That’s 5 key players that weren’t even on Boston’s roster in 2012, when they finished in last place. Boston’s ownership specifically sought out high-quality players that also were going to be good characters for the clubhouse – something this team was seriously lacking the last couple years. So, while I’m impressed with the turnaround, and I do think Farrell deserves a lot of credit – he wasn’t working with the same team Bobby Valentine had a year ago that finished dead last.
My vote goes to Terry Francona. Yes, the Indians also signed a handful of guys that weren’t on their team a year ago. But, at best, most pre-season predictions (even with the new signees) had them finishing in 2nd place – but, a far cry from Detroit, and not even sniffing the playoffs. Also, take into consideration the guys they signed: Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Scott Kazmir. These were mostly guys that weren’t even being sought out by many (if any) other teams. Swisher was run out of New York. Many had given up on Kazmir. Bourn somehow was overlooked most of the offseason until Cleveland signed him shortly before Spring Training. So, Francona took a team that had very low expectations, no premier stars (as far as the rest of the league was concerned), had lost 94 games a year ago, and turned them into a playoff team. That’s the most impressive managing job of the American League, to me.