Manager of the Year: Playoff teams dominate the list, but which narrative will win out?
Today, it's time to check out some of the best managers in baseball and decide who is most deserving of the Manager of the Year award for each league.
Nor surprisingly, nearly all of the top candidates were at the helm for playoff teams, and most of them are still alive in the playoffs right now. That having been said, this is a regular season award, so their teams' playoff performance thus far is a non-factor.
As we've done with Power Rankings throughout the year, I've enlisted the help of Eric_ once again, and he'll help me break down the various candidates and their cases for various awards throughout the week.
Up first, here's Eric's take on the AL Manager of the Year:
Eric: Above all else, I don’t feel much qualified to pick a Manager of the Year, and I’m not sure who really is. So much of a manager’s job happens in the clubhouse which no one outside of it can effectively judge. The usual criterion is who won the most games with a team not highly regarded going into the season, but that seems a little too facile for my tastes.
In the AL, the top two contenders both have Boston ties. First is current Red Sox manager John Farrell, who is being given a lot of credit for Boston’s worst to first turnaround. I’m sure he helped of course, but remember that there was still a lot of talent on board, and that everything went wrong in 2012. It wasn’t just a new manager and beards that made the Red Sox win.
The other major contender is former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, now managing the Indians. Under Francona for the first time, Cleveland improved 24 games and made the playoffs for the first time in six years. The team improved in all facets of the game, turning from the worst team in the AL in run prevention to above average, and scoring almost 100 more runs. The personnel were pretty similar to last year, so by all accounts that we know, Francona would be a fine choice. So would Farrell. However, I’m going a different tack on this one.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Joe Girardi, Yankees. The Yankees came into this year aging and in decline. For once, the front office declined to bring in significant reinforcements. They had to rely on a lot of unknowns are retreads. On top of that was the A-Rod circus, which just went along with the usual circus that is New York. For the season, the Yankees were outscored. Despite all that, they won 85 games and were in the playoff hunt until the final week. Now, maybe that was luck (and to a point, it almost certainly was), but to me, it seems to point towards a fantastic managing job by Girardi.
My Ballot: 1. Girardi, 2. Francona, 3. Farrell
WHO WILL WIN: Farrell. My guess is the Boston worst-to-first narrative wins out over Francona’s.
Pat: The three that Eric mentioned are absolutely the top candidates in the American League. An additional case could possibly be made for Bob Melvin of the A's, but I don't think he cracks the top 3.
The seemingly obvious choice is Farrell, since the Red Sox went from worst to first with an Opening Day roster that was, on paper, no better than the 2012 team that began the season in Boston. The Sox finished with the best record in the AL, and the pitching staff turned around and looked better they've looked since... well, since Farrell was the pitching coach in Boston. There's no questioning his impact with the Red Sox, particularly when compared to the dumpster fire that was Bobby Valentine last year.
Still, when you look at the talent on the field, it's no surprise that the Red Sox are a playoff team. The 2012 season was more of an aberration than this one. The Indians, on the other hand, clinched the first wild card spot with a roster full of guys most of you have never heard of. Terry Francona showed that he's still got it, and he can lead a team to victory with a combination of young future stars like Danny Salazar, and vets like Nick Swisher.
Last but not least, the job that Joe Girardi did with a dilapidated Yankees team this year can not be understated. Still, that team was still a lot more talented than most teams in baseball, despite the rash of injuries and other issues.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Francona. Of these candidates, he had the least to work with and he did as much as anyone could possibly expect with it.
My ballot: 1. Francona, 2. Farrell, 3. Girardi
WHO WILL WIN: Farrell. No one predicted that they'd even make the playoffs, and now they've entered playoffs as World Series favorites. The writers will eat that up.
Check out Page 2 for the National League predictions.