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Some additional thoughts on NL Manager of the Year

Nov 17, 2010, 2:57 PM EST

Charlie Manuel

A couple people have said that I came down a little hard on Bud Black in my Manager of the Year post.  I certainly didn’t mean to, and if I did, I apologize. I have nothing against Bud Black and I think he did a great job.  I can’t argue with his winning, nor will I.  Really, I was just using his win as a means by which to explore the way in which managers are evaluated.  I could have easily used a devil’s advocate device — like  I did with the Padres’ 10-game losing streak —  in the cases of Dusty Baker, Bobby Cox, or Charlie Manuel.  All of them did things last year that at times made you scratch your head. Many of their moves, if cast in a certain light, could be shown to look bad.

But stepping back from that rather academic point, it’s worth noting that there were arguments in favor of all of the vote-garnering candidates in the NL.  Briefly:

  • Black: though maybe we undersold the Padres, even an optimist couldn’t have guessed them to be in it until the last weekend. Plus, I’ve always believed that a manager has his biggest impact on bullpen management, and Black certainly did a great job with the Padres’ bullpen, which ended up being the best in baseball;
  • Dusty Baker: the same expectation game applied to him, as not many people picked the Reds to finish highly. I had them a distant second before the season started, but I was drinking a little bit of the Reds Kool-Aid.  And while it may have stretched over two seasons, Baker deserves a lot of credit for Joey Votto’s development into an MVP candidate. His handling of Votto’s anxiety issues last year was expert, and I could easily see many managers screwing that up. There are few managers whose players speak more highly of them than Baker’s do of him;
  • Bobby Cox: Scratching away the “one for the road” considerations that I feel have no place in this award, a case could certainly be made for Cox on a “most with the least” basis. At least for the second half of the season when the Braves lost player after player, and still held on to a playoff spot thanks to duct tape and baling wire.  In all honesty, though, there was a lot of luck there and the Padres’ collapse helped a lot.  He’d maybe get a third place vote from me — maybe fourth — but I can see why he’s in the conversation;
  • Charlie Manuel: I don’t know that he should have won, but I thought he’d get more consideration than he did. The Phillies were injured all year, and Manuel did a great job keeping that operation together.  In the end, though, he was hurt by (a) the feeling that the Phillies were already the most talented team in the NL to begin with; and (b) the Oswalt trade. That trade and the Three Aces stuff ended up setting the narrative for the second half of the Phillies season, not Manuel’s genius. Though, obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that.  Managers of the most talented teams have won the award. So too have managers of the team that has made the big trade. I think Manuel deserved better.
  • Brad Mills: they started so poorly and then traded off all of their veteran talent, yet after the first couple of weeks of the season, Mills’ Astros matched all but the very top teams in the NL.
  • Bruce Bochy: Some of the sharpest minds in baseball, ahem, wrote them off in June, but he rallied the troops, righted the ship, mixed six more metaphors and led the team to the NL West title (votes were in before the playoffs began).

So they all had their merits. And in the end, I’m back where I began: If given an MVP or Cy Young ballot tomorrow I’d have no problem filling them out. But I have no idea how to go about valuing candidates for the Manager of the Year Award. I look forward to reading some of the voters’ explanations — especially Christina Kahrl’s over at Baseball Prospectus, who had a MoY vote — to see how they went about it.

  1. Jonny 5 - Nov 17, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    I’d have to say Bochy should have got the award due to how he turned his team around and won it all. He was the MOY.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 17, 2010 at 3:29 PM

      If they considered the playoffs, it would HAVE to be Bochy. I feel like that is the one good way to measure the MOY award. That is, determine who went the furthest with the least, but they vote before the playoffs so go figure…

      • tomemos - Nov 17, 2010 at 3:35 PM

        Surely the problem there is that no manager would ever win if his team didn’t make the playoffs.

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 17, 2010 at 3:39 PM

        I like the idea of using the regular season and post season to award Managers. And it’s a shame for Bochy they don’t run it that way. I guess he’d have won it by a good margin if that were the case.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 17, 2010 at 3:52 PM

        Well, tomemos, by my logic I think that 95% of the time the MOY award SHOULD go to a playoff team’s manager. There will always be a small chance a team like the Pads who no one thought would land above 3rd in the division do really well, but still miss the playoffs and should get consideration. But these instances are not as common and in the past I bet most MOY awards went to playoff teams (someone look into that), especially since the playoff expansion w/ wild card teams. Otherwise, how else does one rank managers concretely?

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 17, 2010 at 3:53 PM

        Bochy was absolutely perfect in the playoffs and that should count for something!!!! Oh yeah, they won the Series, but still!

      • tomemos - Nov 17, 2010 at 4:02 PM

        I mean, I see that logic, but someone like Terry Francona–who kept his team in the thick of it until the final week despite a nightmarish string of injuries–then gets shafted. Of course, Francona didn’t come close to winning this year anyway.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 17, 2010 at 4:07 PM

        True, Francona is a good counter-example. It’s a tough gig playing in the AL ea$t.

  2. Panda Claus - Nov 17, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    Craig, you sounded completely rational in your discussion about Black winning the award. I didn’t see him or any of the other guys having open and shut cases. To the people that thought you were harsh against Black, I don’t see the validity of their gripe.

    • Jonny 5 - Nov 17, 2010 at 4:18 PM

      Sally girls!!! That’s who thought that was harsh. I get it worse than that every day during my commute to work. Then I get picked on about my sweater choice when I get here. Really, did Mr. Rogers always wear argyle? I didn’t think he did…..

      • Utley's Hair - Nov 17, 2010 at 4:45 PM

        BAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!! Do you go to Phightins games wearing argyle cardigans?

      • Utley's Hair - Nov 17, 2010 at 4:50 PM

        And are Sally Girls anything like Nancy Boys? ‘Cause I think the latter would be more insulting—jus sayin’.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 17, 2010 at 5:03 PM

        Aren’t all Phillies fans, Nancy Boys? AHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHA

      • Utley's Hair - Nov 17, 2010 at 5:20 PM

        Only the ones who run on the field in a unitard.

    • Jonny 5 - Nov 17, 2010 at 8:02 PM

      In all fairness it was an argyle sweater, not a cardigan. But I find Sally girl to be more offensive myself, they’re pretty much the same thing though….

  3. sdelmonte - Nov 17, 2010 at 4:19 PM

    This comes down to a bigger question, one that Mets fans are debating now: what makes a manager good? Or rather, how essential is a good manager? If you shuffled these managers to other teams, how different would the standing be? There really is no metric that I am aware of that can tell you this. It would make things a lot simpler if there were.

    • Jonny 5 - Nov 17, 2010 at 8:03 PM

      Do it. I’ve been begging for manager stats for a while now. Success rates for moves, stuff like that.

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