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How to win the Manager of the Year Award: prove the pundits wrong

Nov 13, 2012, 4:02 PM EDT

Buck Showalter Getty Getty Images

I wrote this when Bud Black won the Manager of the Year Award in 2010, and Aaron touched on some of the same themes earlier today. I think it remains the most that can be said about the Manager of the Year Award:

As I’ve said in the past, no one has ever set forth a good measurement for what makes a Manager of the Year, so it usually ends up with a “who did the most with the least” analysis.  Bud Black likely won on that basis.  But really, it was probably more of a perceived least — perceived by the voters — than an actual least. Everyone picked the Padres to finish in last place this year.  They didn’t, and a lot of it had to do with a roster that turned out to be better than a lot of people expected.  Should Black be rewarded because of the so-called experts’ low expectations? In practice he was, but I’m not sure it should always work that way. If the expectations were a bit different, we could easily portray the Padres’ season as one that was great but got derailed by an ugly ten-game losing streak late in the year which ended up costing them the division.  Has a manager whose team fit that description ever won Manager of the Year before?

None of which is to slight Black.  He did do a fine job, and is by all accounts a fine manager.  But I can’t help but think that the Manager of the Year Award, generically speaking, tells us a lot more about the writers who vote on it than the managers themselves.

Still feels that way.  I’ll give a little more credit to Buck Showalter’s case because I tend to think that managers have more control over bullpen management than anything else and the clear strength of the Orioles throughout the year was both the deployment of and the performance by their bullpen. But really, Showalter could have managed the hell out of that pen just like he did and the O’s could have missed the playoffs or even not contended after July if there were a couple of key injuries and bad bounces and we’d probably not be talking about him as a favorite.

All of the guys who are finalists for Manager of the Year had fine years and did little if anything to hurt their team. Which, one only need look around a bit to see, may be just as important as bullpen management. But there’s no escaping the fact that several of the candidates for Manager of the Year — Showalter, Davey Johnson and Bob Melvin most notably — have to thank low pre-season expectations for their candidacy just as much as anything measurable — and that’s the key point I’m trying to make here, the dearth of measurable things — we can point to for their status as finalists.

Most us didn’t think the O’s or A’s would escape the cellar.  Most of us expected the Nats to be plucky, but thought of them as a 2013 or 2014 contender, not the choice to have baseball’s best record in 2012.  That, more than anything else, is why those guys are really in the conversation and, I believe anyway, two of those three guys will win the Manager of the Year Award tonight.

  1. Joe - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    I take heart in the fact that Johnson and Showalter both have strong track records. They might win this year because others had low expectations for their teams, but there is evidence that both are good managers.

  2. danaking - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    I may be dumb luck, but it’s hard to deny Showalter when the Orioles outperformed their Pythagorian projection by 11 games. That’s not a question of sportswriters underestimating the quality of his team; that a team that won 11 more games than they should have, given the runs scored and allowed.

  3. rockthered1286 - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    I’m sorry IF they had key injuries? You mean like Hammel, Roberts, Markakis and Reimold?

    • madhatternalice - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:53 PM

      Yeah, it probably should have read “Without a few key injuries, there’s no telling how far Buck might have taken this team.”

  4. kkolchak - Nov 13, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    It could almost be said that this is sort of a team Rookie of the Year award for surprise contenders–and I’m fine with that.

  5. husky2score - Nov 13, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    Buck all the way!!! The Nats had the good players/prospects just no manager who knew how to use them. Kudos to Johnson for getting his team the best record, but Buck literally had nothing! Raise your hand if you expected Ayala to be one of the O’s best relievers? Or Jim Johnson to mold right into the closer role and be an MLB saves leader? Orrrrr having the nuggets to bring Machado to the Bigs, and Manny was a big contributor in bringing the O’s to the playoffs!

  6. ken14andersonforhof - Nov 13, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    crusty dusty baker didnt win it because he is the WORST manager in MLB…

  7. cktai - Nov 14, 2012 at 2:18 AM

    I don’t think you can just say that Davey Johnson won because they performed better than expected. The award usually goes either to the manager of 1. a team that over-performs expectations, 2. a small/mid-budget team that performs well, or 3. the team with the best record. Davey Johnson combines all three, so by any standard he should be in contention

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