All across the land, people are falling all over themselves to anoint Kirk Gibson National League Manager of the Year, and rightly so. They might as well not even hold a vote because with Gibson leading the surprising Diamondbacks to an even more surprising NL West division crown, he is going to take home the NL MOY in a landslide. If only the Manager of the Year race were that easy to call in the American League.
Actually, calling it a “race” is a bit of a misnomer since it isn’t readily apparent that any of the managers in the AL deserve the award. It isn’t that they are all terrible, it is just not one single manager seems to be doing anything special to make him stand out. Just take a look at the best cases the supposed “contenders” to the award have to make:
Joe Girardi – The Yankees currently own the best record in the American League, which might well win him the award. However, nobody likes voting for the Yankees since they are supposed to be really good. The only thing people like voting for less is the manager of a team with a $200+ million payroll. His best shot at winning over the voters is pointing out that the Yankees won so many games in a tough division despite having a rotation that includes A.J. Burnett and the recycled bodies of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
Terry Francona – See everything I just said about Girardi, lop off a few wins and about $40 million bucks and then replace Burnett, Garcia and Colon with John Lackey, Erik Bedard and Andrew Miller. Sorry, but Tito won’t even sniff the hardware unless the BoSox finish with the best record and even then he might lose out since voters are going to have a hard time giving Francona the credit and not the front office that brought in Adrian Gonzalez and… Carl Crawford. Oh, hmm, maybe Francona deserves some credit after all.
Joe Maddon – Call me crazy, but I think this might be Maddon’s award to lose. Think about it, the Rays lost Crawford to free agency and traded away Matt Garza and did almost nothing in free agency to replace them. This is a worse team than Maddon had last season for sure, but it is still a very good team. The problem is that the Rays are going to finish in a distant third in the AL East. Maybe Maddon should get extra credit for keeping Tampa competitive even though their playoff hopes evaporated weeks ago, but will it be enough to overcome a third-place divisional finish?
Jim Leyland – If we can champion for Verlander to be the MVP, why not promote Leyland for the MOY, too? Sure, the Tigers are in a terrible division and they aren’t exactly running away with the AL Central, but he has guided a scrappy squad with some real roster holes to a very nice season. Not buying it? Yeah, neither am I. No way Leyland wins just because his team is going to win a division where the second place team may not even finish over .500.
Manny Acta – Speaking of the second place AL Central team that may not finish over .500, there is always Manny Acta. Two months ago, one would have thought that Acta had Manager of the Year all wrapped up. Oops! Cleveland has crashed and burned after their stellar start and sit just two games over .500 today. Seeing how the Indians were supposed to stink this season, if Acta can just keep the Tribe over .500 and within about six games of the Tigers by the end of the season, then voters should be able to justify voting for him since he did turnaround a rather moribund club. However, if Cleveland tanks the rest of the way and falls under .500 and into third place, he may not get any votes at all.
Ron Washington – The Rangers are a fine ballclub and Washington was a deserving MOY candidate last season, so maybe the voters will give him votes for consecutive strong performances? After that, it gets harder to make a case since Texas is only doing what was expected of them. Plus, he hasn’t even locked up the division yet and there is no way he wins the award if Texas chokes in September.
Mike Scioscia – When it comes to a narrative for the award, Scioscia potentially has the best. A lot of experts wrote the Angels off coming into the season after their disastrous off-season, with many predicting them to finish under .500 and in third place in the AL West. I say potentially though because the narrative only sounds good if Scioscia can guide the Halos to a late-September upset of the Rangers, who they currently trail by 2.5 games. However, if the Angels come up short and only win 85 games, then the story ends up having a nice beginning but a pretty “meh” ending. “Meh” doesn’t get you votes, even if you did find a way to win 85 games with Jeff Mathis on pace to get 250+ at-bats.
So, yeah, those are your candidates (unless Ozzie Guillen gets some votes sheerly for entertainment value). One of them is going to win the AL Manager of the Year and will only kind of deserve it while fans from the other teams will complain that their manager kind of deserved it a little bit more.