Orioles’ Buck Showalter named AL Manager of the Year

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Having led the Orioles to their first AL East time since 1997, Buck Showalter was selected as the American League Manager of the Year in balloting released Tuesday, beating out the Angels’ Mike Scioscia and the Royals’ Ned Yost for the award.

Showalter got 25 of the 30 first-place votes and was named on 29 ballots. Scioscia got four first-place votes and was named on 23 ballots. Yost was second on 11 ballots and third on eight. The one other first-place vote went to the Mariners’ Lloyd McClendon, who finished fourth.

It’s Showalter’s third time receiving the honor, each spaced 10 years apart. He won in 1994 in his third year with the Yankees and in 2004 in his second year with the Rangers. He also finished second in 1993 and 2012.

Voting for the award took part before the postseason. Otherwise, the nod might have gone to Yost, who skippered his team to the World Series, beating the Orioles along the way, after finishing second in the AL Central and claiming a wild card spot.

Like Showalter, Scioscia had won the award twice before, though from 2010-13, he was named on a ballot only once, finishing sixth in 2011. His Angels finished with baseball’s best record this year, improving from 78-84 in 2013 to 98-64. That’s a bigger leap than either the Orioles (11 games) or Royals (three games) made, and that leap forward in record is usually what rules in the day in Manager of the Year award voting. However, in this case, Showalter most certainly got some extra credit for doing so well with a team that lost Matt Wieters and Manny Machado to season-ending injuries.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.