Night two of the BBWAA Awards is tonight, and the Managers of the Year will be announced in both the AL and the NL just after 6pm Eastern time. The finalists were announced a week ago. They are Terry Collins, Joe Maddon and Mike Matheny in the National League and Jeff Banister, A.J. Hinch and Paul Molitor in the American League.
In early October I broke down this race, making a case for who should win and a guess as to who will win. As I made clear in that post, however, the Manager of the Year Award is not really a matter suitable for analysis and prediction in the way the other awards are. A manager’s success is insanely dependent on his team’s talent level and health and, just because an otherwise good manager’s team doesn’t fare well doesn’t mean they somehow forgot how to manage well. If you do better with what outsiders thought you had six months earlier, hooray, you’re the manager of the year.
And so it is here. The Mets and Cubs have men who are widely perceived to be excellent managers at the helm but were considered to be less-than-ready for true contention. Most figured the Mets were a potential wild card team and it turns out they won the NL East before ballots were submitted. Most thought the Cubs wouldn’t be a playoff team for a year or two at least, and they won 97 games. Mike Matheny was expected to have a strong contender and more than fulfilled those expectations with a 100-win season but did so despite injuries to key players. A month or so ago I figured that Maddon would win and maybe should, but Collins is a great choice given the parameters typically used by voters. Injuries notwithstanding, Matheny will likely fall victim to the same implicit argument Joe Girardi usually does: “hey, your team is SUPPOSED to win!”
In the AL we have a more traditional setup: three new managers who took over teams perceived to be non-contenders at the beginning of the year but which greatly exceeded expectations. Hinch was considered a disaster of a manager in Arizona but one good year later and he’s new looked on in a new light. Molitor and Bannister had no track record. All three could turn out to be the Next Great Managers in Baseball History, about which books are written, but now their calling card is, primarily, having exceeded those expectations. Any could win. I have no idea who should. If I had to guess I’d say Banister, but it’s really a pick ’em.