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How do you pick Manager of the Year Award?

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This evening the Manager of the Year Award winners will be announced. I don’t think there’s a ton of suspense on that this year. Most people seem to think that Brian Snitker of the Braves will win it in the National League and that Bob Melvin of the Athletics will win it in the American League.

The reason is pretty straightforward: the Braves, while supposed to have improved in 2018, were not supposed to have won the NL East and they did. The A’s were supposed to be pretty awful, actually — most pundits picked them last in the AL West — and they won 97 games. Which underscores the general idea behind the Manager of the Year Award: it’s usually about exceeding expectations.

I don’t have a gigantic problem with this — really, if who wins the Manager of the Year Award keeps you awake at night you should probably seek help — but I do think about it at least for a few moments every year and wonder why we hand out this award in this way. Because giving it out based on which teams exceeded expectations seems to be based on two inherent flaws.

The first flaw is the assumption that those expectations were in any way reasonable.

Sure, most pundits picked the A’s to finish last, but maybe we were all completely wrong? When I do my predictions every year I feel like, in many ways, I’m just guessing. So much so that I put a long comical disclaimer on them assuring my readers that I have no actual idea. A handful of other pundits do too. Sure, it was something of a no-brainer to pick the Astros to win the AL West, but was it really a no-brainer to make such a definitive distinction between how the Mariners, Angles, Rangers and A’s would do? Or, for that matter, how the also-ran Wild Card teams would do? At the time it seemed so — and next spring we’ll pretend we know things all over again — but will we be any less full of crap then than we were last March?

The second flaw — granting that expectations were reasonable and that, yes, the team genuinely and shockingly exceeded them — is giving all of the credit for the manager for making it happen.

Most of the time these days we acknowledge just how much less input a manager has on day-to-day decisions than he used to have. We note that front offices now make decisions about who plays against whom, who shifts where and when and even how the lineup looks on a given night. That stuff is largely invisible, and the manager is the guy who faces the press each day to talk about it, but I think we have less of an idea of who pulled what levers and pushed which buttons to help a team win than we’ve ever really had. And that’s before you start talking about transactions — driven almost totally by the front office — that made a difference. That’s also before you acknowledge that, sometimes, players just go out of their minds sometimes and have fantastic, unexpected seasons. Should we credit Snitker for assembling a shockingly effective relief corps at almost zero cost and for Anibal Sanchez improbably finding the fountain of youth in 2018? Probably not, but we will, effectively, do so in the Manager of the Year voting.

Despite identifying those flaws, I’m not sure what else voters are supposed to go on. Unlike the awards for players, there are no stats by which to judge managers outside of win-loss totals, which we largely and properly discount for all other individual awards. We’d never make a point to blindly give the award to the manager of the team with the best record because (a) that would be boring; and (b) we know, implicitly, that a lot of those managers have advantages other managers don’t in terms of a payroll full of superior players and we don’t give him credit for that. As such, were else except exceeding expectations can we go, flaws in that approach notwithstanding?

So that’s what we do, and that’s why, most likely, Brian Snitker and Bob Melvin will win the Manager of the Year Awards. That’s why Kevin Cash of the Rays, Bud Black of the Rockies and Craig Counsell of the Brewers will get a lot of votes too. Voters will credit them for their skill and acumen in getting more out of teams not picked to win their divisions or make the playoffs than most people suspected they will.

Just don’t ask those same voters why two of the last three Manager of the Year Award winners — Paul Molitor of the Twins and Jeff Bannister of the Rangers — suddenly forgot how to exceed expectations, leading to them getting fired at the end of the year. That might make things a tad harder to square than award voters care to admit.

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.