Players are the star of the show. Teams invest heavily in said star players to bring them to the promise land. However, every good team typically has something in common, a good leader.
Terry Francona – Cleveland Indians
Joshua: Francona has won this award twice in the last four years and sporting the American League’s best record at 102-60 on the back of an American League’s record 22-straight wins, who fell just four short of tying the all-time record set by the 1916 New York Giants warrants serious consideration. In addition, he won the season match-up 5-1 against Hinch and 12-7 against inter-rival manager Molitor.
Len: The preseason hype about the Cleveland Indians was that they finally signed the big bat to power them to victory in a World Series re-match versus the Chicago Cubs. Edwin Encarnacion‘s 38 homers helped Francona’s squad add 8 wins to their 2016 total eclipsing the century mark in 2017. This was the first time since 2002 that the American League featured two clubs with 100+ wins. Of course the manager of that team is also a nominee for the award. With everything Mother Nature did to Houston, the sentimental vote will go to Hinch.
A.J. Hinch – Houston Astros
Joshua: Is anyone surprised that the World Series winning manager is on the list. Clearly, to get to the dance, you have to be able to guide the 25-man roster through the ups and downs of a marathon like season, which had added obstacles with the damage from hurricane Harvey. However, Hinch may have had the most balanced lineup in all of baseball one through nine. A team which lead all of the majors in runs scored with 896, RBI’s (854) and not one guy with more than 90 RBI’s – Balanced.
Len: As a whole we forget sometimes that life is bigger than baseball. Hurricane Harvey was a harsh reminder that baseball is just a game. Yet, the game must go on and more than any pitching performance or 400+ foot homer will be remembered. The Astros ability to deal with unimaginable grief for their devastated town is the story here. To lead a team to 100+ plus wins during the regular season and become the World Series champions is a testament to the will of everyone in that Astros dugout including their manager.
Paul Molitor – Minnesota Twins
Joshua: Not bad for a Manager on the hot seat from day one of the 2017 season. A 26-game turn around will get you noticed. Not to mention he has nurtured young players like Byron Buxton who won a gold glove and Miguel Sano, who was selected to his first All-Star game. The future looks bright for the Twins. Not to mention 67.8% of the calls he challenged went in his favor.
Len: “With Molitor in the last year of his contract, he is not quite a lame duck but not putting any down payments on real estate. As much as Molitor may get too much credit for the 2015 turnaround, he is getting too much blame for the 2016 tailspin.” That’s a quote from the preseason article “Where’s The Love For The Minnesota Twins“. Molitor earned himself a 3-year contract extension with the Twins but the Manager of the Year will have to wait.
AL SNUB –
Joshua: Joe Girardi – New York Yankees
How can a guy who led a team similar to Molitor who no one had making the playoffs, to the wild card game not merit consideration? The man had to bench his closer for a stretch to ineffectiveness. His starting rotation was a walking Jekyll and Hide. The only thing he had consistent all year was his bullpen, and a miraculous job he did in managing them.
Len: Mike Scioscia – Los Angeles Angels
Raise your hand if you thought the nail in Scioscia’s managerial career came Sunday May 28th when Mike Trout left the game with a thumb injury that would keep him out of the lineup until July 14th. The general consensus was that the Angels would only be a .500 team but that was with 150+ games of Trout. The Angels went 14-15 during Trout’s absence keeping them on par to finish 80-82 which again was the expected result. Should a manager win the MOY for finishing under .500? No! Should Scioscia have received more serious consideration for a nomination for keeping the Angels from falling apart when the team lost it’s beacon of hope in Trout? Yes!
THE AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR NOD GOES TO:
Joshua: Terry Francona
Len: A.J. Hinch
Bud Black – Colorado Rockies
Joshua: This is not new territory for Bud Black, winning the award back in 2007 where he nurtured a starting rotation which had three 14-game winners and four double digit winners, who eventually lost their wild card match-up to his now current team. It’s almost like deja-vu, another younger rotation, four of them cracking double digits and another wild card loss. He has always had a knack for bringing along young pitchers but is it enough to end up where everyone expected you to be, 3rd in the NL West, to jump to the top of the list over his fellow candidates?
Len: “…the hiring of Bud Black, a former pitcher, is another reason for excitement. No, this is not another bashing statement against Walt Weiss! This is excitement about a new skipper that, due to his experience as a player, can foster the growth of the young starting rotation and utilize the bullpen to its maximum efficiency”. A quote from the preseason piece “I Want To Believe In The Colorado Rockies“.
Before a pitch was even thrown Chad Bettis announced he would be requiring more surgery for testicular cancer. Before the season was a dozen games old, the Rockies lost ace Jon Gray for several weeks due to a stress fracture in his foot. This forced Black to figure out his rotation managing four (4!) rookies – German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman. The successful return to form for closer Greg Holland also gets Black a tip of the cap. We all know the Rockies can hit, it was the work with the pitching staff that brought the Rockies into the Wild Card game.
Torey Lovullo – Arizona Diamondbacks
Joshua: As Len states, the Arizona Diamondbacks had a down year in 2016, with injuries to their ace. However, did anyone see the emergence of Robbie Ray, who went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA? Jake Lamb showed he wasn’t a one year wonder with another 30 HR and 100+ RBI season; two young guns making their first All-Star appearances. Yes, Greinke rounded out into form and Goldshcmidt is in the National League MVP running. However, one of the things Lovullo was known for in his brief stint as interim manager for the Boston Red Sox, was getting the most out his players and connecting with them, specifically the younger ones. Like his AL counterpart Molitor, a huge swing in wins, plus 24, tells you the culture has changed in Arizona. A manger is a big reason for that.
Len: Right place, right time. No disrespect to Lovullo and his efforts but he was taking over a team that played 2016 down A.J. Pollock (who next to Paul Goldschmidt is their best batter) and David Peralta for most the season due to injury. Big time acquisitions entering last season Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller both played below their regular standard which helped setup a worse case scenario all around the 2016 season. Dumbing it down to these four players all bouncing back, the Diamondbacks were bound to be 80+ win team.
Pollock played in 100 more games with an improved power stroke collecting 14 homers and still swiping 20 bags. Peralta played in 92 more games and brought his numbers back to his 2015 levels that ignited so much hope in the desert. Greinke pitched 200+ innings and got 200+ strikeouts, a bare necessity for this team to be successful. Miller was a non-factor but off-season acquisition Taijuan Walker covered his slack.
Like I said – right place, right time for Lovullo. I expect to be saying the same thing about the Mets new manager Mickey Callaway this time next season.
Dave Roberts – Los Angeles Dodgers
Joshua: In his second season at the helm of the Dodgers, there was high expectations with the highest payroll in baseball. I mean, how can a team who finishes first the previous four seasons with arguably one of the best pitchers in the game, not get to the World Series. Not only did he navigate his team to the best record in all of baseball but took his team to the brink of the World Series. He has fostered not one, but two Rookie-of-the-Year candidates (Seager last year and Bellinger this year.)
More impressively, he manages in the same calm demeanor he played in, even keel throughout, even during what almost was and would have been an epic collapse in September, steering the ship out of troubled waters. However, does meeting expectations merit exemplary performance?
Len: The Dodgers 104 wins is the most in franchise history since 1974. The argument against his nomination is that the Dodgers entered the 2017 season with the highest payroll in baseball and added pieces to the team at the trade deadline. History is littered with high payroll in baseball teams that do not make the playoffs. This past season the Toronto Blue Jays and Detriot Tigers placed 4th and 5th in team payroll and by the All-Star break where already off everybody’s playoff radar so maybe it’s time to give Roberts some credit. Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger definitely helped his cause as he was the ultimate band-aid covering up injuries to Andrew Toles and Adrian Gonzalez. The Dodgers have won the NL West five times in a row which almost takes off some of the shine of the achievement of winning a division. Do not punish Roberts for regular season success that has become ho hum, reward the man for continuing to raise the bar.
The NL Manager of the Year nod goes to:
Joshua: Torey Lovullo
Len: Dave Roberts