So now that I’ve posted my End of the Year Award winners, I thought I’d take my readers through my thought process, see the others I considered for each award and explain why I chose who I chose. We’ll start with the Connie Mack Awards (Manager of the Year).
In the National League I chose Davey Johnson of the Washington Nationals. It was not too difficult to come to that decision, though there were certainly others worth considering. Mike Matheny has done a great job in his first season in St. Louis. Bruce Bochy deserves some credit for getting his Giants back into the race and winning the NL West. But for me, it really came down to Davey Johnson and the Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker. Baker's club played hard all year. After losing closer Ryan Madson in spring training and then Joey Votto for most of the second half, the Reds were able wear down the Pirates and outlast the Cardinals. The Reds are coming back after a miserable year in 2011 where they criminally underachieved. In addition, Baker led this team in what was essentially a lame-duck season this year as the top brass in the Queens City haven’t seen fit to give him a contract for next season. But the players adore him, and he hasn’t worn out pitchers’ arms in the way he used to. His Reds had a great year and were the best team in the second half this year. But I still have to go with Johnson.
The Nationals skipper was coaching in his first full season in the bigs after an absence of over a decade. He took over a team that had a lot of expectations, a lot of young players and a lot of hope. D.C has been desperate for some good baseball ever since the Nationals arrived. And Johnson didn’t let them down this year, leading his club to the best record in the National League and their first NL East title. They got bounced in the NLDS, but they had a great season regardless. Others were deserving, but Johnson is the winner in my book.
Now the AL was a much harder decision. It essentially came down to Buck Showalter in Baltimore and Bob Melvin in Oakland. Either guy is worthy of the award. If I thought ties were acceptable, that’s what I’d do. But I think it’s important to try and pick a winner, no matter how difficult it is. And that’s what I did. I ended up going with Buck Showalter in a very close race. Here’s how I came to this decision.
The A’s were one game better than the Orioles. That helped Melvin. As did the fact that he took a team with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball that was expected to lose 100 games and was able to beat the two time defending AL Champion Texas Rangers and the big offseason winners, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Those teams both have payrolls over $120 million, while the A’s barely break $50 million. What he did was incredibly impressive. Moving to the other finalist in the AL East, Showalter had a fairly low payroll, though more than the A’s. However big spenders in Boston and New York and even Toronto blow his team’s payroll out of the water. A few years ago, this would have been easier. The AL East has been the class of baseball for years. An Oriole team climbing from the bottom to second in the division and winning the wildcard would pretty much seal this for him. But this season, the AL West was actually the better division. So that all seems to break Melvin’s way. But, the big difference for me was the culture of losing in Baltimore. The A’s are by no means a powerhouse that consistently wins. But they’ve had successful seasons in the past with three different groups of dominant starters and some division titles in the early part of the millennium. But the Orioles haven’t tasted playoff baseball since 1997. They have been one of the least desired free agent locations for years. An assistant GM in Toronto turned down the full GM job in Baltimore, to keep his ASSISTANT title with the Blue Jays. And we are talking an assistant GM for the Blue Jays, not the Yankees or Red Sox. In a much more publicized rejection, Jerry DiPoto chose the Angels over the Orioles and some of the biggest free agent acquisitions of the decade. This is what the Orioles had to deal with. The GM they settled on hadn’t worked in baseball in a decade. But he took some pieces that others overlooked, built a team of cast-offs, and sent it down to Buck Showalter to do his best. And Showalter’s best was the best in the league this season, in my opinion. He took a group that no one believed in, made them believe in themselves, and kept them going all season long, winning a ton of close games, and overcoming a gross run-differential to win in spite of everything. So, no disrespect to Melvin, and if anyone voted for Melvin I couldn’t blame them, but I had to go with Buck for the incredible job he did with the Orioles.
Okay so that's part one. I'll follow with my MVP breakdowns after this.