It’s time for the End of the Year Awards. This is one of my favorite articles to write each year. It’s also a mandatory article per my affiliation with the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. However, it’s not a problem as I love writing these and always hope my vote helps pick the individuals I deem as the correct recipients of each individual reward. So let’s start with the….
Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
1. Buck Showalter
2. Mike Scioscia
3. Lloyd McClendon
This one was pretty easy to call. There were numerous teams that overachieved or bounced back from bad years without having a lot of turnover in personnel. That’s generally what I look for when I vote for manager of the year. I generally think that too much credit is given to a manager when a team wins and too much blame is heaped upon them if they lose. So, I try to look for situations where I think each individual manager had the most effect on what is happening with a team. The easiest way to see that is when a team improves without major additions to the roster. That’s what I think we have, by and large, with my picks above.
I considered 4 names overall, with the only one name not making the list. Honorable mention goes to Ned Yost. Yost is an obvious choice with the Royals breaking their 29-year playoff drought. However he didn’t break my top 3 as the Royals only added 6 wins to their tally from last year and actually saw their run differential get 20 points worse.
The third place choice was Lloyd McClendon, the skipper of the Seattle Mariners. Now this is a situation where the front office actually did make a lot of moves to improve the front office. I don’t usually single out managers who had a lot of help from their GMs, but McClendon did a great job getting the most out of his team, which frankly only looked good on paper after the final round of trades. Robinson Cano was a big improvement, but his power dwindled in Safeco. Outside of Cano, there weren’t any big name additions, and most people thought this team didn’t do enough. McClendon made it enough. He got the most out of the players on that team and they played well enough to be buyers at the trade deadline. And they kept playing hard, pulled close and came within one game of making the playoffs. This is a team that was irrelevant last year. That’s worthy of consideration.
Mike Sciocsia did something similar. He took a team that had underachieved for the past two years and had them record the best record in baseball. This is a group of guys that nobody believed in after their recent struggles. And I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities that they stopped believing in themselves. But Scioscia never gave up on them. Mike Trout has been great the past two years. He actually had his worst season this year, but will still likely win the MVP, as he should have the past two years. But others finally stepped up to support him. And Scioscia juggled the lineup and pitching rotation to keep the hot hitters in key lineup positions and account for injuries to several key players. Sciosca had a wonderful season and should be heavily considered for manager of the year.
But the best managing job had to come from Buck Showalter. The Orioles had a great year last season, but just missed the playoffs. This year, they had to play in a division with the defending champion Red Sox and talented Tampa Bay Rays. They were considered a very lucky team last year with a historically good record in one run games. Most thought that was not sustainable. In addition, coming into this year the Orioles were not going to have a healthy Manny Machado. They then lost Matt Wieters early and Chris Davis late. Machado came back, but got hurt again. But this team persevered and added 11 wins to their total from the previous year while improving their run differential by 76. They got strong pitching performances from a number of individuals, who seemed to improve from year to year. I think a lot of that is Showalter’s tutelage, and we all know how great he is at in-game adjustments. And the loss of key players didn’t affect them at all. Nelson Cruz was a big part of it, but others were a major part. Buck Showalter believed in Steve Pearce, who had a breakout year. The O’s didn’t have a ton of stars, but got above average seasons from most of their lineup as they locked up the AL East and went into the playoffs with the second best record in the league. As much as Scioscia and McClendon impressed me, Showalter was easily the best manager in the AL this year.
Okay that’s my pick for the AL Connie Mack Award. The NL pick will follow soon….