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….
1. Bruce Bochy
2. Matt Williams
3. Mike Redmond
For the National League Connie Mack Award, I think that there is another clear winner, though perhaps one not as deserving as the others who finished on my list in the AL. I don’t mean to make light of any of the men on this list, but many had good teams that just needed to get healthy or take the final step to make the playoffs. While all had good years, if I had to make a list of the 3 best managers from both leagues, perhaps none of these three make my list. But I digress. I considered 5 individuals for this award.
The two who didn’t make my list were Mike Matheny and Clint Hurdle. Both had good seasons with mid-market teams and made late pushes to get into the playoffs. But both also had playoff teams last year, and perhaps both were also responsible for their teams needing to make a late playoff push, seeing as how Milwaukee and Cincinnati hung around in the NL Central and Wildcard races for so long. So while both had good years, neither made the list.
Number 3 on my list almost won it all. I eventually decided that the Marlins late season swoon and the fact that the other two teams’ managers skippered playoff clubs was enough to knock him from first to third. I usually ignore whether a team made the playoffs for individual player awards, because we know empirically that individual baseball players have less to do with their team’s successes than any other athlete from any other sport. Obviously it helps, but you need lots of good players to make the playoffs in baseball. But with a manager, you are measured by your teams’ success. So playoffs mean more in this race, and it’s why Mike Redmond is only third on this list as the Marlins finished well out of the playoff race. In fact, they only finished fourth in what ended up being a fairly weak NL East. But he gets notice for taking a team that many thought could be the worst in baseball and leading them to respectability. 77 wins isn’t something that usually gets people excited, but in this case it was a 15-win improvement. And it came with an injury-shortened season from Giancarlo Stanton and almost no help from Jose Fernandez, who got hurt early.
Matt Williams was a rookie manager who took over a talented Nationals team that had a wealth of expectations heaped upon them. That’s not easy to deal with. But he did and helped this team improve their win total by 10 and their run differential by over 100. That’s a big improvement and it all came while dealing with beating the expectations of many others. And it led to the best record in the NL. That performance made him my runner up on this list.
But the winner of the NL Connie Mack Award has to be Bruce Bochy. Redmond took a bad team and made them better. But they weren’t a playoff factor. Williams took a good team and helped them play to their potential and a little beyond. Bochy took a team that looked okay on paper and helped guide them to the final playoff berth in a tough division where the richest team in baseball generally had its way with those below it. This team won 12 more games this year without any major free agent additions and despite losing Marco Scutaro, Matt Cain and losing Brandon Belt for the majority of the year. And at the end of the year Bochy helped the team weather the loss of Angel Pagan and Michael Morse. This team has never been healthy. In the past it always won with dynamite starting pitching built around Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Well Cain struggled before getting hurt and Lincecum was bad enough to be banished to the bullpen for the stretch run. But even with those losses, Bochy saw his team improve their run differential from -62 last year to positive 57 in 2014. That’s an impressive job of getting the most out of your players. Especially when most of your players aren’t All Stars. For that reason, Bochy is my Connie Mack Award winner.
Okay that’s it for the Connie Mack Award. Next up will be the Willie Mays Award, which is comparable to the Rookie of the Year.