One thing that always gets me about the Manager of the Year Award is that it's usually the "guy-whose-team-did better-than-we-thought" award.
Joe Girardi won his Manager of the Year Award when he was with the Marlins -- because they won 78 games with a young team. He won 103 games and the World Series last season, but didn't win the award. The last Manager of the Year winner to win the World Series was Ozzie Guillen in 2005 and the only other to achieve that feat this decade was the Angels' Mike Scioscia in 2002.
In his run with the Yankees, Joe Torre won the award once, and split it once. The split came in his first season, while the second was only when he won 114 games and it was hard to give it to anyone else.
In his role as the Red Sox manager, Terry Francona has never won the award, despite doing a great job year after year. The reason, he's expected to win every year with the team he has.
So, there's two things we can do here -- handicap the race or work in deep, dark corners to find out what the award should mean and by that criteria, who should win it. That sounds extremely difficult -- and there's no way to prove it.
Instead, I'll go with handicapping the actual race, because it'll be a better chance for me to sound smart when I'm right (if I'm wrong, well, sure I'm dumb, but I knew that already.)
Texas Rangers (75-62)
The Rangers skipper is the favorite. Not only has his team exceeded expectations (check), will likely make the playoffs (check), but he's also got a built-in story. Remember spring training when many were shocked that he didn't get canned following his admission he did cocaine? Now you do, but it's not the first thing anyone thinks about when they hear Washington's name anymore.
Boston Red Sox (77-61)
Francona has never won the award, and this season the Red Sox will miss the playoffs for just the second time in Francona's tenure, but he's possibly done his best managing job ever (and this comes from a fan of his managing) juggling the Red Sox's roster. Here's how impressive the Red Sox have been -- Darnell McDonald will be appearing in his 102nd game tonight, the same number of games Kevin Youkilis has played in this year.
Tampa Bay Rays (83-54)
He's always in the conversation because he's really, really cool. And still everyone is shocked the Rays are good now. That's not to say he's done a bad job, but I think he'll get votes because of those two reasons, mainly.
San Diego Padres (77-59)
About 11 games ago, Black seemed to have this trophy in the bag. Nobody could quite figure out how the Padres were leading the National League West by 6 1/2 games. Apparently someone got the message that they weren't that good to the Padres, and the team promptly went on a 10-game losing streak. They now hold a one-game lead over the Giants. If the Padres don't make the playoffs, look for Black to fall out of the lead for this award. If they hold on to win, it's likely his.
Cincinnati Reds (79-58)
The Reds were a popular sleeper pick during spring training, but nobody actually believed they'd beat out the Cardinals. There's time for Cincinnati to completely collapse (see below), but it looks like the Reds will make their first playoff appearance since 1995 and with just three more wins, will notch the franchise's first winning season since 2000. It would also be fun to watch the internet explode when Baker wins his fourth Manager of the Year Award, tying Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox for the most ever (the award started in 1983 -- La Russa won the AL award that season).
Atlanta Braves (79-59)
One more for old times sake? Besides the sentimentality, the Braves have held off the Phillies (to this point). Some will say Cox has been the beneficiary of great rosters, others will say his teams rarely got it done in the biggest games but in the end, his results in this day and age have been exceptional. This season is just another tribute to his consistency.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
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