NL Manager of the Year Watch: Can Clint be caught?

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle has pushed all the right buttons in 2013. (USATSI)
Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle has pushed all the right buttons in 2013. (USATSI)

Awards Watch: NL MVP | AL MVP | NL Cy Young | AL Cy Young | NL Rookie of the Year | AL Rookie of the Year

Our check-up on the various awards races continues, and this time out we're handicapping the National League Manager of the Year fray.

Typically, Manager of the Year laurels go to the skipper whose team did the best job of defying expectations for the better or overcoming unanticipated obstacles. That, then, will inform our choices in most cases.

As a reminder, these are predictions of who will win based on the season to date and not statements of who deserves to win ...

Front-runner

Clint Hurdle, Pirates: The long-suffering Buccos have already clinched their first winning season since 1992 and are all but mortal locks for a postseason berth. That they've thus far avoided a 2012-style stretch-drive collapse only adds to Hurdle's case. They're going to the playoffs, but only a sustained losing streak to end the season can take this award from Hurdle's clutches. Already, the Pirates have improved their win total by nine games over season-ago levels.

In the mix

Freddie Gonzalez, Braves: Coming into the season, the Nationals were heavy favorites in the AL East. Well, Gonzalez's Braves are going to win the division by a wide margin, and they'll do so despite a long list of injuries. That's enough to put Gonzalez squarely in the mix, even if the Pirates have the power of the narrative locked down.

Don Mattingly, Dodgers: Mattingly, of course, was on the verge of losing his job back when they were 9 1/2 games out in late June. Now, they're the NL West champs -- winners of the division that houses the reigning World Series champs. In a sense, Mattingly's pricey Dodgers are "merely" living up to expectations, but the improbable comeback makes him a contender for the award.

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