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AL Manager of the Year Watch: Crowded at the top

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

In his first year in Seattle, Lloyd McClendon is turning some heads.
In his first year in Seattle, Lloyd McClendon is turning some heads. (USATSI)

Awards Watch: AL MVP | NL MVP | AL Cy | NL Cy | AL ROY | NL ROY | NL manager

To conclude our week of checking out where the major BBWAA postseason awards stand, let's check out the managers.

Manager of the Year seems to have a different set of criteria than the individual player awards, because the measure is usually which skipper has the team that has done the best in expectations vs. performance. So, right out of the gate, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had very little chance to win, due to the Tigers being such a heavy AL Central favorite. I'm not saying Ausmus deserves to win, nor am I saying this is wrong. It's just an illustration of how the voting for the Manager of the Year award goes.

And on this point, I'll offer up the obligatory reminder that we're not making personal picks but instead are gauging how the vote would land based upon historical BBWAA voting tendencies.

In the case of the American League Manager of the Year race, it's a beauty.

Onward.

[Managers listed alphabetically within categories]

Front-runners

Lloyd McClendon, Mariners

The Mariners haven't made the playoffs since 2001 and they're right on the cusp of a spot right now, sitting a half-game back of the second wild-card spot. Despite the big-ticket acquisition of Robinson Cano -- and lesser-ticket add of Fernando Rodney -- the Mariners still weren't expected to finish better than fourth in the AL West by many. Very, very few predicted a playoff run, but they're right in the thick of the race. This is McClendon's first year at the helm and the Mariners have been improving throughout the season, after fighting through early season rotation injuries. He's also underrated in how he deals with the bullpen.

Buck Showalter, Orioles

The Orioles weren't a popular pick in the preseason to win the AL East, but they're a whopping 7½ games up right now, the largest division lead in all of baseball. As usual, Buck is a master with his bullpen. The O's have also withstood some important injuries (Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, etc.) and fought through the underperformance of Chris Davis.

Ned Yost, Royals

The Royals are saddled with the longest playoff drought in the majors. It has been since 1985 since they took part in postseason play. At this snapshot in time, they lead the mighty Tigers by a half-game in the AL Central. I believe Yost would win the award right now in a very close race over McClendon and Showalter. All three candidates are worthy.

In the mix

John Gibbons, Blue Jays

The second-longest playoff drought in MLB belongs to the Blue Jays. They are within striking range at 3½ games out of the second wild card. Given the crowded field here, Gibbons can't win unless the Jays make the postseason. If they do and the Royals and Mariners miss out, though, Gibbons has a real shot.

Bob Melvin, Athletics

After losing A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker in the spring to injury, the A's threw a veteran middle reliever (Jesse Chavez) in the rotation and have boasted the best record in baseball for most of the season. Melvin is still brilliant at playing matchups, but I feel like he's a step behind the frontrunners due to being the two-time defending AL West champion (again, whether that's right or not). He already has two Manager of the Year awards, though, so it's cool.

Mike Scioscia, Angels

After a very disappointing 2013 season, the Angels weren't a popular playoff pick heading into the season. They have the second-best record in all of baseball. I still feel like Scioscia's a step behind, though, due to the Angels having a few very highly paid players and the fact that they probably should have been this good last season anyway, in the eyes of many voters.

On the periphery

Joe Girardi, Yankees

It's remarkable that the Yankees are three games over .500 with all their injury woes. If they make a playoff run, Girardi might garner some support. Right now, though, he's buried by the competition.

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