The Baseball Writers’ Association of America unveiled its Manager of the Year winners on Tuesday, with St. Louis’ Mike Shildt taking home the honor in the National League and Minnesota’s Rocco Baldelli prevailing in the American League.
As a refresher, winners are determined through a vote of eligible BBWAA members, all of whom are required to submit their ballots prior to the postseason. Each local chapter chooses two members to vote for an award, which results in there being 30 ballots cast for AL candidates and another 30 for NL ones. The ballots for Manager of the Year honors include a first-, second- and third-place choice.
• Complete 2019 Manager of the Year voting results
Here were the top 3 finishers in both leagues:
1) Mike Shildt, Cardinals
2) Craig Counsell, Brewers
3) Brian Snitker, Braves
1) Rocco Baldelli, Twins
2) Aaron Boone, Yankees
3) Kevin Cash, Rays
As we did following Monday’s Rookie of the Year announcement, MLB.com is revealing not only the ballots of our voters who were involved in selecting the Managers of the Year, but also giving them a platform to explain how they reached those decisions.
Voter: Jamal Collier, beat reporter
BBWAA Chapter: Baltimore/Washington
Ballot: Craig Counsell – Mike Shildt – Dave Martinez
This is my first time voting for this award, and it’s impossible to know exactly how much credit to give each individual, especially those I don't get to see on an everyday basis. I tried to look best at the talent level on the roster, how each manager was best able to maximize that and how they were each able to have success despite the limitations. Counsell was the standard for this. Milwaukee got very little from a few key arms in both the rotation and bullpen it was expecting to count on at the start of the season. The math was already bad for the Brewers’ playoff chances when defending NL MVP Christian Yelich went down on Sept. 10. But they kept winning, grabbed a Wild Card berth and nearly stole the NL Central.
Shildt deserves a ton of credit for guiding the Cardinals to the division crown. He was flexible with his bullpen usage and willing to stick with some players during slumps while going away from others. He just barely misses out on the top spot. Martinez was handed a bullpen that was historically bad to start the season and helped the Nats navigate through a nightmare start to finish with 93 wins. It’s no small accomplishment, but the other two have the edge for their far superior in-game decision-making over Martinez.
Voter: Matthew Leach, editor
BBWAA Chapter: Atlanta
Ballot: Dave Roberts – Brian Snitker – Craig Counsell
Roberts dealt with massive injury issues all year, and seamlessly merged a slew of rookies into big, important roles. The two pitchers at the back of his bullpen both struggled, and the Dodgers still ran away with not only the division but the best record in the league. I also think we sometimes sell short how hard it is to do the people-managing side of big clubs with big stars in big cities. It’s not for everyone, and when you do it well, you deserve credit.
Snitker managed a clubhouse with a wide range of personalities, handled a very challenging bullpen, got the most out of young players and veterans, and in the end came close to 100 wins. Counsell … what can you say? They should have been dead multiple times, and they weren’t. They didn’t have a positive run differential until the last week of the season. And still they’re in it again. He’s a deft manager of people and a good tactician, a rare combination. Torey Lovullo (Arizona) and Mike Shildt were both strong candidates and tough to leave off my ballot.
Voter: Joe Frisaro, beat reporter
BBWAA Chapter: Miami
Ballot: Brian Snitker – Mike Shildt – Craig Counsell
As a starting point, I took this approach: On paper, who appeared to get the most out of the roster? In a division in which every team except Miami was built to contend, the Braves ran away with the NL East. They made a seven-game improvement from a year ago. I also examined consistency, and the Braves performed on the road and at home. Some other managers had more lopsided splits.
I also gathered input from scouts, coaches and league contacts to help my decision. I even looked at the managers' percentages on replay challenges to see their decision-making process. If they missed at a high rate, maybe their process is flawed and needs review. I waited until the end to season to finalize my vote, and the nod for second place and third literally came down to the Cardinals winning the Central, giving the edge to Shildt.
Voter: Nathalie Alonso, editor/reporter
BBWAA Chapter: New York
Ballot: Craig Counsell – Mike Shildt – Brian Snitker
The Manager of the Year Award is arguably the hardest to vote for, as there are no stats that measure a manager’s contribution. Instead, usually without knowing what happens behind the scenes, you have to look at a team’s performance and circumstances and try to determine how significant a role the manager played in the team’s success.
With that in mind, my first-place vote went to Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers. I went back and forth between Counsell and Shildt until the very last moment. I ultimately settled on Counsell for several reasons. The Brewers had an 89-73 record during the regular season and clinched a Wild Card berth despite not employing a bona fide ace. That they were in the race for the NL Central title until the last day of the season, and finishing with a run differential of just +3 was impressive. Beyond that, Christian Yelich’s season-ending knee injury in the first inning of a Sept. 10 game in Miami could have crippled the Brewers; instead they went 13-5 without the NL MVP candidate. That suggests that Counsell was able to keep his team on track in the face of a potentially devastating blow. The fact that Counsell was in the conversation again for NL Manager of the Year after finishing in second place for the award in 2018 was also significant to me, as it speaks to consistency and growth from one year to the next.
Voter: Ian Browne, beat reporter
BBWAA Chapter: Boston
Ballot: Aaron Boone – Rocco Baldelli – Bob Melvin
This is the third BBWAA vote I’ve had, and it was by far the toughest. No exaggeration that there were five worthy winners this year -- the three I voted for, plus Cash and Terry Francona. Why did I go with Boone? Look at all the injuries! Boone guided the Yankees to 103 wins despite an MLB-record 30 players on the injured list. Many of the players he lost were for long stretches, and they ranked among the Yankees’ most important position players and pitchers.
I went Baldelli second because the team won 101 games, which is 23 more than it won without him last year. Baldelli was receptive to analytics and also kept his players fresh by resting them throughout the year. He also fostered a loose clubhouse that helped the team’s success. To be completely honest, Melvin versus Cash was all but a coin flip for the third spot on the ballot. Ultimately, I went with Melvin to round out the ballot because the caliber of arms the A’s have is a notch below Tampa Bay’s staff.
Voter: Mandy Bell, beat reporter
BBWAA Chapter: Cleveland
Ballot: Rocco Baldelli – Aaron Boone – Kevin Cash
Debating between putting Rocco Baldelli or Aaron Boone in first place was the most difficult decision in this vote. Baldelli’s success is evident. In a rookie campaign, he was able to carry the Twins to their second 100-plus-win season in franchise history after the club went 78-84 in 2018. Coming from covering the Indians this past season, it seemed that the team that sat atop the American League Central from 2016-18 knew that the Twins would be better this season, but no one imagined just how good they’d end up being. Because it was so surprising, that gave Baldelli the edge over Boone in my vote.
But let it be known that Boone’s job of handling a team that placed the most players on the injured list in MLB history made this a challenge. When a team is expected to do well in a season, it’s hard to imagine its skipper bringing home the Manager of the Year hardware. However, to win 103 games without all of their starters at different points throughout the season is mind-blowing. But the biggest separation in this vote was just how much of a dark horse the Twins were this season.
There was also a tough choice between Kevin Cash and Bob Melvin, but the Rays’ resiliency in the face of roster turnover and injuries to secure an AL Wild Card spot after missing the playoffs with a 90-win season last year earned him my third-place vote.
Voter: Richard Justice, columnist
BBWAA Chapter: Houston
Ballot: Aaron Boone – Rocco Baldelli – AJ Hinch
Easy decision. Boone’s team won the AL East despite a dizzying array of injuries. That he kept his team focused and confident -- not all his doing -- speaks volumes. Baldelli led the turnaround of the year, and Hinch guided the heavy favorites to 107 wins.
Voter: Keegan Matheson, reporter/producer
BBWAA Chapter: Toronto
Ballot: Aaron Boone – Rocco Baldelli – Kevin Cash
The Manager of the Year Award comes without the benefit of simple sorting stats like OPS, ERA or WAR. Instead, we look for the ways in which a manager has clearly influenced their team. From bullpen management to lineup construction, this can often be subtle. In Aaron Boone’s case, it’s been much easier to see and measure.
Boone steered the Yankees through 30 players hitting the injured list in 2019, an MLB record. Many of these were key injuries, too, leaving the Yankees without major bats or rotation pieces. Still, along with the New York front office, Boone bet on the right players at the right times to lead the Yankees to 103 wins, making him the first manager in baseball history to win 100 games in each of his first two seasons.
Rocco Baldelli is more than deserving of consideration, too, after leading the Twins from 78 wins in 2018 to 101 in his first year as manager, with Minnesota’s 307 homers making them a must-watch team. Kevin Cash, much like 2018 winner Bob Melvin, got the most out of a small payroll and creatively navigated injuries to get his team to the AL Wild Card.