Making the cases for Manager of the Year Awards
While other awards come with a flurry of statistics floating around to support one candidate over another, the Manager of the Year honor generally has to do with one number: wins. Not necessarily the most wins, but perhaps more wins than expected, or a winning season on the heels of anywhere from a year to decades of adversity.
All six of the finalists for this year's annual accolade for managers, as presented by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, are already winners in the sense that they took their teams to new or higher heights in the standings. Five of the six led their boys of summer into October, but a ticket to the postseason is not a requirement for Manager of the Year, as some previous winners have shown.
When the 2015 award for each league is announced tonight at 6 ET -- watch live on MLB Network, or watch MLB.com's live show -- two managers will take winning to a new level, earning individual recognition for his team's success.
This year's finalists:
Jeff Banister, Rangers
Spending the previous four years as the bench coach during Pittsburgh's postseason renaissance before getting his first managerial opportunity, Banister was a definite catalyst for a quick turnaround in Texas. Despite another run of injuries, starting with the loss of ace pitcher Yu Darvish, the Rangers showed some serious staying power in the AL West race, going from worst to first in the division. With 88 wins, a 21-win increase over 2014, Banister definitely made his mark in his managerial debut.
A.J. Hinch, Astros
Hinch wasn't a rookie, having skippered 212 games with the D-backs in 2009-10, and he delivered steady leadership like a veteran. Of course, he stepped into a dream opportunity with the Astros on the rise and even more talent coming in 2015. With a Cy Young Award finalist at the top of the rotation in Dallas Keuchel and a Rookie of the Year candidate in Carlos Correa, the Astros were poised for big things this year. Hinch made sure they reached their postseason promise with a 16-win improvement over '14.
Paul Molitor, Twins
With a Hall of Fame resume and a long history as a local baseball legend, Molitor needed no introductions as he entered his first managerial job. By the end of the season, he was on the radar all over the league after the Twins had made a surprisingly deep run of contending for a Wild Card spot, down to the second-to-last day of the season. The Twins had their first winning season since 2010 and finished second in the AL Central behind baseball's top team, the Royals. Molitor, an exemplary competitor through a 21-year playing career, showed big-time managerial chops in his first opportunity.
Terry Collins, Mets
The oldest manager in the Majors, Collins, 66, turned in a career performance in his 11th year as a Major League manager, his fifth with the Mets. Since 2011, Collins led the Mets from fourth to third to second and, in 2015, to first place in the NL East, earning him his first postseason managerial assignment after 1,688 games. Clearly, this was his best work, managing an emerging force of a young rotation and a lineup that added talent midseason to deliver some needed punch down the stretch. Collins was named Manager of the Year by the Sporting News, as voted on by Major League managers.
Joe Maddon, Cubs
From his interview on a Florida Panhandle beach, through his introduction in a Wrigleyville bar, Maddon's presence was announced on the North Side of Chicago as part of a new day dawning. Maddon made it clear he was coming to town to be out front in the Cubs' ascension to contenders and, ultimately, that ever-so-elusive trip to the World Series. What Maddon and the Cubs did in 2015 was jump right up to the postseason step and the manager -- while blessed with a bevy of talent -- definitely had a hand in that turnaround. The Cubs had an eight-game winning streak to end the season and their rapid rise to success was one of the big stories of the 2015 baseball season.
Mike Matheny, Cardinals
All Matheny and the Cards did was become the only team in the Majors with 100 wins, claiming a third straight title in the NL Central -- home of the three best records in baseball in 2015. That he led the team to such heights despite myriad injuries to key players makes Matheny a finalist for Manager of the Year honors for the first time despite being the only manager in Major League history to lead a team to the postseason his first four years as a skipper.