Do you go for the guy whose team won 101 games, spent 178 days in first place and won its division by 21 games? Here's looking at you, Astros manager A.J. Hinch.Or how about the skipper whose team improved by 26 games and made the postseason for the first time
Do you go for the guy whose team won 101 games, spent 178 days in first place and won its division by 21 games? Here's looking at you, Astros manager A.J. Hinch.
Or how about the skipper whose team improved by 26 games and made the postseason for the first time in seven years? Nice job, Twins manager Paul Molitor.
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Or maybe a familiar face will win again. His team won 94 games in 2016 and still improved by eight games? Indians manager Terry Francona remains one of the gold standards against which other managers are measured.
In a nutshell, those are the decisions voters for the American League Manager of the Year Award had to make. Suspense will end on Tuesday when the Baseball Writers' Association of America announces the winners for the AL and the National League (6 p.m. ET, MLB Network).
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Remember that ballots are cast before the start of the postseason, so Hinch's brilliant work in leading the Astros to their first World Series championship will not count. All he'll get for that work is a World Series ring, which is just fine with him. (Reminder: The Esurance MLB Awards include postseason performance, and the winners will be unveiled on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.)
Meanwhile, the NL Manager of the Year Award finalists are all from the NL West -- Dave Roberts of the Dodgers, Torey Lovullo of the D-backs and Bud Black of the Rockies.
As cool as the baseball summer was in the Twin Cities, the Twins (85-77) did finish 17 games behind the Indians (102-60) in the AL Central. In the past seven seasons, Manager of the Year winners -- nine of 14, 64 percent -- usually have come from first-place teams.
Hinch learned this lesson firsthand in 2015 when his Astros improved by 17 games and made the playoffs for the first time in a decade. But they faded down the stretch and settled for an AL Wild Card berth as the Rangers passed them.
When Manager of the Year honors were handed out, it was Hinch flying to Dallas-Fort Worth to treat his buddy, Texas' Jeff Banister, to a round of golf. Since the Twins were a bigger surprise than the Astros and since the Indians won one more game than the Astros, Hinch could get caught in between again.
Now to the NL, where there's a similar dynamic regarding expectations versus results.
In Lovullo's first season, the D-backs improved by a whopping 24 games, made the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and beat the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game.
Likewise, the Rockies improved by 12 games in Black's first season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
But Roberts could win for a second straight season, because the Dodgers did what they were expected to do and then some.
While the Dodgers were preseason favorites to win the NL West for a fifth straight season, no one could have projected that they would win 104 games. And the way they did it was even more impressive.
To win 91 of 127 and lose 16 of 17 only to get it back together and finish the regular season by winning 12 of 18 was an extraordinary achievement.
Roberts led the Dodgers to 104 victories despite Clayton Kershaw missing five weeks and All-Star shortstop Corey Seager being slowed by elbow and back issues late in the season.
The Dodgers began the regular season with no idea who their leadoff or cleanup hitters would be. Two players who began the season in the Minors, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger, ended up filling those roles superbly.
Roberts handled all of it nicely, proving that the Dodgers made the right call when they hired him after the 2015 season. To that end, another Manager of the Year Award would just be an additional bonus.
That's the tough call for voters. Plenty of options. All good ones. See you on Tuesday.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.