Most seasons, there is a clear-cut winner in the Manager of the Year races in both the American and National Leagues. Sometimes, it’s a close race, but this season, ‘close’ doesn’t even come close to describing these races – namely the AL showdown.
First, and foremost, Boston Red Sox skipper John Farrell took a team that lost 93 games in 2012 and turned them into American League East champions for the first time since 2007, winning 97 games and coming within one game of the World Series with two games to play at home remaining in the ALCS.
Farrell’s contributions in Boston go so much farther than the on-field product. After Bobby Valentine’s club was riddled with clubhouse issues, team chemistry concerns and an overall lack of focus, Farrell turned things around on a dime, creating a group of bearded bandits that play the game the way it was meant to be played.
A former Red Sox skipper, Terry Francona, is also a front-runner for the award after guiding the Cleveland Indians back to the postseason with a remarkable run. However, his legitimacy could be undercut by the fact that the only way his club made the postseason was through dominating sub-.500 teams with a staggering .757 winning percentage against struggling teams, while having only a .524 percentage against teams over the .500 mark.
Nonetheless, he took a group of misfits – the Goon Squad, as they so aptly named themselves, and made Cleveland a respectable baseball city once again. After a 2012 season that saw the Indians go 68-94, it seemed impossible. Tito changed a lot of minds this year.
Lastly, Bob Melvin of the ‘Moneyball’ Oakland A’s. How can you explain the odds that this team faced in a division with the likes of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Texas Rangers? For the second straight year, and with added conviction, the Athletics hammered their way to an AL West crown, only to see their World Series aspirations end at the hands of the Detroit Tigers yet again.
Give Melvin credit. He’s one of the best in the game and he seems to have found his spot in Oakland. Taking a small-market team like Oakland and topping the likes of the Angels and Rangers was a tall task and he accomplished it.
The race really is too close to call. All three have impressive resumes and all three have their shortcomings. If I had to bet, I’d put it on Farrell in Boston. We’ll see.