Quick, who won last year's Manager of the Year awards?
Exactly. Not the most interesting of the postseason awards. But here's a quick preview of the award that usually goes to the manager whose team surprised the most.
Joe Maddon, Rays: The odds-on favorite to win his second award, following Tampa Bay's miracle playoff run in September. Positives: Kept team positive after 0-6 start, Evan Longoria's April injury and Manny Ramirez's drug test/retirement; overcame two shortstops who hit under .200; mixed and matched guys like Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez for maximum producitivity; rebuilt bullpen thrived; sent up Dan Johnson to pinch-hit in the ninth inning of game No. 162. Negatives: Was that a mullet?
Ron Washington, Rangers: Remember, postseason performance doesn't come into play. Positives: Moved Alexi Ogando to the rotation; got a big year out of Michael Young by moving him around the DH role and the infield; let Mike Napoli eventually take over as the regular catcher. Negatives: Remember, postseason performance doesn't come into play.
Jim Leyland, Tigers: A two-time winner with the Pirates and once with the Tigers, Leyland could be the first manager to win the award four times (the award began in 1983). Positives: Gave the ball to Justin Verlander and stayed out of the way. Negatives: Poor lineup construction.
Manny Acta, Indians: The Indians ended up at 80-82, but it was a positive season as they remained in the playoff race much of the season. Positives: Hung in there despite injuries to Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo; worked in young players like Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall; adeptly handled no-name bullpen to a nice season. Negatives: Couldn't straighten out Fausto Carmona; stuck with Orlando Cabrera way too long in No. 2 hole.
SweetSpot network voting
Joe Maddon: 114 points (21 first-place votes)
Jim Leyland: 32 points
Ron Washington: 28 points (1)
Manny Acta: 20 points (1)
Joe Girardi: 20 points (1)
Terry Francona: 1 point
Mike Scioscia: 1 point
1. Joe Maddon
2. Manny Acta
3. Ron Washington
Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks: Arizona improved from 65 to 94 wins, making Gibson the front-runner. Positives: Made regulars out of Ryan Roberts and Gerardo Parra; installed a new energy and attitude into the team; got nice work out of rookie starter Josh Collmenter; dramatically improved the bullpen from a year ago; constantly forced to change lineup. Negatives: Let's not talk about that Division Series.
Ron Roenicke, Brewers: In his first season, the Brewers set a club record with 96 wins (one more than 1982's Harvey's Wallbangers). Positives: Inspired move to eventually hit Corey Hart leadoff; got good results from mercurial center fielder Nyjer Morgan; once Zack Greinke returned, had top four guys who didn't miss a start all season; didn't overreact because team didn't have a good lefty in the pen. Negatives: Stuck with Casey McGehee too long; stuck with Craig Counsell as utility guy.
Tony La Russa, Cardinals: The future Hall of Famer went out in style, although the award is voted on before the postseason. Positives: Overcame season-long injury to Adam Wainwright, plus DL stints from Albert Pujols, David Freese and Matt Holliday; coaxed good work out of bullpen after closer Ryan Franklin self-destructed in April; went with Jason Motte as closer down the stretch; believed in Jon Jay's ability to play center, allowed trade of Colby Rasmus. Negatives: Inability to enunciate during calls to the bullpen.
SweetSpot network voting
Kirk Gibson: 99 points (16 first-place votes)
Ron Roenicke: 51 points (3)
Tony La Russa: 49 points (5)
Charlie Manuel: 8 points
Don Mattingly: 4 points
Clint Hurdle: 4 points
Fredi Gonzalez: 1 point
1. Kirk Gibson
2. Tony La Russa
3. Ron Roenicke