2013 AL Manager of the Year award contenders
Candidates for 2013 AL Manager of the Year
The Manager of the Year award in both leagues generally goes to a surprise team. Astrophysicist and science populariser Neil DeGrasse Tyson suggested a year ago that the award not be voted on but instead given simply to the manager who led his team to the most wins per dollar (or million dollars if one wants to use reasonably sized numbers) of payroll. This makes good sense; although some players are paid simply by reputation, generally speaking payroll is the best indicator of the resources at a manager's disposal. And it ought to go without saying (though sadly it appears not to in some cases) that the best manager is the one who can get the most 'bang for the buck' as it were. That maximisation task is the primary role of the manager. This means that the winner of the award is more often than not from a small, or at least smaller, team who make a surprise run.
So the astute reader may at this point be asking just how I am going to compose a list of the top candidates to win an award in twelve months time when it is never a good idea to try to predict individual achievements over a six month baseball season even at the end of March, never mind before all the teams are even set? And especially how I am going to compose said list when the primary qualification for winning the award in question is that the winner do something surprising and unpredictable even by the usual standards of baseball? How could one even make logical sense of the notion of the 'five most likely surprises'? Those are all very good questions.
But it is at lest not quite that complicated. It would, yes, be the utmost folly to try to predict a specific winner. But one can start to rule out managers who stand no chance of winning the award. For instance one can immediately rule Joe Girardi out of the running for the award. One can do this not only because Girardi is a poor manager, but because the New York Yankees could go 162-0 next year and still end up with less than one win per million dollars of payroll. In essence, whilst it would be an act of incredible stupidity and hubris to try to predict the winner of this or any award so early, it is much more reasonable to pick out the five who will probably start the season in a position to make a run for it.
But one does still have to take the list with with the same dose of scepticism with which one ought to approach any other claim. There might be a surprise not only during the season, but even before the season. A few weeks ago one might have thought the Toronto Blue Jays' manager to be in contention for this award, but they have taken on so much salary that is probably no longer the case. With the winter meetings still to come and over two months after that before pitchers and catchers even report, we will likely see more shifting of payrolls and that will impact the candidates for Manager of the Year next year. So treat this list as one would treat a claim that some dietary supplement can cure some type of illness: with extreme doubt.
Ned Yost - Kansas City Royals
Small budget? Check. Promising squad who could make an impact? Check. The Kansas City Royals are not expected to increase their budget substantially beyond $70m for the 2013 season which means that a solid season could vault manager Ned Yost into the Manager of the Year race. Of course, it is unlikely that the Royals will compete next year, but if was not the case then Yost would not have a chance to win the award! It would be a surprise, but this is one area where a surprise might occur.
Eric Wedge - Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners finished in last place in the AL West last year. But it was very much a respectable last place finish in a tough division and they played well enough to win 75 games. With the loss of Ichiro Suzuki and his accompanying salary, a surprising year by the Mariners could see Eric Wedge in line for postseason honours.
Bob Melvin - Oakland Athletics
Could there be a repeat winner at Manager of the Year? When a team repeats as division Champion it generally is less of a surprise the second time, but unless the Oakland Athletics add a lot to their team in the offseason then Bob Melvin will have to put in a repeat performance to win the division and would thus deserve a repeat award.
Sandy Alomar Jr - Cleveland Indians
Twenty-thirteen will be the first full year in any major league managerial capacity for Sandy Alomar Jr. He has the task of turning around the Cleveland Indians' dismal 2012 season and unless something changes he won't have a huge amount of payroll with which to do it. If he can get Cleveland to sustain the good baseball they have occasionally shown in the past two years then he will have a shot at the award.
Joe Maddon - Tampa Bay Rays
It's hard to think of the Tampa Bay Rays as a small team. They won the AL pennant as recently as 2008; they won the AL East as recently as 2010 and they won the Wild Card as recently as 2011. They are a good team. But it's easy to forget that before that run they were perennial last place finishers and it's easy not to realise that financially they have never really moved forward. The crowds in Tampa Bay are terrible by any standards and especially by the standards of such a successful team. Any continued success for the Rays thus depends on them making the most out of a fairly small team. The AL East looks like it will be a very tough division next year and if the Rays get anything out of it they will have Joe Maddon to thank.