2013 NL Manager of the Year award contenders
Candidates for 2013 NL Manager of the Year award
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.
Clint Hurdle - Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates have threatened to do something in the NL Central for the last two years now. Both times late season collapses have doomed them, but they have the makings of a good team in Pittsburgh. Their division has got tougher with the departure of the abysmal Houston Astros to the AL West, but they are still a team on whom to keep an eye. If they do manage to finish the job next year, Clint Hurdle will probably be a lock for the NL Manager of the Year.
Bud Black - San Diego Padres
Bud Black ought to have won the NL Manager of the Year award in 2012 for his brilliant work in keeping the San Diego Padres even respectable despite his shoestring budget. In a fairly open division any improvement next year could reap substantial rewards for both club and manager.
Kirk Gibson - Arizona Diamondbacks
Another possibility in the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks were on the cusp of competing for the division down the stretch in 2012 after winning the division in 2011. But they don't have a massive budget in Arizona and unless they open the pursestrings this winter it will take a solid effort by Kirk Gibson to get them back to the summit.
Dusty Baker - Cincinnati Reds
Dusty Baker was a strong candidate to win the 2012 Manager of the Year award in the National League. He brought the Cincinnati Reds back to the playoffs and it is very easy to lose sight of just how tough a job that is in the Reds romp to victory. But it isn't a big squad bursting with big names and if the Reds do next year roughly what they did this year then Baker will again be mentioned come awards time.
Mike Redmond - Miami Marlins
Mike Redmond has managed professionally for two seasons and already won one Manager of the Year award. It was in the minor leagues, admittedly, but it is still an excellent start to a managerial career. With the massive salary dump by the Miami Marlins and apparent white flag by their owners in the offseason it will take a miracle for them to get anything out of the 2013 season. If it turns out that Redmond is a miracle worker then he will be all but guaranteed a big league MotY to go with his minor league one.