5 Dark Horse Candidates for 2014 NL Manager of the Year

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5 Dark Horse Candidates for 2014 NL Manager of the Year

NL Coaches
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It is always fun to start projecting toward the upcoming year, and it is never to early to do it. All 30 managerial chairs are now filled going into the winter meetings down in Orlando. Which two managers will win the top award this time next year?

There are four and a half first-year managers heading into the upcoming campaign with one rookie skipper in the American League and three in the National League. Ryne Sandberg did close out the year as an interim manager but has yet to turn in a line-up card for a full 162 game season.

The only other new hire this offseason is Lloyd McClendon with the Seattle Mariners who has had previous experience as a manger in the past.

Historically, there has only been one manager to win the award with his team finishing in forth place or worse in the division and consequently win the award with a losing record, and that is Joe Girardi in 2006. Bobby Cox is the only manager to win the award in back to back years, so repeating is unlikely. There will be 11 National League managers looking to win the award for the first time.

Recapping the 2013 National League Manager of the Year, the top three finalists were Clint Hurdle, Don Mattingly, and Fredi Gonzalez. Excluding those three coaches, here are five dark horses for this year's award. Based on history, we can rule out Clint Hurdle to win the award next year as well.

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5. Bruce Bochy

NL Coaches
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Bochy is a two-time World Series champion. The San Francisco Giants did have a letdown last year, but if they do manage to get back to their winning ways out west look for Bochy to get some recognition.

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4. Mike Matheny

NL Coaches
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

How has Mike Matheny not finished in the top three for this award yet? In his first two seasons he has made the playoffs both years, won a division championship, and reached a World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals will be in the thick of it again in the National League and it should be time Matheny receives stronger consideration.

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3. Matt Williams

NL Coaches
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie managers are the trend for teams. Matt Williams will look to make a good first impression for the Washington Nationals. The Nationals underachieved last season, but they are still a solid club both offensively and on the mound. Can Williams take this team back to the playoffs?

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2. Ryne Sandberg

NL Coaches
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Ryne Sandberg finally got the call to be the head man for a major league team. He will be entering his first full season with the Philadelphia Phillies after finishing last year as the interim manager. Sandberg has a successful minor league track record as a skipper. Hopefully that success can continue in Philly for "Ryno."

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1. Rick Renteria

NL Coaches
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A true dark horse candidate will be Rick Renteria of the Chicago Cubs. Renteria is another first year manager for a team that has not raised the white flag much in the last two seasons. The Cubs figure to still be another year away from great expectations, but if they are able to strike it rich in 2014, look out. If the Cubs were able to make a run a year sooner then anticipated Renteria would surely be the manager of the year.