I’ll confess: Manager of the Year was never the MLB Award I focused on. Maybe it’s because we had John Farrell for so long, who knows?
Some of the awards have (hopefully) shoo-in winners at this point: Jacob DeGrom for NL Cy Young, Mookie Betts for AL MVP, Red Sox for best team in the history of the world… you know, the usual suspects.
But this year, the American League Manager of the Year is going to be one of the toughest categories to predict, because each of the three candidates is beyond deserving of the accolade, and all for very different reasons.
The Tampa Bay Rays were astoundingly good this year, and Kevin Cash should receive about 99% of the credit for that. They won 10 more games than they did in 2017 and had their first 90-win season since 2013. They would have won almost any National League division, but alas, they came in third in the AL East behind the 108-win Red Sox and 100-win Yankees. But this award should not be given solely based on results, but on the hard work and results of the manager; Alex Cora’s stacked roster and the biggest-payroll-in-baseball Boston Red Sox, while Kevin Cash guided a low-budget team of randoms to ninety wins. That’s a miraculous achievement that rivals a World Series win.
Alex Cora is a nominee for the more obvious reasons, though that doesn’t make him any less qualified or deserving of MOTY. Boston’s first Latino manager guided the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 wins, their third consecutive division title, and then past the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers to win their fourth World Series title since 2004. He became the third of Boston’s four most-recent managers and only the fifth rookie manager in MLB history to lead the team to a championship in his first year at the helm.
On the West Coast, former NL Manager of the Year Bob Melvin‘s Oakland A’s were another low-budget surprise standout this year. The American League West team won 97 games in 2018, a 22-game improvement over the previous season. They also no-hit the Red Sox, a feat no team had accomplished in 24 years and 364 days. By season’s end, they had Moneyballed their way into the American League Wild Card game, but lost to the Yankees.
A good manager is like the roots of a tree: the foundation from which a team is built, someone who must be strong, a good influence, a person of fortitude. Each of these men, in their own ways, and through various accomplishments, has shown that they deserve the title Manager of the Year. I wish they could all win.