Ranking MLB's Top AL Manager of the Year Candidates
October is creeping closer and closer as each day passes, which means the postseason is on the horizon.
We are in the Dog Days of summer, as many great baseball pundits like to call August. This is the point in the season when teams step up and make a push or crumble under the pressure.
Whether a team will falter down the stretch or rise to the occasion will generally come down to how good its manager is. This season a lot of the top managers in the game have their respective teams in the playoff hunt.
Without further ado, let's get rolling.
No. 5: Ozzie Guillen
The foul-mouthed, highly controversial manager had his team in first place for a good portion of the season until a recent slump.
Ozzie Guillen will have a chance to climb much higher on this list if he is able to lead the Chicago White Sox past the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.
After losing three straight to the Twins and falling behind five games in the AL Central, the White Sox came back and pounded the Twins 11-0, Thursday night. More performances like that are going to be needed if they want to find themselves in the postseason.
Guillen's greatest accomplishment this season has been taking Chicago on a 25-5 stretch, going from an afterthought to a first place team. It will be an even bigger accomplishment if he can stop the bleeding and save his team's season.
No. 4: Terry Francona
The Boston Red Sox sit 6.5 games behind the New York Yankees and are 5.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild-card race.
Terry Francona has delivered two World Series titles to the Red Sox organization, yet it is possible his best season managing will result in his team not even making the postseason.
Boston has been ravaged by injures, and Francona's lineup has been shuffled around on a nightly basis. Losing Kevin Youkilis may wind up being the back-breaker for the Red Sox this season. His production and leadership are irreplaceable for this club.
Despite all of the injuries, the Sox have the fourth best record in the American League. If Josh Beckett and co. can pitch how they're supposed to and Jonathan Papelbon can right himself, Boston may be able to make one last push for the postseason.
Francona would be much higher on this list if his team's postseason chances weren't so unlikely.
No. 3: Joe Maddon
Joe Maddon has taken the small-market Rays to a World Series already and has the team to do so again this year. Tampa Bay is a game behind the Yankees in the AL East, and they hold the second best record in baseball.
Many expected the Rays to bounce back after a disappointing season in 2009, but Maddon deserves a good portion of the credit for not letting a young team get ahead of itself.
Earlier this season, when Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton went at it in the dugout, Maddon was quick to squash the beef. What had the potential to linger on throughout the season ended before it had a chance to get ugly.
While Maddon has his team in position to potentially finish with the best record in baseball, he only comes in at No. 3 because of how talented the Rays are. They were expected to make the playoffs and finish with one of the best records. Credit the manager for getting them there, but two other managers are more deserving at the moment.
No. 2: Ron Washington
After testing positive for cocaine last season, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington has responded by leading the team into first place in the AL West.
When many expected the Rangers to crumble and Washington to eventually be fired, the exact opposite happened. Instead the Rangers responded and now lead their division by seven games.
Some questioned the move to keep Washington after the positive cocaine test was revealed, but keeping him has paid dividends for the team.
It is quite possible Texas could be representing the AL in the World Series with Cliff Lee heading the rotation. The players also need to be credited for rallying around their manager earlier this season when he needed them. Washington has shown the organization that he can lead this team and that what happened in 2009 was a mistake.
No. 1: Ron Gardenhire
Ron Gardenhire is routinely one of baseball's most underappreciated managers. Once again Gardenhire has the Minnesota Twins in first place despite numerous injuries throughout the season.
The Twins made the playoffs last year with a late surge without star slugger Justin Morneau. For the second straight year Gardenhire has gotten his team to excel without Morneau.
Morneau isn't the only player who has taken a trip to the DL this season. Middle infielders Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy have both been on the DL twice, and Nick Punto could be on his way to the DL again.
The Twins got off to a good start but hit a cold spell in the middle of the season. It looked as if the club was going to finish behind the Detroit Tigers and White Sox at one point. The rotation wasn't producing, Joe Mauer was banged up and in a a slump, and Morneau was kneed in the head, knocking him out with a concussion to this day.
If it weren't for Gardenhire keeping this team together, the Twins wouldn't be sitting in first place up four games over their division rival.