There are several managers in Major League Baseball who have put together a solid case for Manager of the Year. I have selected my top three front runners for the award.
Many baseball fans view managers like cloths on a stripper, they are useless excuses for keeping you from what you really want to see.
To win the honors for Manager of the Year they need to achieve at least one of the following accomplishments.
1. Exceed preseason expectations
2. Manage the team through great adversity
3. Take the team to the post-season
Dusty Baker / Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are currently in the lead of the NL Central by 3.5 games over the preseason heavy favorite, St. Louis Cardinals.
Before the season started I predicted they would be in the mix for the wildcard, but would fall short to the Atlanta Braves, currently leading the NL East by 3 games.
The Reds have a legitimate shot at making the post-season and large part of that is do to the amazing surprise play of Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, and the entire pitching staff.
However, Baker has to get a lot of credit for managing a team that many thought was a year or two away from being this competitive. The one down fall I would credit Baker with is the over use of closer Francisco Cordero—this is something that will come back to haunt him in September and October.
Bud Black / San Diego Padres
Currently the Padres have the best record in the National League. To say that Black has done a good job this season, would be like saying Jennifer Aniston looks okay naked.
I was way off on my preseason prediction of the Padres, and only recently was willing to admit that I think this team is for real.
Until the recent trade deadline acquisitions of Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick this offense looked less intimidating than most little league teams —with the exception of Adrian Gonzalez.
Black had his players over achieving all season long by stealing and calling timely hit-and-run plays.
They lost arguably one of their best pitchers in the first week of the season in Chris Young and still lead the league in team ERA.
The NL West is the second toughest division in baseball and Black has his team at the top, cruising to the playoffs.
Terry Francona / Boston Red Sox
The Sox play in the best division in baseball. They make up half of one of the greatest rivalries in sports. I'm not a Sox fan, in fact I'm kind of a closet fan of their greatest enemies.
However, I can't ignore the incomprehensible job Francona has done managing a team that has suffered so many key injuries.
On top of this fact they still have a chance at the post-season, sitting 6.5 games back of the New York Yankees and 5.5 games back of the wildcard leading Tampa Bay Rays.
I personally don't think they have a chance at making the playoffs this year—I'm not just saying that to rile up Boston fans, I predicted it before the season as well.
Dustin Pedroia has spent significant time on the DL, Jacoby Ellsbury has been out for most of the season and will likely miss the remainder, and my personal favorite Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis is out for the year.
Many other key contributors have spent time on the DL including supposed ace pitcher Josh Beckett. Francona hasn't even been able to count on Beckett for a big start all season.
To me Beckett is overrated and suffers from injuries every season. I'll give you the fact that he is dominant in the post-season, but needs to stay healthy and pitch better in the regular season before I believe he is among the best.
Earlier in the season he lit a fire under the overrated, overweight, lovable David Ortiz and got more production from him than many people thought he had left.
Francona is on of the best managers the game has seen in years. Francona always says and does the right things in my opinion, and the way he has kept his team in the race and juggled the lineup on a seemingly night-to-night basis makes him the leader for Manager of the Year.
Check out my weekly "Sluggers and Slugs" column for other honorable mentions
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