The MLB award season is growing closer and there will be a number of prestigious honors that will be announced. One of these honors is the Manager of the Year Award for both the National League and the American League.
This award recognizes a manager who did an outstanding job leading his team. Many of these men helped turned their teams around and got them through their most pressing issues.
There is much more to managing a baseball team than just making the lineup card on a day in and day out basis. Each of these managers were consistently able to motivate their players on a daily basis, which is just one of the reasons why they are contenders for the Manager of the Year Award in their respective league.
There are four managers that have a chance at winning the National League Manager of the Year Award.
Between the two leagues, this competition is the closer one. The National League saw a team lead the majors in wins. One team win its first division crown in 29 years, and another was home to the World Series champions.
Even when a manager has a team that has one of the best rotations in the major leagues, they still have to make sure that the team is able to perform to their potential. Charlie Manuel was able to do this even when he had to deal with injuries to Chase Utley and Roy Oswalt.
The Philadelphia Phillies won 102 games, an MLB high in 2011, during the regular season. Manuel's team was dominant and wrapped up the National League East in a fairly easy fashion.
Ron Roenicke got a big boost to his team when the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Zack Greinke this winter. Even with a new ace on board, there was still a lot of work to be done in Milwaukee.
The Brewers had won just 77 games in 2010. There was a decent amount of talent in Milwaukee, but Roenicke also had to deal with keeping some of his players, such as Nyjer Morgan, under control.
He did a masterful job of this as well, and he got the most out of his players. Roenicke led the Brewers to their first division crown in 29 years.
With just a few weeks left in the 2011 season, Tony LaRussa was nowhere to be seen on the list of candidates for the NL Manager of the Year Award. That slowly began to change as the Cardinals mounted a massive 10-game comeback to make the playoffs.
LaRussa also deserves extra consideration for the fact that he led the Cardinals to the playoffs without one of the top pitchers in the game. Losing Adam Wainwright for the year certainly made things harder for the Cards.
St. Louis also needed to overcome a few weeks without Albert Pujols. Even with all of these issues, LaRussa managed to put together a winning product.
Kirk Gibson was known for his heroics on the playing field, but it can be said that what he did with the Arizona Diamondbacks was a heroic effort as well.
Gibson inherited a Diamondbacks team that won just 65 games in 2010. He led them to an incredible 29-win turnaround. The Diamondbacks won 94 games in 2011 and won the NL West over the former World Champion San Francisco Giants.
Gibson likely would have come close to running away with the NL Manager of the Year Award if LaRussa did not lead the Cardinals to their amazing comeback. Regardless, Gibson is still the favorite to take home the hardware.
The American League Manager of the Year race really comes down to two managers, but there are a few others that will get votes and could come away with a surprising win.
Two of the races in the American League were not close, and the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers ran away with their divisions. The AL East was much closer, and the Wild Card race came down to the last day of the year.
When a team has the highest payroll in baseball, it is expected that almost any manager would be able to lead them to the playoffs. However, when this occurs, the team needs a manager that can handle all of the different egos on the team.
Joe Girardi did a great job of this and led the New York Yankees to an American League-leading 97 wins. It was not all smooth sailing for the Yankees, as Girardi had to deal with injuries to Alex Rodriguez and a down year from some players.
In addition to all of this, Girardi had to find a way to shape the back end of the Yankees starting rotation.
Expectations are always high for reigning pennant winners, and many times, teams choke under this pressure. Ron Washington helped keep the Texas Rangers composed all year and led them to an easy AL West title.
Two of the Texas Rangers star outfielders, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, were each out for an extended period of time, and the team had no problem overcoming this.
In 2010, the Detroit Tigers won 81 games and finished third in the American League Central. Before the season even started, the team had to deal with controversy, as star first baseman Miguel Cabrera was arrested for a DUI.
Manager Jim Leyland made sure that this did not negatively affect the team's chemistry. Leyland led the Tigers to a 95-win season, and the Tigers finished 15 games ahead of the second place Cleveland Indians.
Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit were all major contributors from the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays team that did not return in 2011. To make matters worse for Joe Maddon, the Rays struggled to find a consistent shortstop and left fielder for most of the year.
On top of this, star third baseman Evan Longoria spent time on the disabled list in 2011. It was clear that the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays were not the same team that won the AL East the prior year.
This did not stop Joe Maddon from leading the Rays back into the playoffs. They had to fight until the last day of the season to win the Wild Card, but the Rays were once again playoff bound. Maddon should pick up his second Manager of the Year Award for his efforts.