NL Manager of the Year voters figuratively mailed in their ballots – they very rotely nominated the managers of the three winningest teams – and in doing so wound up with the worst collective ballot of any of the major MLB awards.
Mets manager Buck Showalter won the honor, defeating Dodgers manager Dave Roberts with Braves manager Brian Snitker third. Looking strictly at those three nominees, he probably was most deserving.
It’s meant as no knock to any of those three to say that their lives were all made easier by the talent bases with which they were presented. In that respect it’s also worth noting that the Mets led the majors in payroll with the Dodgers running a close No. 2 and the Braves a respectable No. 8. Money doesn’t guarantee team success, but it also doesn’t hurt.
How should NL ballots have looked? Different…very different.
Where was the name of Rob Thomson, who took over the Phillies in early June and turned their lackluster season into a championship one? Thomson’s team played .586 ball (65-46) from June 3 on, not bad considering that they were a .431 (22-29) team up to that point.
Because voting is held prior to the start of the post-season, Thomson gets no credit for leading the Phillies to the National League pennant. But his achievement in driving such a disorganized club into the post-season alone should have gotten him better than fifth place among voters.
Then there’s the matter of Bob Melvin, manager of the Padres. He took a team with a long history of choking away its talent base – especially against the division-rival Dodgers – and made the post-season with 89 wins.
More to the point, he did it without team megastar Fernando Tatis Jr. playing even a single inning. And to top that off, just as Tatis was expected to return in early August, it was revealed that he had failed a drug test and would have to sit out another half season.
That was the kind of development that might have shattered a clubhouse with a history of shattering. Instead, Melvin brought his Padres home 33-23 from Aug. 1 to the season’s end.
Finally, might someone have spared a kind word for Pirates manager Derek Shelton? I get that it’s hard to work up Manager of the Year credibility for the manager of a 100-loss team in a division as weak as the NL Central. But did you see what Shelton had to work with?
The statisticians did. The Pythagoreans made Shelton’s Pirates a 58-win team; they beat that number by four, putting Shelton on a statistical pedestal matched only by Francona and Hyde.