Is Jim Leyland the front-runner for American League manager of the year, or is someone else? This was a podcast question this week. I answered it there. I'll answer it here, because I am not against grabbing low-hanging fruit for a post even when I feel like the topic is a week or two too early.
Hard to believe I even typed that, but had a discussion over a couple Stone Pale Ale’s on that very topic yesterday. If not JL, who else? I doubt Washington would get it again, and Girardi and Francona don’t seem like they will generate a lot of enthusiasm because they were expected to win.
I think Honeyman is right in noting that managers expected to win don't often win the award. (Here's results and voting history for you to peruse.) Despite some great results, Joe Girardi has never won the (AL) award. Nor has Terry Francona. It's funny. It's almost the opposite of the player awards, that often go to players on playoff teams. Having good players around him only hurts a manager's chances. So whether or not they deserve it, I guess we'll just begin by writing those two off.
During the podcast I said that Manny Acta had a good shot because of how much the Indians performed above expectations. However looking closer at voting history tells me it's going to be a pretty uphill battle for him, especially if the Indians finish the season below .500 (as they currently are). So allow me to scratch that. Noted on Wikipedia: Only four managers have won the award while leading a team that finished outside the top two spots in its division
We had at least one mention of Joe Maddon, who took a team that lost several quality players yet will likely finish with a win total in the upper 80s in a tough division. He deserves consideration, but I don't think he'll win.
Ron Washington is an interesting one. He actually didn't win it last year. He finished second behind Ron Gardenhire. I thought Washington should have won last year. The Rangers will probably win around 90 games. Why not give Ron the award? The argument against him is that the Rangers were expected to win this year. But don't punish Washington for that.
Finally we get to Leyland. Sure he's already won the award in 2006, but voters have shown no qualms about rewarding it again to a manager a couple of years later. I actually think Leyland has a fairly good shot at winning, too. Many pundits picked the Tigers to finish at around .500 and in third place. Most of us who follow the Tigers tried to point out that was unlikely and pegged a win total in the upper-80s. But we're not voting for the award. The folks who didn't think the Tigers would be very good are. So their perception is what counts here.
So if I were to rank my list in terms of probability, I'd go: