Kurt Mensching wrote a story for Bless You Boys titled Is Jim Leyland the front runner for AL manager of the year?
The article came on the heels of a podcast appearance by the author where the topic was discussed. The highlights of the article are noted below:
- Joe Girardi and Terry Francona were expected to win; therefore, they aren't considered candidates.
- Manny Acta was considered because the Indians have performed well above expectations but it was noted that a manager with a sub-.500 record has never won the award. (The manager of the year with the worst record was the 2003 Kansas City Royals who were managed by Tony Pena and finished the year 83-79 after finishing 2002 at 62-100).
- Ron Washington, like Girardi and Francona, was supposed to win this year which will probably cost him the award. The author felt that Washington probably should've won the award last season ahead of Gardenhire.
- Joe Maddon was mentioned in the article and it was noted that although the Rays will probably have a win total in the upper 80's,, he probably won't win the award. The article did site a reference to Notes on Wikipedia that noted that only four managers have won the award while leading a team that finished outside the top two spots in its division.
- Jim Leyland was considered the front runner because many pundits picked the Tigers to finish at around .500 and in 3rd place.
- The author at BYB lists the manager of the year voting in terms of probability as follows: Jim Leyland, Ron Washington, Manny Acta, Joe Girardi, Joe Maddon, Terry Francona, and Mike Scioscia.
- The BYB article concludes with a poll which doesn't list Joe Maddon as an option to vote for and as of this morning, a total of 527 votes had been cast and Jim Leyland leads the voting at 73% with Manny Acta a distant second with 11% of the vote.
Although I would have no qualms about Jim Leyland winning the manager of the year award, Joe Maddon has done the better job. Instead of rehashing the same arguments as stated above, I'll agree that Joe Girardi, Terry Francona, Ron Washington, and Manny Acta should not win the award. I'll stick to looking at the award as a vote for either Jim Leyland or Joe Maddon, who are the only two that I believe should be considered for the award.
The Tigers & Jim Leyland
The Tigers were given top-tier talent to supplement a team that finished .500 in 2010. Their roster was significantly upgraded over the winter by signing a premium middle of the order bat in Victor Martinez coming off a .302/.351/.493 season including 20 HR. They also added Joaquin Benoit who was the best setup man in 2010 finishing with a 1.34 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, and a microscopic WHIP of 0.680
The Tigers also were able to take fiscal gambles on Brandon Inge, Johnny Peralta, Magglio Ordonez, and Brad Penny. Although the gambles failed with Inge and Ordonez, they have paid off with Peralta and to some degree with Penny (although Tigers fans may argue).
The offseason acquisitions alone should of been enough for the pundits (I personally know one (HERE) to put the Tigers as the favorites to win the AL Central. If the offseason moves weren't enough to put the Tigers in a contending position, they had the fiscal ability and willingness to deal prospects to supplement their roster during the season. Wilson Betemit, Doug Fister, and Delmon Young were all added to help the Tigers make a post-season push, and the trio has accomplished that.
The Tigers play in the AL Central. With a balanced schedule this point may not be very relative, but the Tigers don't have to face the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox 36 times a year (The Tigers finished 5-8 versus the Red Sox and Yankees in 2011 [1-5 vs Boston and 4-3 vs New York])
The Rays & Joe Maddon
Contrasting the offseason moves made by the Tigers and the offseason moves made by the Rays is like looking at the spending habits of Donald Trump versus those of a day laborer. As the Tigers were adding talent the Rays were watching their talent walk out the door. Top tier talent like Carl Crawford, Joaquin Benoit, Carlos Pena, and Rafael Soriano were walking out the door and being replaced with Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Manny Ramirez, and former Tiger Johnny Damon. The Rays also lost the remaining members of what had been a very good bullpen inGrant Balfour and Randy Choate.
The Rays are also not in a position to give Joe Maddon the same type of help offered to Jim Leyland to make a run at the division. The Rays are not fiscally able to take on a million or two in contracts and/or are unwilling to give up young minor league talent to acquire short term help.
The Rays play in the AL East. They have to go up against the Yankees and Red Sox 36 times a year, which is not an easy task as even in victory the Yankees and Red Sox lineup can weaken a teams bullpen producing a hangover effect to the next series or two.
The voting for AL Manager of the Year should come down to a two horse race between Jim Leyland and Joe Maddon. As of today, Jim Leyland will probably win the award for guiding the Tigers to the AL Central title.
If the Rays were able to somehow shock the baseball world and catch the Red Sox to win the AL Wild Card, the award will swing to Joe Maddon.
From my point of view, Joe Maddon has been able to accomplish more with the least amount of help either in the offseason or during the year in the toughest division in baseball. Nothing against Jim Leyland, but he has been given all the components a team needs to win and only has to be better than the other teams in the AL Central. Leyland's and the Tigers 2011 success should be viewed in the same light as Girardi, Francona, and Ron Washington.