The Manager of the Year awards will be announced this Tuesday. There are three finalists. In the American League there is Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura, and Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin.
It seems to be a two-man race between Showalter and Melvin, and I think Bob Melvin will win the award.
The Oakland Athletics were supposed to be in a rebuilding process going into the 2012 season. They had traded all-star pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey, along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney over the offseason in return for a crop of minor leaguers.
Writers, analysts, and every other “expert” you can think of, proclaimed the A’s to be one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball.
The signing of Yoenis Cespedes was considered moronic for a team that was rebuilding. He was unproven, many doubted how his talent would translate from the professional leagues in Cuba to playing in the Major Leagues in the United States, and he was too expensive for the rebuilding Athletics, who had the second lowest payroll in 2012. The heap of young players they acquired in their offseason trades were supposed to need a couple years to develop. And the free agents they signed were considered meaningless. The critics were wrong.
Cespedes showed MVP qualities, the young players proved to be Major League ready, and their free agent signings were extremely productive.
There are many words that can be used to describe the Oakland Athletics 2012 season. Improbable, magical, resilient, amazing, unbelievable, and the list goes on and on.
The Athletics shocked the world and dethroned the Texas Rangers of the American League West title by sweeping them to finish the season. The A’s were as far back as thirteen games in the AL West early in the season and they overcame a five-game deficit with only nine games to play.
The team was plagued by injuries to key players throughout the year. They had players come and go between the minors and majors. They traded away their veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki. The starting rotation was made-up of mostly rookies–at one point all five of the starters were rookies. The Athletics lost a veteran pitcher in Bartolo Colon to a fifty-game suspension after he tested positive for PED’s in late August. Shortly after that, the A’s number one pitcher in the starting rotation, Brandon McCarthy, was struck in the head by a liner in early September and was lost for the rest of the season. They went through three different closing pitchers. At seasons end, the first baseman was an outfielder, the third baseman was a catcher, the left fielder was originally the center fielder, and one of the A’s top lefty relievers was initially a first baseman.
Bob Melvin platooned players at first base, second base, catcher, and designated hitter, which were dictated by whether their games’ opposing pitcher was going to be left-handed or right-handed. Melvin was successful by playing the match-ups. Over the span of the season he had specific roles for each pitcher in the bullpen which allowed them to be prepared for the moment they were called upon. And he made sure the bench players knew when they would be needed to pinch-hit for the same reason.
In his first full season as the A’s manager, Bob Melvin led the Oakland Athletics to win arguably the best division in baseball. The A’s ended the season with 94 wins–20 wins more than 2011 when they had 74 wins and finished in third-place–and clinched their first playoff birth since 2006.
Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles clinched one of the Wild Card spots, and Robin Ventura’s Chicago White Sox did not make the playoffs.
In my opinion, if Showalter wins the MOY award over Melvin, it will be because of baseball’s East Coast bias, especially the AL East bias.
Congratulations to the Oakland Athletics skipper Bob Melvin for an unforgettable 2012 season and for becoming one of the finalists for the American League Manager of the Year award.