Manager of the Year: The Highs-and-Lows of the Last Fifty Years

Mandatory Credit: dailystache.net

Mandatory Credit: dailystache.net

Growing up, there was no better manager in baseball than the New York Yankees’ Joe Torre. His reign of terror in the American League East in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s was awe-inspiring – and that’s coming from someone who, to this day, hates the Bronx Bombers.

This year, the “other” team in the Big Apple. the New York Mets, stole the spotlight from the Yankees, making a run to the Fall Classic for the first time since the Subway Series back in 2000, seeking their first title since 1986. After The Sporting News named Mets’ skipper Terry Collins their National League Manager of the Year last month, many, myself included, were a tad intrigued, to say the least. Why Collins? What separated him from the pack that included the managers of the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs – all of which posted better records this season?

First off – a little history about the award, as well as some key distinctions. Most importantly, the Sporting News’ honors are completely independent of the BBWAA voting, which decides the “official” recipients. Those honors were created in 1983 and, since, have compiled an impressive list of winners, including several Hall-of-Famers such as Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, Whitey Herzog and the aforementioned Torre, to name a few.

The Manager of the Year, both in the National and American League, is decided by 30 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) – all of whom cast three votes: for first, second and third-place, respectively.

So now that you have a little bit of background on the honors, what made the Mets’ Collins the choice for the National League in 2015? Was it his team’s second-half push? Was it the fact that they were widely considered long-shot underdogs living in the shadow of the powerful Washington Nationals? Maybe it was their fateful run to the Fall Classic?

Well, one thing is for sure. The Mets’ run to the Fall Classic for the first time in 15 years was not a factor. Voting for all BBWAA awards concludes before the postseason begins, rendering each club’s October performance meaningless – at least in the scheme of individual awards and accolades.

But that begs the question: is there a correlation between reaching baseball’s greatest stage and winning the Manager of the Year award? It seems like that would make sense given the amount of acumen and baseball knowledge it takes to get a club there, but, surprisingly, history offers a much more blurry picture.

Since 1983, the year the award was created, only four National League Manager of the Year recipients have guided their team to the World Series: Herzog took the Cardinals in 1985, Tommy Lasorda led the Dodgers in 1988, Bobby Cox kicked off the Braves’ decade of dominance with a World Series appearance in 1991 and Jack McKeon and the upstart Florida Marlins ultimately won it all in 2003.

That means that if you’re a Manager of the Year in the NL in the last 32 years, you have a 12.5 percent chance of gaining eternal glory in capturing a World Series title. Not exactly awe-inspiring odds, if you ask me.

On the contrary, if you manage in the American League and you’ve reached the World Series, your odds are fairly good in winning the Manager of the Year honors: since ’83, 10 different AL skippers have done just that – which equates to 31.3 percent shot. Those still aren’t great odds, they’re more than three times better than those of their Senior Circuit counterparts.

How many times have we seen a team steam roll their way to a postseason berth only to fall short come October? This season, the 100-win Cardinals, 98-win Pirates and 92-win Dodgers all failed to advance past their first postseason series, while teams like the Mets made it to the World Series. Of course, you can cancel out that logic in pointing out that Kansas City, a 97-win team, dominated all season-long and have continued that same pace deep into October and even into November without missing a beat.

But that same accomplishment – winning 100 games – hasn’t led to success for managers all the time either. Since 1983, 28 different clubs have hit the century-mark in the win column, but just seven of those skippers won Manager of the Year in their respective league.

The last man to do it was “Sweet” Lou Piniella back in 2001, when he guided the Seattle Mariners to an American League-record 116 wins. Coincidentally, that marked the last time Seattle reached the postseason. Their fiery skipper, though, made history just seven years later, winning National League honors as the skipper of the Chicago Cubs in 2008.

In hopes of being completely transparent, I confess: I live and breathe Chicago Cubs baseball. But even when I (try) to take that out of the equation, I still cannot see Terry Collins as being worthy of the National League Manager of the Year award.

For obvious (and probably biased) reasons, I would give the nod to Joe Maddon, whose Cubs won 97 games despite one of the youngest rosters in the game, followed by the likes of Mike Matheny, whose club weathered every type of injury and setback imaginable en route to their MLB-leading 100 wins.

It’s been over a decade since the National League Manager of the Year guided his club to a World Series berth, let alone a World Championship. But if the BBWAA voting follows the trend of Sporting News in 2015, the Mets’ Terry Collins could very well do just that.

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