If there's ever been a better competition for Manager of the Year, I don't want to know about it!
Actually, I do want to know about it. Because that would be really interesting!
But as I sit here typing these words with my fingers on Playoffs Eve, it's difficult to imagine a better Manager of the Year Cage Match than Baltimore's Buck Showalter vs. Oakland's Bob Melvin.
Showalter's Orioles weren't expected to do anything special this season, and instead won 93 games and qualified for the championship tournament.
Melvin's Athletics weren't expected to do anything special this season, and instead won 94 games and qualified for the championship tournament.
Those are the similarities. The differences?
Showalter's Orioles set an all-time record by going 53-6 in one-run games.*
* It seemed like that, anyway. And the all-time record thing is true.
Meanwhile, all 94 of the Athletics' victories were earned by rookie pitchers.*
* Again, maybe it only seemed like that. But the A's really did set all sorts of rookie pitching records.
Both teams played exceptionally well down the stretch, with the A's making one of the great second-half comebacks in major-league history.
The A's finished with the fourth-best run differential (+99) in the American League, the O's with the eighth best (+7).
Both managers deftly handled an immense number of roster changes, both hitters and pitchers. Both kept their names out of the newspapers, the attention going instead to the unlikely heroes on the field.
In nearly any season, either manager would be a unanimous choice for Manager of the Year. In this unlikely season, though, each voter has to choose one or the other.
From a distance, what sets Showalter apart is the Orioles' singular success in close games.
From a distance, what sets Melvin apart is the great work he got from all those rookie pitchers and his ability to keep his team focused on winning despite a dreadful first half of the season.
According to the back of my envelope, that makes the score Melvin 2, Showalter 1.
Of course it's closer than that in real life. But until someone shows me a better envelope, the M in my M.O.Y. stands for Melvin.
What do you think? And why? Please vote, then explain...