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Make the postseason part of Manager of the Year voting

Instead of relying on a predictable formula with Manager of the Year voting, here's a way to let the postseason guide us, if just a little bit.

Ezra Shaw

A lot of the people who vote for the Manager of the Year award, I'm guessing, don't watch the managers they're voting for. At least, not that much. I voted on a similar award for the IBWAA, and I probably didn't watch more than 10 games involving Buck Showalter this year before the postseason. I don't know if he has a maddening fixation with Evan Meek or if he kept hitting Caleb Joseph cleanup. Couldn't tell you if he calls players into his office and asks if they'll pop the zits he can't reach on his back, completely ruining the morale of his team.

I do know the Orioles were better than I was expecting, though.

That's the bulk of what I know about Showalter's brilliance with the Orioles. And I would guess that's a common way to decide how to vote on a Manager of the Year ballot. It's almost as if there's a formula.

Let X be (Wins by surprisingly good team - wins they had in previous season).

Let Y be (Wins by best team in league - wins by second-best team in league).

The winner of Manager of the Year goes to whichever is greater, X or Y.

There are tweaks to make along the way -- there has to be a way to penalize the managers whose success we take for granted, like Bruce Bochy now or Bobby Cox before he retired -- but generally it's either the manager of the surprising team or the manager of the team that blows the doors off the league. Clint Hurdle might have been better with the Pirates in 2014 than he was the year before, but his team wasn't as much of a surprise the second time around, so the award went to the Matt Williams, who managed his team to the best record in the National League.

Except, here we are, talking about the award in November, and it seems so bloody silly. Williams managed the Nationals to the best record in the NL, but he also made some of the most baffling decisions of the postseason. He might have been the only manager in baseball who would have pulled Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 of the NLDS, a game which the Nationals lost in agonizing fashion. With his team's season on the line in the final game of the NLDS, Williams relied on a shaky rookie, Aaron Barrett, to manage himself out of a jackpot. Tyler Clippard never got up in the bullpen, and the Nationals' season ended prematurely.

Clint Hurdle head

Since then, Bruce Bochy suddenly morphed into Future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy. He became the kind of baseball figure who prematurely gets that honorific appended to his name, like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. I don't know when it happened, either. Probably when I was in the bathroom. But, to paraphrase a famous saying, unless Bochy is found in bed with a live bookie or a dead mascot, he's a lock. People will point to what he did in 2010 (third place in Manager of the Year voting), 2012 (third place in Manager of the Year voting), and 2014 (third place in Manager of the Year voting) as their evidence that he belongs.

Bochy was the toast of the postseason, too. Oh, how the announcers for every broadcast praised his acumen. How writers for every outlet fawned over his deft touch in the clubhouse. By the time the writers will get a chance to vote for him again, the Giants will have lost 85 games in an odd year, and everyone will forget about the poor guy.

The obvious solution -- hold Manager of the Year voting until after the postseason -- is worse than the problem. Then it becomes the Manager Who Won the World Series of the Year award, which is useless. It looks like we'll have to deal with this version as an imperfect solution.

However! I have a modest proposal. Voting after the World Series (or LCS) is silly, but how about the compromise of voting after the NLDS and ALDS are complete? There are rational reasons:

  • Managers are unlikely to win the award based on a single postseason series, but it allows for a certain measure of close evaluation and scrutiny that beat writers rarely get with managers outside their division.

  • Managers can certainly lose ground with a befuddling LDS. It's possible that I'm being too harsh on Williams and that he still would have won the award after the Nationals were eliminated, but I'm at least curious to know if it would have made a difference.

  • Managers who manage a miserable franchise to a respectable finish (Tony Pena and the 2003 Royals, for example) without making the postseason wouldn't be penalized that much, considering the current votes are taken immediately following the regular season. If they did such an unfathomable job in the regular season as to win under the current system, a round of postseason play shouldn't diminish the voters' high esteem.

Unlike the player awards like MVP and Cy Young, we don't have a vast repository of statistics easily available in support for managers. That's why a lot of the writers -- again, I'm just guessing, here -- rely primarily on won-lost records, possibly with an assist of the team's performance relative to preseason expectations. The postseason, then, would be something of a showcase for the award. An LDS win wouldn't blow voters away, but it would underscore which managers have good (or poor) reputations for a reason. It might also remind voters that inexperience can be quite the burden in the postseason.

Don't take this as post-vote whining that Bruce Bochy should have won. No, I voted for Clint Hurdle for the IBWWA award, and I put Williams over Bochy, too. After the first round, though, I might have flipped those two, keeping Hurdle at the top. It would have been a ballot that made more sense in November, much less 2024.

It will never happen in an official way, but in my heart I'm going to start revisiting my choice for Manager of the Year after the first postseason round every year. I'll wager that my post-LDS choices will stand the test of time better in both the short and long term.