Four contenders for AL manager award
Scioscia, Francona, Wedge, Torre among league's elite
Proverbially, managers have reason to distrust that dreaded "vote of confidence" from ownership. Well, being voted Manager of the Year must also appear somewhere on that list of mixed blessings.Often, this award recognizes overachievement which, almost by definition, is difficult to sustain. No one will say "No, thank you" to the recognition, and all appreciate any compliment of their work. But managers seldom view this award as a flawless reflection of performance, and for good reason. In the American League, for instance, Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire kept winning Central Division titles -- four in the previous five seasons -- without a trophy. Not only that but, during his run, three other managers from his own division were honored. Of the 17 different managers between both leagues who have been Managers of the Year in the last decade, 10 aren't even working at that job anymore. Gardenhire again is on the outside looking in, but Election Central for the AL Manager of the Year campaign figures to again yield a Central Election. Cleveland's Eric Wedge, who steered the Indians back from a disappointing 2006 season and through unexpected offensive woes this year, is a frontrunner to be the fourth winner in five years from his division. The Angels' Mike Scioscia -- a rarity to have grown into a dean of managers in the only job he has held -- and Boston's Terry Francona are also top contenders. The Yankees' Joe Torre also deserves a place on the ballot. But a funny thing about the media's perceived East Coast bias, perception often being reality: The manager of an East Division team has not received this award since 1999, when Boston's Jimy Williams was honored. FAVORITES Eric Wedge, Indians: The Indians are having the season they were supposed to have in 2006, and much of the credit for getting them back on track belongs to this soft-spoken Midwesterner. Cleveland hasn't led the Central from Day 1, but the Tribe has played solid ball from the outset, never spending a day below .500. He is equally adept at encouraging veterans and inspiring young players. Mike Scioscia, Angels: Managers of teams expected to win rarely get support for this award. But Scioscia's steady leadership steered the Angels over numerous obstacles between high preseason expectations and the second-best record in the Majors. He lost his second-biggest run producer (Juan Rivera) for most of the season even before it began, had only limited use of his titular staff ace (Bartolo Colon), and dealt with a list of other injuries and deep slumps. He brilliantly adapts his style to his personnel, reflected in an aggressive game executed by a scrappy crew that keeps nine innings of pressure on the opposition.
Terry Francona, Red Sox: He deserves some overdue recognition for his managerial skills -- both at handling personnel and running games. Barely a blip in this voting while winning 193 games his first two seasons with Red Sox teams regarded as deep in talent, he has a considerably more modest roster back at that same level. Suffice to say veteran Boston fans would never have expected the team to spend a summer in first place with a regular lineup that includes a .240-hitting shortstop and center and right fielders with 13 homers between them.CONTENDER Joe Torre, Yankees: This is the second time in three seasons that Torre's calm-but-forceful leadership has steered the Yankees back from the brink of early-season disaster. In 2005, when he drove a team that was under .500 as late as June 14 to its eighth straight division title, he received third-place support. So rallying for a Wild Card does not figure to impress voters, who have a hard time equating $200 million payrolls with managerial coups.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.