With just one week left to go in the regular season, most teams are either gearing up for a magical run in October, or planning how to spend their newfound free time.
Before Standing Room Only turns our full focus onto the 2018 MLB Postseason, we wanted to offer our winners for the major awards of the 2018 regular season. First up: Manager of the Year!
And the Award for National League Manager of the Year Goes To…
A rebuild is about more than putting together the right pieces. You need the right manager to mould those pieces into a contender.
For the Atlanta Braves, Brian Snitker is that guy. And in some ways, he’s been that guy for over forty years.
He played in the Braves’ minor league system in the late-70s. He managed for the organization at Rookie Ball, Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. He’s been a bullpen coach. He’s been a third-base coach. And now, he’s guiding the Braves to their first NL East title since 2013.
The easiest way to measure a manager is to walk into the clubhouse and listen. In Atlanta, you hear laughter and practical jokes. Snitker has let his players–particularly his younger ones like Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Ozzie Albies–express their personalities.
That was all by design, Snitker says. “The makeup, the personality of these players, is huge. Some people say makeup is not a tool. Let me tell you, makeup has always been a tool for the Atlanta Braves.’’
A good manager gets the best out of his players, young and old. Albies and Acuna, Jr. have had breakout seasons, but the veterans in the Braves clubhouse have upped their game as well. Nick Markakis has had a career year in his age-34 season, and was rewarded for it with his first All-Star appearance. Career utilityman Charlie Culberson has played over 100 games, slashing .277/.327/.486. Snitker’s even found a way to resurrect Anibal Sanchez, who had been left for dead by the Tigers and the Twins; he’s thrown 130 innings this year with a sub-3.00 ERA.
Snitker has fully won over the clubhouse. “He cares more about the person than really the player,” Freddie Freeman said. “You don’t have to walk on egg-shells around him. He’s the reason why everybody has fun around here.”
Brian Snitker and the Braves have their eyes set on a different sort of hardware this fall, but with their performance in the regular season they’ll have to clear out a place in the trophy cabinet for a richly-deserved Manager of the Year Award.
Commiserations to Joe Maddon, Jim Riggleman, and Dave Roberts.
And the Award for American League Manager of the Year Goes To….
When you single-handedly change the entire philosophy of a sport, you get Manager of the Year. And that’s exactly what Kevin Cash has done in Tampa Bay.
Cash will be remembered in baseball circles as the founder of the “Opener” when he sent out his closer Sergio Romo to pitch the first inning rather than the ninth. It was crazy, it was unheard of, it was…a success. After instituting the Opener, the Tampa Bay Rays led the league in staff-ERA, despite the lack of a dominant starter (or, at one point, the lack of any starter). Tampa Bay’s bullpen has pitched 779 innings. The next closest team, the Los Angeles Angels, have pitched 603. Their staff is currently third in ERA–ahead of both the Red Sox and the Yankees.
Look beyond the Opener, though, and you see why Cash deserves the AL Manager of the Year Award in a crowded field. He’s taken a team that was supposed to live in the cellar of the AL East and led them to a winning record. Through the revolving door of trades and salary dumps Cash has guided the Rays clubhouse with a steady hand. He’s made the most of new acquisitions like Tommy Pham and Tyler Glasnow while still giving time to youngsters like Willy Adames and Joey Wendle.
Did I mention that the Rays have the smallest payroll ($68 million) in all of baseball? And they’re in the same division as the Red Sox ($228 million payroll) and the Yankees ($179 million)?
Kevin Cash is baseball’s McGyver. He’s produced a winning team out of a folding chair, a paper clip, a stick of gum, and a fungo bat. For that, he deserves to win Manager of the Year.
Commiserations to Alex Cora, Bob Melvin, and Terry Francona.