The Baseball Writers Association of America handed out the American League and National League Manager of the Year Awards Tuesday night and it was no surprise that Davy Johnson won the NL award. The Nationals made the playoffs for the first time since moving to Washington and finished with the best record in all of baseball while Johnson led the Nationals to an 18 game improvement over their 2011 finish.
The MOY award was the second of Johnson’s career and his first in the National League. Johnson won his first MOY award in 1997 when he was the skipper of the Baltimore Orioles.
Johnson is the first Washington manager to win the award, but is the third to win the award in franchise history, joining former Montreal Expos managers Buck Rodgers (1987) and Felipe Alou (1994).
The voting was a landslide for Johnson. He was the only manager on all 32 National League ballots and picked up 23 first place votes as well as 4 second place and 4 third place votes, good for 131 points. Dusty Baker of the NL Central winning Cincinnati Reds finished second with 77 points and 5 first place votes, while Bruce Bochy of the World Series champion Giants finished third with 61 points and 4 first place votes. Fredi Gonzalez of Atlanta was fourth with 17 points while Bud Black of the Padres and Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals finished tied for fifth with one third place vote each.
No offense to Buck Showalter and what he did with the Baltimore Orioles this past season, but what Bob Melvin did for the Oakland Athletics was better.
Melvin took over as the A’s manager midseason in 2011. In his first full season as the A’s skipper, Melvin guided his team to the 2012 American League West Division championship. While the A’s did win the AL West, the only time they were ever in first place was the last day of the season. Of course, that is the only day that matters.
Back in spring training, the A’s were picked to finish last by all the so called “experts”. Some even had the A’s losing 100 games. But that didn’t happen. Instead of losing 100 games, Melvin’s Oakland A’s won 94 games, good for the second best record in the American League. The New York Yankees had the most wins at 95.
When the season started, the A’s had Brandon Allen at first base, Jemile Weeks at second base, Cliff Pennington at shortstop, Eric Sogard at third base, and Kurt Suzuki at catcher. By August 21, the entire A’s infield had changed. Allen had been released and Chris Carter was part of the new first base platoon (with Brandon Moss). Weeks had been sent to the minors and was replaced at second by Adam Rosales. Pennington was replaced at short when the A’s acquired Stephen Drew while the new third baseman was Josh Donaldson, a converted catcher. Suzuki, who struggled offensively all year was traded away to Washington and Derek Norris became the new starter behind the dish.
The outfield remained similar with Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, but even the outfield saw change as Crisp started the season in left and Cespedes in center, but the two outfielders switched spots with Cespedes taking over left field duties and Crisp manning center.
The biggest challenge for Melvin was having to work with a starting pitching staff with so many rookies. Tyson Ross, Tommy Milone, Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy, and Graham Godfrey started the year in the rotation with only Colon and McCarthy having any real MLB experience.
Godfrey and Milone both had all of 5 games in the majors prior to this season while Ross had 35 games, but only 8 of them were starts. Later in the season after Colon was suspended for PED use and McCarthy was lost for the season after taking a liner of his skull, the A’s had five rookies in their rotation, Milone, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily, and Travis Blackley. Blackley was a great story as when he came to the A’s he hadn’t started a game in the majors since 2007 and hadn’t won a game since 2004.
At the end of April and into early May, the A’s lost nine straight games to fall 8 games under .500. By the end of June, the A’s were 37-42 and a season high 13 games out of first place.
Then, with the flip of the calendar, Melvin’s team came to life, going 19-5 in July and 18-10 in August. Melvin’s A’s were 17-11 in September and a perfect 3-0 in October. In fact, Melvin’s team won its final eight of its final 10 games including the last six in a row to not only make the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but to also win the team’s first AL West crown since 2006.
For Melvin, the MOY award was also the second in his career. Melvin won his first award in 2007 when he was the skipper of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Like Johnson, Melvin has now won the award in both the National and American Leagues. Melvin joins former A’s skipper Tony La Russa as the only other manager to win the award in franchise history.
Melvin and Showalter were named on every ballot. Melvin received 16 first place votes and 12 second place while Showalter had 12 first place and 16 second place votes. First year manager Robin Ventura of the White Sox was third with 12 third place votes while Joe Maddon of Tampa Bay was fourth with 7 third place votes. Yankee manager Joe Girardi finished fifth with 5 third place votes.
In addition to Johnson and Melvin, just four other managers have won the award in each league. Bobby Cox (Toronto – 1985 and Atlanta 1991, 2004, 2005), La Russa (Chicago White Sox 1983; Oakland 1988, 1992; and St. Louis 2002), Lou Piniella (Seattle 1995, 2001 and Chicago Cubs 2008) and Jim Leyland (Pittsburgh 1990, 1992 and Detroit 2006) are the other managers to win in both the National and American Leagues.