I'm writing this before knowing who the winner is, as I'll probably be running around the general managers' and owners' meetings, but I figured I'd get this out there, to maintain tradition.
Manager of the Year is tough. The statistics to sharply measure managers' impact on a team simply don't exist. So in filling out my ballot, I simply tried to determine, based on personal observations and conversations with other industry folks, who did the best job in the National League.
Here's what I came up with:
1. Bud Black, San Diego. The Padres put up the most surprising 2010 season in all of baseball, IMO, even though they stumbled out of the playoffs with a bad September. They just didn't hit a heck of a lot, with a team OPS+ of 93.
They pitched like crazy to counter that, with an ERA+ of 108, and they did so despite having only two starting pitchers with an ERA+ over 100 - Mat Latos (126) and Jon Garland (108).
That means their bullpen was great , with a 2.81 ERA in 511 2/3 innings. And for managing that bullpen, using the right guys in the right times, I thought Black deserved the first-place vote. I anticipate that Black will win the award.
2. Dusty Baker, Cincinnati. This won't endear me to the the more stats-oriented fans with whom I usually connect, but what are you gonna do? Yes, I'm aware that his lineup construction left much to be desired, particularly the leadoff spot. A .306 on-base percentage? Yeesh.
But I think, based on my observations , that Baker created a clubhouse environment in which people could thrive. A place in which were people were both comfortable and accountable. And I do think there's a correlation between that and the results. So, second place it is for Dusty.
3. Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia. The Phillies were riddled with injuries in 2010, as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, closer Brad Lidge and setup man Ryan Madson all spent time on the disabled list. And the club got off to its customary sleepy start, allowing the Braves to jump in front of them.
Yet the Phillies carry that winner's aura at this point that reminds you of the Yankees'. It's partly because the wealth of talent in both clubhouses, of course. I also think it reflects the manager, however.
Here's what I wrote about Manuel here, on the blog, back in August. I think Manuel deserves credit for getting the Phillies through their injuries and to their fourth straight division title.
--I'll be back later with more stuff from the meetings.
--UPDATE, 2:11 p.m.: Wow, the NL race was really close. Black over by Baker by a point. Gosh, I feel like a made a difference.
Also, the Mets will interview Bob Melvin and Chip Hale today, and Wally Backman and Terry Collins tomorrow.