Tight NL Manager of the Year vote expected

Tight NL Manager of the Year vote expected

When it comes to discussing the National League Manager of the Year award, it's impossible not to start with Bobby Cox, the overwhelming sentimental favorite and a four-time award winner, who guided the Braves to the playoffs in his final season.

Dusty Baker, himself a multiple Manager of the Year recipient, also has a strong case, for leading the Reds to the NL Central title and their first playoff appearance in 15 years.

Then, there's the venerable Charlie Manuel, who's never won the award despite leading the Phillies to four consecutive NL East titles and the 2008 World Series championship. And don't count out the relative newcomer, Padres manager Bud Black, who nearly led San Diego, virtually everyone's pick for the West cellar, to the division title.

The competition for NL Manager of the Year, won last year by Colorado's Jim Tracy, should be one of the most closely contested of the Baseball Writers' Association of America postseason awards. The winner of both the NL and AL Manager of Year awards will be announced at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Cox, the 1985 AL Manager of the Year and a three-time NL Manager of the Year (1991, 2004-05), led the Braves to a 91-71 record -- their most wins since 2004 -- and to the NL Wild Card. Cox retired after 29 seasons as a manager, including 25 with the Braves.

Baker, the NL Manager of the Year with the Giants in 1993, '97 and 2000, took his third different team to the playoffs this year, when the Reds went 91-71 to win their division. Manuel rallied the Phillies from a poor start to finish 97-65, the best record in baseball, and win the division again.

Black, who has managed the Padres for four seasons, led the team to a surprising 90-72 record and a second-place finish behind the Giants.

Here's a closer look at the leading candidates for Manager of the Year:

Bud Black, Padres

The case for: Had a surprising Padres team atop the NL West standings for most of the year.

The case against: The Padres went just 23-23 after Aug. 26, including a 10-game losing streak.

Dusty Baker, Reds

The case for: Baker guided the Reds to the NL Central title and the playoffs for first time since 1995.

The case against: The NL Central was arguably the weakest division in baseball this year.

Bobby Cox, Braves

The case for: Cox led the Braves into the playoffs in his 25th and final season in Atlanta.

The case against: The Braves stumbled in September, going 13-14, to lose the NL East to the Phillies.

Charlie Manuel, Phillies

The case for: Manuel has never won the award before, despite winning four consecutive NL East titles.

The case against: The Phillies are loaded with more talent than perhaps any other NL club.

Also worth consideration: Bruce Bochy, Giants; Brad Mills, Astros

So let's hear it, fans. Who do you think will win the NL Manager of the Year? Will sentiment be on the side of Bobby Cox, or does Charlie Manuel finally walk away with the prize? Or did Bud Black and Dusty Baker earn their stripes by taking surprising clubs to 90 wins?

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.