AL Manager of Year Award a three-way race

AL Manager of Year Award a three-way race

Ron Washington entered the 2010 season on the hot seat, but he might end the year as the American League's top manager.

Another contender, Ron Gardenhire, has been a perennial candidate for the AL Manager of the Year award, yet has somehow never won it. His Twins' second-half surge might finally earn him some much-deserved recognition.

It'll be interesting to see who gets the honor on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

The Rangers already have one award winner this year after Neftali Feliz was named AL Rookie of the Year on Monday. Now Washington hopes it is his turn.

Washington made headlines following a mid-March report that he had tested positive in 2009 for cocaine use, a report he soon confirmed. The Rangers stood by him, and they won with his leadership, not to mention a brand of baseball that included a refreshing aggressiveness on the basepaths, a caretaking approach to a pitching rotation in transition, with youngsters like Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter and converted reliever C.J. Wilson. The result was one of the most balanced Rangers teams in history.

Many expected Texas to be a contender. Few imagined them winning the pennant. In an awards debate that can include wide-ranging opinions on which criteria should be most highly valued, Washington's case is a strong one by any definition.

By no means, though, is it a sure win. Gardenhire's sixth AL Central title in nine years was one of his team's most complete efforts, offensively and defensively. Having moved into Target Field, the Twins debunked any notion that they played to the advantages of the Metrodome. Minnesota's second-half surge after Justin Morneau's season-ending concussion certainly has to warrant a good look at Gardenhire.

And not to be forgotten is Joe Maddon, who led the Rays to their second AL East title in three years, something that seemed unfathomable a few years ago.

Here's a closer look at the likely top candidates:

Ron Gardenhire, Twins
The case for: Gardenhire showed he could win without the small-ball style of the Twins' Metrodome days, not to mention the loss of Morneau for half the season.
The case against: For once, Minnesota was actually expected to win, so they didn't exactly overachieve.

Joe Maddon, Rays
The case for: The Rays ruled the AL East with a 42-30 division record, plus an MLB-best 47-34 road mark, a surprising achievement for a relatively young team.
The case against: Tampa Bay finished just over .500 (29-27) in one-run games.

Ron Washington, Rangers
The case for: The Rangers not only won the AL West, they ran away with it while playing exciting, fundamental baseball.
The case against: Could it be that Texas' young talent was set to win, regardless of who led them?

Does Washington's comeback story and the Rangers' play warrant the honor, or has Gardenhire, who has finished second in the balloting in three of the past four years, gone too long without recognition? And where does Maddon's guidance of a Tampa Bay team that outpaced the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East fit into the discussion?

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.