You could do worse than just giving the National League Manager of the Year Award to Bruce Bochy or Joe Maddon every season. They're at the top of their field and this year their teams are at the top of the NL.
Why even hold a vote if you're going to do that? Just flip a coin.
Look beyond the most obvious choices and you'll find another set of deserving candidates. The ones I'm looking at are all in their first full season with either their team or their current set of responsibilities.
• Friday: AL Manager of the Year
• Friday: NL Manager of the Year
Here's my early NL Manager of the Year ballot:
1. Don Mattingly, Marlins
Despite what you may have heard or read from some people who didn't like his double switches or his bullpen choices, the former Yankees first baseman and 1985 American League MVP Award winner did excellent work with the Dodgers. Mattingly's teams had winning records five years in a row, including at least 92 wins each of their last three years.
Mattingly always seemed under the gun at Chavez Ravine, and he has settled in nicely after moving to Miami. He's a baseball man, not a showman, and has steadily gained the trust of his players. That's no easy trick with a franchise that has had seven managers in seven years (not counting Brandon Hyde, who managed one game in 2011).
The Marlins got off to a 5-11 start, but they steadily improved, moving into the NL Wild Card picture in July. Mattingly had to adjust after reigning NL batting champion Dee Gordon was hit with an 80-game suspension for PEDs, and he moved Ichiro Suzuki in and out of a talented outfield on his march to 3,000 hits. He should win the award if the Fish get back to the postseason for the first time since their World Series win over the Yankees in 2003 (when Mattingly was a special instructor for the Yankees).
2. Dusty Baker, Nationals
This is the perfect marriage. Baker was motivated to manage again after two seasons off, while the Nats needed a proven manager to replace Matt Williams after a lost season in 2015.
With his open mind and willingness to share his vast life experiences, Baker has been a breath of fresh air where one was badly needed. His understanding of hitting helped him connect with Daniel Murphy, who has blossomed into an NL MVP Award candidate, and Bryce Harper has known that Baker has his back, even during his downturn after an eye-popping first two months. Baker can be tough on his best starting pitchers, but he hasn't extended Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg to 120 pitches.
The Nationals have led the NL East for all but seven days and have a chance to clinch a division title early. They may even battle Maddon's Cubs for the league's best record.
3. Pete Mackanin, Phillies
Mackanin has rewarded Phillies president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak for the faith they showed in him after he replaced Ryne Sandberg on an interim basis midway through the 2015 season. Mackanin, 65, dates back to the Charlie Manuel days in the organization, but he's ushered in a new era with a rebuilding franchise.
The Phils' lineup is a work in progress, but the pitching staff has been much better than expected, thanks to young starter and a Jeanmar Gomez's emergence as a closer. These guys aren't going to have a winning season, but things could have been a whole lot worse in what figures to be the final season for fixtures Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz.
Others of note: Dave Roberts is generating NL Manager of the Year Award buzz as the Dodgers threaten to overtake Bochy's Giants. He's had to use 12 starting pitchers, with Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir the only arms who have gone the distance, but let's hold on a bit to see the final chapters written. ... Walt Weiss has helped the Rockies have the same level of year-to-year improvement as the Phillies.
Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.