Banister, Servais, Ausmus, Francona also in mix for honor
By Richard Justice
Buck Showalter's 18th season as a Major League manager just might be his finest. To keep his Orioles in contention in baseball's most competitive division with a work-in-progress starting rotation is a reflection of many things.
The Orioles do certain things better than anyone. They play defense and hit the ball over the fence. Baltimore's bullpen is spectacularly good. But its starting rotation has a 4.80 ERA, the 25th best in the game.
Still, the O's have spent 109 days atop the American League East and haven't been more than a game out of first place since June 2. Right in the middle of it all is Showalter, managing the bullpen, selling the confidence, setting the tone. There just aren't many better.
• Friday: AL Manager of the Year
• Friday: NL Manager of the Year
Showalter makes a vote for the AL Manager of the Year Award simple. For the fourth time in his career, he's the man. Showalter won his first one for the Yankees 22 years ago and went on to win one while in charge of the Rangers (2004) and another with the Orioles ('14).
To be good for so long while baseball has undergone so many changes says plenty about Showalter's gift of getting the best from his players as well as his motivational and organizational skills.
The Orioles are in a three-team slugfest with the Red Sox and the Blue Jays for the AL East, three teams separated by three games. The O's have lost 10 of 16, and if they don't make the postseason, Showalter may not get nearly enough credit for his good work.
If they get in and make some noise in October, Showalter will be recognized as a guy methodically crafting a Hall of Fame resume.
Here's how the AL Manager of the Year Award voting stacks up:
1. Showalter, Orioles
Isn't a rotation supposed to be a team's backbone? Baltimore's has been much better lately as the offense has stumbled a bit. Regardless, Showalter has made it all work with a focus on his team's strengths instead of its weaknesses. This is the magic of great leadership.
2. Jeff Banister, Rangers
Banister has a chance to go back-to-back with this award. Last season, he kept the Rangers together through a tough stretch and guided them to the AL West championship as the roster was reshaped. This season, Texas started fast, then lost 17 of 24. Banister's poise was impressive during the worst of it as he preached confidence in his guys. Now, the Rangers are cruising toward a fifth postseason appearance in seven seasons.
3. Scott Servais, Mariners
No rookie manager has had a more impressive season. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto hired Servais, then changed more than half the roster. There have been plenty of bumps in the road with the pitching and other areas. Servais has stayed steady, and Seattle is still in contention as we reach the stretch run.
4. Brad Ausmus, Tigers
Ausmus has withstood rumors about his job security the past two seasons and guided Detroit through periods when there were holes in both the rotation and lineup. Now, with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander back at the top of their games, the Tigers could be a formidable postseason team if they can get in.
5. Terry Francona, Indians
Francona has worked and reworked his lineup as injuries and personnel turnover have made almost every lineup card a challenge. He has done it with his usual humor and competitive fire, and he remains as popular and respected in his clubhouse as manager. Cleveland's pitching is so good that if the Tribe does somehow get to the postseason, the club will have a great shot at a deep run.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.