Will Joe Maddon of the Cubs repeat as Best Manager? Who will succeed Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore after his back-to-back awards for Best Executive? Will remaining postseason games make a difference in your thinking?
Voting is underway through 2 p.m. ET on Nov. 11 to help decide those and many other categories in the Esurance MLB Awards. All 10 of these candidates have played influential roles for teams that reached this Major League Baseball postseason, including some whose clubs are still in hot pursuit of a title. And one of the unique aspects of these individual awards is that postseason play is considered.
Best Manager nominees include Dusty Baker of the Nationals, Terry Collins of the Mets, Terry Francona of the Indians, Maddon and Dave Roberts of the Dodgers.
Best Executive finalists are Chris Antonetti of the Indians, Jon Daniels of the Rangers, Theo Epstein of the Cubs, Andrew Friedman of the Dodgers and Mark Shapiro of the Blue Jays.
For the record, there have been three instances in which one club swept these two awards since both Best Manager and Best Executive were included in these fan-involved honors starting in 2008. Those were given in '08 to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and GM Pat Gillick; in '10 to Giants manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean; and in '13 to Red Sox manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington.
Here is a closer look at your Best Manager nominees:
Baker won the first Best Manager award when MLB.com added it irrespective of league in 2003, for that Cubs season that ended infamously against the Marlins in the National League Championship Series. This year, Baker's Nationals were 95-67 and won the NL East by eight games, clubhouse cohesion was restored and, despite being without Stephen Strasburg (15-4) down the stretch and in the postseason, he had the clinching run on second in the bottom of the ninth of Game 5 before Clayton Kershaw ended Washington's season in the NL Division Series.
The fact that the Mets even made it to the postseason was close to miraculous, considering the starting pitchers they lost along the way -- Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom. The defending NL champs were 62-62 on Aug. 22, with multiple teams standing between them and the second NL Wild Card spot. Yoenis Cespedes was out for a while, they lost their captain in David Wright and there were other examples. Every manager has to deal with injuries, but it was over the top in the Mets' case. Despite all that, they surged to the finish and earned the top NL Wild Card spot before falling to the Giants in the Wild Card Game.
Francona could be the first skipper to win this award with two different teams, having done so with Boston in 2004 after the Red Sox reversed the curse. In '07, when he managed the Red Sox to their second World Series title in four years, Francona was edged out in this category by Joe Torre of the rival Yankees, 25 to 24.3 percent. In '16, Francona guided the Indians to their first Fall Classic since 1997, winning a tough AL Central despite key injuries (notably Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar), and his club has home-field advantage in the 112th World Series.
Last season, Maddon left the Rays for a Cubs team that had not made the playoffs since 2008 before guiding them to 97 wins and an NLCS berth. This season, the Cubs won 103 games -- their most since winning 104 in 1910 -- and they are about to host the Dodgers Saturday in Game 6 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. A year after he won this award, do you need to see if they get over the pennant hump this time?
Roberts is the managerial newbie among four deans who have been around with multiple clubs. In his first year as a Major League skipper following the departure of Don Mattingly, Roberts excelled in this role with often unorthodox moves, and then he shifted into another gear in this postseason through more memorable maneuvers. Kershaw spent two months on the DL, there were youngsters galore to nurture, and yet the Dodgers went 91-71, earned their fourth consecutive NL West title and have stretched the Cubs in a rugged NLCS.
Baker, Francona and Maddon are each in line to join Bochy as the only two-time winners of this award.
Meanwhile, here is a breakdown of the choices for Best Executive:
The Indians' Opening Day payroll was around $96 million, ranking in the bottom third of clubs. But they finished 94-67, running away in the tough AL Central. Antonetti, Cleveland's president of baseball operations, acquired key free agents who were neglected by other clubs -- like Mike Napoli (34 homers and 101 RBIs), a Texas castaway, and Rajai Davis (43 steals), whom Detroit gave up on.
When the Rangers were swept by Toronto in the ALDS, it was so shocking because of how good Texas had been throughout the entire regular season. Even without Prince Fielder, whose career ended, the Rangers won 95 games and reversed a three-year attendance decline, posting the best record in the AL. Their president of baseball operations and GM had another big year himself, trading for All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy -- whose impact behind the plate was enormous down the stretch -- and for postseason regular Carlos Beltran. Daniels gave up a lot of prospects again in 2016, but at least entering the postseason the results were there.
If you thought Boston's long-awaited title was a big deal in 2004, just imagine what it could be like for the Cubs, who last won it all in 1908. Epstein was the chief architect of both of those clubs, and one look at the starting NL lineup at this summer's All-Star Game was sufficient evidence of what all that building has created in Chicago.
Acclaimed builder of those Tampa Bay clubs that routinely contended for years, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations put a sizable imprint on a team that is pushing the Cubs deep in the NLCS. In the last year, the Dodgers parted ways with Mattingly and replaced him with Roberts; they did not re-sign Zack Greinke but got good mileage from Kenta Maeda and others -- cobbling together what became one of the best MLB rotations. A Trade Deadline deal for Phillies veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz has proved fruitful through this postseason.
If 2015 was the year of big moves for Toronto, Shapiro might have been one of them. He joined the Blue Jays last fall after 24 seasons with the Indians, succeeding Paul Beeston as president and CEO. The '16 transactions were not as high profile as the year before, but Francisco Liriano was one notable addition, coming over in a trade that sent Drew Hutchison to Pittsburgh (Liriano's WHIP was 1.62 in 20 games for Pittsburgh and 1.18 in 10 games for Toronto). Shapiro also notably reunited with his former Cleveland protege Cherington, hiring the former Red Sox GM as VP of baseball operations. The Blue Jays earned the top AL Wild Card spot and then achieved #OurMoment status across all of Canada as they tore through a favored Texas team in the ALDS, but the ALCS paired organizations for two of these Best Executive candidates, and protege topped mentor.
The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor MLB's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) voters.
The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the American and National Leagues from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.
In addition to Best Manager and Best Executive, individual awards will go to the Best Major Leaguer, Best Hitter, Best Pitcher, Best Rookie, Best Defensive Player, Best Social Media Personality and Best Postseason Performer.
Winners also will be recognized for Best Play, Offense; Best Play, Defense; Best Regular Season Moment; Best Postseason Moment; Best Performance; Best Social Media Post; Best Fan Catch; Best Call, TV/Radio; Best Player-Fan Interaction; and Best Trending Topic.