To think, last year Ned Yost got some votes for this. Manager of the Year was by far the most difficult award for me to decide on, because it's so hard to tell a manager's contribution. For proof, look no further than the constant discussions about Yost on this site: among people who watch the games every day, you'll find those who think Yost is one of the worst skippers in the game to, at the very least, an average or better manager.
So, separating the skills of a good manager from a team that might be overperforming by coincidence is a tough task--one that I really have no clue how to go about completing. That said, here are our ballots for MOY:
- Joe Girardi
- Phil Garner
- Bobby Cox
- Joe Girardi
- Willie Randolph
- Bruce Bochy
Phil Garner seemed like a no-brainer to me for #2. That's partly because the Astros came so close to knocking off the NL Central champions, partly because there isn't a manager after Girardi who impressed me much. Garner managed an inconsistent bullpen and worked around sometimes dreadful performances from Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg (albeit, too little too late) despite not having a whole lot of options to work with. This Astros team was not nearly the quality of the '04 and '05 editions, yet Garner kept them in the race until the final day.
Finally, I decided Bobby Cox was worthy of a place on the ballot, even if it isn't his customary place at the top. I can understand why Battlekow would want to honor Willie Randolph or Bruce Bochy, whose teams did very well--I've also seen a ballot include Charlie Manuel, whose Phillies managed to surge after trading away the veterans everybody else wanted. But Cox stood out to me. Unlike any of those other skippers, Bobby was dealt the worst hand he's seen in his reign in Atlanta, and combined with the efforts of John Smoltz and Brian McCann, kept the Braves on the fringes of the Wild Card race much longer than anyone expected. He had to work around a dreadful bullpen, a spotty rotation, and injuries all over the diamond without logical replacements in the minors. It was business as usual for Cox, and he did an excellent job with it; it just wasn't enough.