The finalists for the Baseball Writers Association of America awards were announced on Monday. Since the voting was done at the end of the regular season, these "finalists" really just represent the top three vote-getters for each of the awards. We'll still have to wait a few more weeks to see who won what award, but it at least gives us something to talk about and debate until the hardware is actually handed out.
Your 2017 Milwaukee Brewers enjoyed an unexpectedly successful season, winning 86 games and staying in the National League Wild Card race until the second-to-last day of the season. That prompted some to guess that Craig Counsell would be among the leading candidates for Manager of the Year. After all, not many did more with less, and depending on who you ask, the Brewers outdid their projections by 10-14 games despite a very young roster with few proven options, especially on the pitching side.
Counsell even won the Sporting News' NL Manager of the Year honor, which is voted on by Counsell's fellow National League managers. That led to more speculation that he'd be among the finalists for the BBWAA honor, which is the one that's kept in history books.
Instead, it looks like Counsell fell short of the top three. This year's winner will be one of Los Angeles' Dave Roberts (last year's winner), Arizona's Torey Lovullo, or Colorado's Bud Black.
Your 2017 NL BBWAA Manager of the Year finalists:— MLB (@MLB) November 6, 2017
Dave Roberts pic.twitter.com/OY7oAuhM5k
All three led playoff teams, and the latter two at least oversaw similar unexpected turnarounds compared to Counsell. The Rockies went 75-87 last season before they beat out the Brewers for the final NL playoff spot with an 87-75 record. The Diamondbacks saw an even bigger upswing, going from 69-93 last year to go 93-69. The Dodgers won a league-high 104 games with an Opening Day payroll of $241 million.
While BBWAA voters have seemed to become more progressive when it comes to looking at MVP candidates on teams that didn't make it to October, it looks like that's still not the case for the Manager of the Year award voting, where voters don't look beyond the division leaders and wildcard teams. Lovullo and Black both oversaw massive reversals in fortune and are worthy of consideration.
Still, it would've been nice to see a Top 3 nod for Counsell, who was forced to think outside the box for much of the year to keep the team competitive -- especially in September following the injury to Jimmy Nelson, when he was forced into planning two Johnny Wholestaff bullpen days every five days all while keeping the team within striking distance in the wildcard race.
The Brewers' post-All-Star break swoon that extended into August likely cost Counsell more consideration here from the writers, many of whom likely saw the Brewers as "The Team That Lost The Divsion Lead to the Cubs" instead of "Unlikely Contenders to the End." At least Counsell got the recognition from his peers with the Sporting News award, which some might argue is the more meaningful honor -- even if it's not the one that gets remembered a few years from now.