We haven’t yet reached the All-Star break in baseball, but trying to determine the postseason award winners is an all-season event for most.
The Most Valuable Player races are run all season long, with lots of attention on the top players, trying to determine who will win. But if you want a good race, take a look at all the candidates for American League Manager of the Year.
You have the teams that have come out of nowhere to be successful, like Minnesota and Tampa Bay, or you have teams that are doing well despite lots of injuries, like the New York Yankees and Houston Astros. But try deciding which manager out of Rocco Baldelli, Kevin Cash, Aaron Boone, and A.J. Hinch is doing the best job (or even matching them to their respective teams)? That’s not easy.
Let’s take a look at the jobs done so far by each of these Manager of the Year candidates:
Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins
In his first season as a major league manager, Baldelli has the Twins running away with the American League Central and in contention for the top record in the American League. This with a team that has made the postseason just once in the last eight years and is just three years removed from a 103-loss season in 2016. The Twins doesn’t exactly have a star-studded lineup, but they’ve been playing loose thanks to the low-key approach of the 37-year-old Baldelli, who played eight years in the Major Leagues with the Rays and Red Sox. Cleveland is trying to make the division race more competitive, but it looks like the Twins are going to coast to a division title and postseason berth.
Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays
Baldelli came from the Rays’ organization, which is getting a great season under Cash, in his fifth season as the team’s manager. Although the Rays won 90 games a year ago, they haven’t played in the postseason since 2013, stuck in the same division with the Yankees and Red Sox. But this season, the Rays have been putting things together since Opening Day and are currently battling New York for the American League East lead. Another team without a lot of superstars, Tampa Bay has been balancing its pitching staff under Cash, using openers and limiting some starters’ innings, like Cash pulling starter Yonny Chirinos after he’d pitched five innings of no-hit ball in May. Unfortunately, playing in the same division as the star-studded Yankees could make it difficult for Cash to have a division title on his resume come awards season.
Aaron Boone, New York Yankees
Everyone believed New York would have a strong team this season, but no one could have anticipated the number of injuries the team would deal with in the first two months of the season. And yet, in mid-June, with a combined 28 games from Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Troy Tulowitzki, the Yankees sit in first place in the American League East and should only get better as they get healthier. Boone has juggled lineups throughout the season, keeping his team in contention despite the crowded injured list. Boone does have the advantage of the All-Star lineup as well as a team that has been in the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, so him winning the award isn’t likely.
A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros
Hinch has also dealt with multiple injuries to All-Stars, with the Astros currently missing Jose Altuve and George Springer from their lineup. But Houston has looked like a World Series-contending team throughout the season, leading the American League West by 9.5 games and racking up an American League-best 48 wins heading into Monday’s action. It’s nothing new for the Astros, who have won 101 and 103 games the past two seasons under Hinch. But he still deserves credit for keeping his team’s ship steady throughout the injury losses. Still, it’s likely not going to be enough for him to win the Manager of the Year award without many more injuries and wins.
While all four managers are doing a great job, it’s hard to see Boone and Hinch doing well in the voting because of their teams’ past success. Cash also has some previous success to look at, while Baldelli has what many voters are looking for in that he’s new to his job and is bringing new success to the team. If you’re able to find some odds to make a bet on, make it on Baldelli.