The 2018 season is almost over, and that means the races for some of Major League Baseball’s prestigious regular-season awards — the Most Valuable Player, the Cy Young, the Gold Glove, the Silver Slugger, and the Manager of the Year — are about to end as well.
In this series, we are going to make cases for those players and managers who are in the running for these awards to come away with the hardware in their respective leagues. To kick it off, we will examine the candidates for National League Manager of the Year.
- Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves — It has been trying times in the ATL over the last four years, but it looks as if Snitker may guide the Braves to the postseason for the first time since 2013 this season. The Braves have not won more than 79 games during their recent down years and have already surpassed that mark. Snitker has not only made good adjustments all season, but has helped keep this young team together and develop their already great intangibles that have been passed down during their culture change under general manager Alex Anthopoulos. And with most critics believing at the beginning of the season that the Braves’ time to contend was in 2019 and beyond, Snitker earns points for getting the club to compete at a high level ahead of its original schedule.
- Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs — With the Cubs having the best record in the National League, Maddon is a natural choice to win the award. If that does happen, the 61-year-old will earn his fourth Manager of the Year award and tie Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox for the most awards won (LaRussa won two with the Athletics, one with the White Sox, and one with the Cardinals; Cox won three with the Braves, one with the Blue Jays). However, Maddon can attest that having the most wins in the league doesn’t necessarily lead to winning the award, as the Cubs won 103 games in 2016 under his watch, but the award was given to the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts. But, Maddon has been able to make the Cubs into the best team in the NL for the majority of this season despite losing 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant, closer Brandon Morrow and shortstop Addison Russell to injuries at different points this season and starters Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood struggling during the summer months. He has also done this in his usual even-keeled way, which has helped him become one of the best managers in the game today.
- Bud Black, Colorado Rockies — Who would have thought that the young team from the Mile High City would be leading the way in the NL West right now, especially competing in a division against the defending NL champion Dodgers (who they are tied with for first place) and a returning playoff team in the Diamondbacks? Though he he helped the Rockies earn the second wild card spot and was a finalist for this award in his first season last year, Black has been impressive in getting them to this point. One of the best things the Rockies have done under Black’s guidance is excel in one-run games, as they boast a 25-14 record — the best mark in the National League this year and fourth best in the majors behind the Athletics, Red Sox and Mariners, respectively. He also has helped them post their best road record in franchise history, as the Rockies are 41-34. The biggest achievement, though, would be to win the NL West for the first time in franchise history. If that happens, Black may walk away with his second NL Manager of the Year award after also winning one as the Padres manager in 2010.
- Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers — What a difference a year makes. After being eliminated from playoff contention in game No. 161 last season, the Brewers are now in a position to make their fifth playoff appearance in franchise history and first since 2011. While getting talented acquisitions Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Mike Moustakas, Gio Gonzalez, and Jonathan Schoop help a lot, Counsell has played a vital role in their success, especially with the way he has managed prized reliever Josh Hader and the veterans on this team In addition, he has them rolling during this final month, as the Brewers have a 9-4 record and are 2 1⁄2 games behind the Cubs for first in the NL Central. If the Brewers streak past the Cubs for the division crown and finish with the best record in the National League for the first time in franchise history in the process, Counsell will definitely be in the running for the award.
- Mike Shildt, St. Louis Cardinals — Usually, interim managers have a hard time turning around a club after organizations fire its first managers during a season. That did not apply to Shildt, who has guided the Cardinals to a 34-22 record and has them fighting for the second wild card spot since taking over for Mike Matheny on July 15. In the midst of this success, the Cardinals removed the interim tag and signed him to a three-year contract through 2020. A big reason why Shildt has had a ton of success is because of his great understanding of the organization and letting everyone perform their role within it. If the Cardinals end the season strong and get to the playoffs, Shildt may add another feat to his resume, even if he hasn’t managed the whole entire year.
- Gabe Kapler, Philadelphia Phillies — There is no doubt Kapler has made the Phillies a better team than they have been over the last five seasons, as their 74 wins are the best win total since 2012 when they won 81 games. Though critics were booing Kapler after only five games, Kapler stuck with his analytical methods and had the Phillies as one of the best teams in the National League at one point. Unfortunately, the Phillies have started to fade in the playoff race, which may prevent him from winning the award. However, he is still in the conversation.