MLB: Short List for AL Manager of Year in 2014

Several American League managers flashed strategic savvy and people skills in 2014, but the race for AL Manager of the Year features three skippers that stood out from the pack. If the voting included the MLB playoffs, nearly everyone would choose Ned Yost of the Royals, despite the misguided move of pulling James Shields early in the AL Wild Card game. Yost has presided over a miracle run for Kansas City. But only the regular season counts.

Of the most likely to win the award, one manager shrugged off the loss of core players and an underachieving star on his way to a low-budget division title; a second brought a non-contender to a playoff run that ended on the season’s final day; and a third transformed a high-priced failure into a league powerhouse with in-game adjustments.

Here are three skippers worthy of AL Manager of the Year honors in 2014.

Division Series - Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Game One
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Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels

Mike Scioscia has personnel advantages many managers do not, but he showed why he is nearly a lock for the Hall of Fame (again) in 2014. Scioscia took the data from the Angels front office and applied it to defensive alignments that greatly improved the team’s run prevention. An article in the Orange County Register highlighted some of his more unorthodox moves, like hitting Mike Trout second while slotting Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick in the power slots of fourth and fifth in the order.

Put another way, Scioscia threw out the playboook and guided his team to a runaway AL West title. A disappointing 2013 was forgotten in the team’s success of this season. Playoff failures aside, voters who pencil in Scioscia (a familiar name on the MOY ballot) have little to explain in defense of their position.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Seattle Mariners
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Lloyd McLendon, Seattle Mariners

Even with the additions of Robinson Cano and Fernando Rodney, few people took the Seattle Mariners seriously in 2014. Manager Lloyd McClendon somehow shook off the negativity surrounding the club and guided them through numerous lulls when they could have dropped out of the pack. McClendon’s expert handling of the pitching staff and confidence in young players had the Mariners in conention to the season’s final series, when teams like the Red Sox and Yankees were already thinking about their offseasons. A similar argument could be made for Ned Yost, but at least a few people liked the Royals’ chances before the season began.

ALCS - Baltimore Orioles v Kansas City Royals - Game Four
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Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

Buck Showalter seems to be in the running for Manager of the Year honors every season, but the job he did in 2014 was exceptionally brilliant. Manny Machado was injured for much of the year and served up distractions when he played; Chris Davis was a shell of his 2013 self; and Matt Wieters was lost for the season to an elbow injury.

On top of these problems, Showalter got no help from Ubaldo Jimenez and managed to blow out the AL East without a No. 1 starter in his rotation. Showalter’s gift is maintaining his high-intensity approach throughout the grueling MLB season. This year, Baltimore was done in by just a few close playoff losses. In the regular season, the club was a well-oiled machine with Showalter at the wheel. He’ll have another shot at the playoffs soon, but expect him to reel in more votes than any other AL skipper.