• Who were the best skippers of 2018? SI's baseball staff weighs in.
By SI.com Staff
November 13, 2018

Major League Baseball will announce the American League and National League Manager of the Year on Tuesday at 6 p.m. For the AL, the nominees are Red Sox manager Alex Cora, A's manager Bob Melvin and Rays manager Kevin Cash. In the National League, it's Brewers skipper Craig Counsell, Braves manager Brian Snitker and Rockies manager Bud Black. Our staff weighs in on who the winners should be. 

Ben Reiter: Alex Cora. He guided a club that was more or less the same as last year’s (plus J.D. Martinez, of course) to 15 more wins.

Emma Baccellieri: Alex Cora. This was one of the best seasons ever by a rookie manager—Ralph Houk of the 1961 New York Yankees is the only first-time skipper to record more wins—and he deserves to be rewarded for it. His story is markedly different from that of the other two finalists in this category, Oakland’s Bob Melvin and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash, each of whom led an underdog on a surprise run. Cora’s Red Sox were expected to contend, and they did—but that doesn’t make his case here any less compelling. No matter the roster, 108 wins can’t happen without strong managing and communication, and Cora provided plenty of both.

Jack Dickey: If voting happened after the postseason, it’d be hard to imagine anyone other than Alex Cora winning this one. He has a strong regular-season case, too, but it’s probably not as strong as Bob Melvin’s—the A's won 22 more games in 2018 than they did in 2017 with a roster that looked barely two wins better, let alone 22. In another world, though, the title would go to Kevin Cash, who wrung 90 wins out of a bunch of misfits. He won’t win it, but he is a finalist alongside Melvin and Cora, so thanks, voters.

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Jon Tayler: It’s hard to imagine that 108 wins, a division title, a pennant and a World Series championship in your rookie year doesn’t add up to being named the league’s top skipper, so I’ll vote for Alex Cora here. But this award and how it’s handed out frequently defers to a lazy identification of “Bad team that was suddenly good,” meaning Bob Melvin and Kevin Cash could just as easily walk away with this.

Gabriel Baumgaertner: Alex Cora is the overwhelming favorite, but Bob Melvin, who managed a team expected to finish below .500 into one of the most dominant forces in the American League, should be the winner. Predicted by most pundits to finish fourth in the AL West, the A's were a punishing offense and a 97-game winner despite an oft-injured pitching staff. Winning 97 games in Oakland, a team with virtually no budget and the league's worst facility, is a superb accomplishment.

Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

National League

Ben Reiter: Bud Black. The Rockies were completely exposed by the Brewers in the NLDS. The playoffs aren’t considered in awards voting, but they only further emphasized the terrific job Black did to get 91 wins from his club.

Emma Baccellieri: Craig Counsell. The Brewers’ roster couldn’t be easily managed with conventional wisdom. The pitching staff was led by its relievers, rather than its starters—and not many of those relievers had particularly defined roles, instead subscribing to a flexible model that did its best to match the pitcher to the situation, regardless of inning. The infield was built on a similarly flexible foundation, with players frequently switching between positions and making good use of the shift. Milwaukee’s strategy paid off, but it could have easily been a nightmare for a new manager. Counsell, though, handled it wonderfully.

Jack Dickey: Craig Counsell. For my money, he deserved it in 2017, when the Brewers fell just short of a playoff spot; this year, with Milwaukee posting the NL’s best record, the voters won’t make the same mistake twice.

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Jon Tayler: I genuinely have no clue who will win this, if only because all three candidates—Craig Counsell, Bud Black and Brian Snitker—fit the criteria of manager of an overachieving team that made the playoffs. Again, what makes predicting this award hard is that there’s no concrete anything to go on—just the gut feeling that because this team was better than we thought, the manager must be part of that. It’s silly, and it makes this award in general a mess.

Gabriel Baumgaertner: Craig Counsell? I genuinely have no idea. Winning one of the toughest divisions in baseball and managing a pitching staff with no defined ace is not easy, and Counsell is one of the game's foremost strategists.

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