Manager of the Year 2016: Sizing up the finalists

Youth was served Monday night with the announcement of MLB’s top rookies. Now we shift our attention to the very best dugout generals, as the league is set to reveal the Manager of the Year award winners on Tuesday night.

This year’s group of finalists represent a wide range of personalities and experience levels. On the American League side, you’ll recognize some familiar names. The three finalists — Jeff Banister, Terry Francona and Buck Showalter — have each won the award one time over the past three seasons. For Banister, it’s a unique opportunity to win back-to-back awards, while Francona and Showalter may be on the verge of cementing Hall of Fame legacies.

In the National League, there’s the rookie, Dave Roberts. There’s the grizzled veteran in Dusty Baker. There’s also Joe Maddon, whose personality and perspective are often difficult to describe. What they all have in common though is success, and that success should lead to an interesting outcome.

That’s just the quick rundown. Now here’s a breakdown of the three finalists in each league to further whet your appetite. The winners will be announced Tuesday in an MLB Network special that begins at 6 p.m. ET.

Jeff Banister has led the Rangers to two straight A.L. West championships. (AP)
Jeff Banister has led the Rangers to two straight A.L. West championships. (AP)

American League
Jeff Banister — Texas Rangers
In brief: Banister is looking to make it back-to-back wins after being selected the 2015 Manager of the Year by the BBWAA. He’s the fourth manager to win division titles in his first two seasons since the start of three-division play in 1994.

Case for: Despite an improved division and some potential distractions (Rougned Odor’s punch and Prince Fielder’s retirement) the Rangers remained a steady force all season. The Rangers finished with an AL best 95-67 record, which tied the second most victories in club history.

Case against: Been there, done that. Banister’s rookie and sophomore seasons have been impressive, but to win this award back-to-back requires elevating the team to an unexpected or unprecedented level. Most would agree the Rangers finished where they were expected to finish.

Terry Francona won Manager of the Year with Cleveland in 2013. (AP)
Terry Francona won Manager of the Year with Cleveland in 2013. (AP)

Terry Francona — Cleveland Indians
In brief: Francona was named Manager of the Year after his first season in Cleveland in 2013. Now he’s back in the mix after leading the franchise to its first division championship since 2007. Overall, Francona has managed 16 seasons between the Phillies, Red Sox and Indians, posting a career 1,381-1,209 record to go along with two World Series wins in Boston.

Case for: Many believe Francona did his best work this season, helping mold a good team into a championship contender. Francona’s ability to blend people skills with an acceptance of statistical analysis and a mastery of strategy was on full display, which has some looking beyond a yearly award to focus on his Hall of Fame résumé.

Case against: If you can make a case against Terry Francona, we’d love to hear it.

Buck Showalter is a three-time Manager of the Year winner. (AP)
Buck Showalter is a three-time Manager of the Year winner. (AP)

Buck Showalter — Baltimore Orioles
In brief: The most experienced of the AL finalists, Showalter led the Orioles to an 89-73 record and a share of the AL Wild Card in 2016. He’s a three-time AL Manager of Year winner, having won in 1994 (Yankees), 2004 (Rangers) and 2014 (Orioles).

Case for: Reminder: The awards are voted on before the postseason, so Showalter will only be judged on the Orioles regular season success. The Orioles were a tough team to read before the season, but Showalter did his usual solid job getting the most from his players.

Case against: If the postseason was factored in, Showalter’s chances would decrease significantly based on his handling of closer Zach Britton in the wild-card game. As it is, he’ll have a difficult time overcoming the standard set by Francona.

Dusty Baker helped get the Nationals back on track after a disappointing 2015. (AP)
Dusty Baker helped get the Nationals back on track after a disappointing 2015. (AP)

National League
Dusty Baker — Washington Nationals
In brief: Baker was exactly what the Nationals needed coming off a disappointing 2015 season. Refocused and seemingly re-energized under Baker’s guidance, Washington won 95 games and its third NL East title in the last five years, with all three coming under a different manager. Baker is a three-time NL Manager of the Year winner, having won the award with the Giants in 1993, 1997 and 2000.

Case for: Baker walked into a clubhouse that seemingly reached a boiling point late in the 2015. He managed the combustible personalities effectively, all while working around injuries to starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross and a down season from Bryce Harper.

Case against: The Nationals path was a little clearer than expected thanks to the Mets injuries. That, plus the addition of Daniel Murphy and the continued dominance of Max Scherzer took some luster away from Baker’s impact.

Joe Maddon's Cubs
Joe Maddon’s Cubs “embraced the target” during a historic 2016 season. (AP)

Joe Maddon — Chicago Cubs
In brief: Recognized as one of baseball’s brightest minds and greatest motivators, Maddon set a tone for his team in spring training by asking them to “embrace the target.” Embrace they did, and succeed they did too, winning an MLB-best 103 games.

Case for: Maddon walked into a great situation last winter, but the work he’s done to shape the Cubs young talent and manage a loaded roster is truly extraordinary. Not everything he does is conventional, but his fearless demeanor seems to have rubbed off on his players.

Case against: The talent he had to work with is almost unfair. Some will say that alone hurts his case. Others will point at his outside-the-box decisions, like putting a relief pitcher in the outfield, as moves that are too cute to reward.

Rookie manager Dave Roberts kept the Dodgers on track despite a record-setting number of injuries. (AP)
Rookie manager Dave Roberts kept the Dodgers on track despite a record-setting number of injuries. (AP)

Dave Roberts — Los Angeles Dodgers
In brief: Roberts was a first-year manager thrown into the unique position of taking over a three-time defending division championship team. He made it work, leading the Dodgers to 91 wins and a fourth straight division title.

Case for: In addition to the pressure of managing a team expected to contend, Roberts was forced to deal with an unprecedented number of injuries (a record 28 different players were placed on the disabled list) while facing several unenviable decisions involving pitchers on the verge of history. He was criticized at every turn, but his success can’t be denied.

Case against: Given the circumstances, it’s difficult to make a strong case against Roberts. Chances are it’s coming down to him and Joe Maddon, and in that case it’s just a matter of expectations versus circumstances.

• • •

Chris Cwik
AL: Buck Showalter — He did the most with the least. Few expected the Orioles to compete in a tough AL East before the season started.
NL: Joe Maddon — Yes, he was given the best team in baseball, but Maddon made sure the Cubs played up to that role all year. They never got complacent and won 103 games.

Mike Oz
AL: Terry Francona — He overcame plenty of injuries and helped a team that didn’t look all that great on paper win the AL Central.
NL: Dave Roberts — After all those injuries the Dodgers faced in his rookie season, Roberts deserves this one.

Liz Roscher
AL: Buck Showalter — The man barely had a rotation and managed to get his team to the wild-card play-in game. That takes some skills.
NL: Joe Maddon — A repeat is unlikely, but I don’t care. Maddon keeps his team loose, and his style is clearly working. More accolades forever!

Mark Townsend
AL: Terry Francona — Helped mold a very good team into a contender that ended up running away in a tough division.
NL: Dave Roberts — The rookie manager overcome an unprecedented number of injuries and a lot of criticism to keep the Dodgers ship steady.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!