The Pirates' Clint Hurdle is the favorite to win the Manager of the Year award.
By Bob Smizik Special to the Post-Gazette
The ballots are in and sometime next month the winners of all the MLB awards will be announced. Pittsburgh has a considerable interest in these awards -- which are based only on the regular season -- because in two of them, Most Valuable Player and Manager of the Year, Pirates are favored to win.
One will be a great honor. The other a complete joke.
If Andrew McCutchen, as expected, wins the MVP award, it will be a tremendous validation of his outstanding season and his burgeoning superstar status. It is an honor that will remain with him throughout his career.
If Clint Hurdle, as expected, wins the Manager of the Year award, it will be a validation of nothing and will be forgotten before the end of next season.
There are multiple valid measuring sticks to determine MVP, both old-fashioned and sabermetric. Although the definition of the award is a bit fuzzy -- is it value to team or is it flat-out performance? -- all voters, whether they have seen McCutchen play in person once or 100 times, can fairly evaluate his season.
There are no such tools to determine the wisdom of a manager. Managers don't have batting averages or OPS or WAR of wOBA. They have only wins and losses and players, not managers, are, by far, the greatest determinant in those categories.
As someone who has voted for this award multiple times and who took that duty seriously, take my word that there is nothing approaching a fool-proof method to determine which of the 15 managers did the best job. Usually, the winner is the manager who has perceived to have done the most with the least or the one whose team made the greatest improvement over the previous seasons.
Since Hurdle would score high in both categories, he is the favorite.
But of the 30 voters, two from each NL city, only a small handful, the two in Pittsburgh, might have closely followed Hurdle's managerial tactics. Most of the other 28 have little idea how he handles strategy during a game, makes bullpen decisions, fills out his lineup card.
Sure, they can read the box score, but that only tells so much. In order to fully evaluate a manager, he must be viewed -- and viewed under full scrutiny -- dozens and dozens of times. Few voters have done that or even have the opportunity to do that.
And even if a voter has done that for one manager, he has next to nothing to compare it against.
Voters have little to go on other than perceived improvement. For all they know, the best managerial job was done by Mike Redmond, whose Miami Marlins were 38 games under .500, but who was operating with his best players traded away in the offseason. Or it could have been Dale Sveum, who was fired by the Cubs after finishing 66-96 with what looked to be, at best, 66-96 talent.
None of this is to take anything away from the eventual winner. If it's Hurdle, congratulations to him. On winning a meaningless award.
The Executive of the Year award, where Neal Huntington is a leading candidate, is not an official MLB award.