Johnny Oates is considered a leading candidate for American League Manager of the Year, but he stated emphatically yesterday that the award should go to Oakland's Tony La Russa.
"If he doesn't get it, it's a shame," the Orioles manager said. "The first-place votes should be unanimous. I managed against the guy, I should know."
La Russa already has won the award twice, but Oates is one of many in baseball who rates his performance this season as perhaps the finest of his career.
The A's are closing in on their fourth AL West title in five years, despite an extraordinary number of injuries and mediocre seasons by several of their top starting pitchers.
Thus, Oates likely will finish second or third in the Manager of the Year voting, with the outcome possibly depending on whether the Orioles overtake Milwaukee for second place.
If not for La Russa, Oates' leading competition would be the Brewers' Phil Garner, who took a team in disarray and energized it with the most daring running game in baseball.
Oates, of course, hasn't fared badly himself: The Orioles (82-69) are still in position to become only the third team in major-league history to go from 95 losses to 90 wins.