Up until Tuesday evening’s announcement on the MLB Network, the race between Showalter and Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin for the AL’s top manager of 2012 seemed too close to call. Both were equally deserving and both led their teams to storybook seasons that captivated baseball.
The award was decided by a mere couple of votes, Melvin beat Showalter in a vote of 28 AL market Baseball Writers' Association of America voters.
Melvin, a former Orioles catcher, edged Showalter by eight points (116 to 108), the voters ranked their top three selected with a 5-3-1 point system — and it marked the fourth tightest AL Manager of the Year race since the award’s inception in 1983. It was also the closest vote since the Rangers’ Johnny Oates and Yankees’ Joe Torre tied for the AL award in 1996.
“Bob is very deserving,” Showalter said. “I would have voted for him. It would have been a nice thing for our scouts and all of our people in the organization because it’s really a recognition of them, but that’s really the only disappointment.”
Showalter and Melvin combined to collected every first- and second-place vote, with Melvin receiving 16 first-place votes and Showalter receiving 12. White Sox rookie manager Robin Ventura finished third with 12 third-place votes, and Rays manager Joe Maddon, the Yankees’ Joe Girardi rounded out the top five.
Voting was completed at the end of the regular season and does not take the playoffs into account.
As expected, the voting split regionally. Seven of 10 voters from AL East BBWAA chapter voted for Showalter. Six of eight from the AL West voted for Melvin. Among voters from AL Central chapters seven of 10 voted for Melvin.
This was the fourth time the 56-year-old Showalter finished in the top two in the AL manager of the year race. He won in 1994 with the Yankees and then 10 years later with the Texas Rangers. He also placed second in 1993 in his second season with the Yankees.
Last month, Showalter beat Melvin and Ventura to win the Sporting News AL Manager of the Year Award, which was chosen by a vote of 17 major league managers.
The Orioles' last BBWAA Manager of the Year winner was Davey Johnson in 1997, which was also had been the last time the Orioles had a winning season or advanced to the playoffs.
Coincidentally, Johnson was named the National League Manager of the Year on Tuesday after leading the Washington Nationals to the NL East title. He received 23 of 32 first-place votes.
But in the AL, the achievements of Melvin’s team, which rallied from 13 games back to win the AL West title on the final day of the regular season, won over the voters.
When Melvin, who also won the 2007 NL Manager of the Year award with Arizona, was announced as the winner on the MLB Network broadcast, he was visibly startled and moments later said he was “absolutely shocked” to win because of the season the Orioles had under Showalter.
“Buck did an amazing job,” Melvin said.” You look at where they were the year before and where they ended up this year was pretty amazing. That’s not the easiest division to play in either. … I don’t know. This would have been a tough one for any writer to have to vote in. It was two great stories. I think the best two stories in baseball were the Oakland A’s and the Baltimore Orioles.”
Both managers far exceeded expectations. The A’s had the lowest payroll in the AL, but overcame open-pocketed division rivals in the Rangers and Angels to win the AL West.
In Showalter’s second full season in Baltimore, the Orioles — a consensus pick to finish in the AL East cellar — went from 93 losses a year ago to 93 wins, battling for the division crown until the second-to-last day of the regular season. The Orioles beat the back-to-back defending American League Champion Rangers in the one-game wild card playoff on the road and took the Yankees to five games in the American League Division Series.
“For me, our team wouldn’t have been anywhere close to where we were at the end of the year if Buck wasn’t the man in charge of it all,” Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. “For us, award or no award, he was the man for the job and the best manager for us, for where we were (in 2012) and where we are going to be in the future.”
The Orioles’ success under Showalter perplexed statistical analysts who gauge success on run differential. The Orioles had a negative run differential for most of the season and ended with just a plus-7, but won were 29-9 in one-run games, recording the best winning percentage (.763) in the modern era. They won 16 straight extra-inning games to end the season and had just one pitcher make more than 20 starts (rookie lefty Wei-Yin Chen).
Showalter won despite having to use 52 different players during the season, but found ways for nearly all of them to be contributors in some way over the long haul.
“I’m surprised that he didn’t get it,” Wieters said. “But for him to take us from where we were a couple years ago and where we are now and, on top of that, do it in the AL East, is a pretty huge accomplishment. Bob Melvin had a great year in the AL West, a great year with Oakland. But, for me, Buck is the manager of the year.”