Buck Showalter has done a masterful job of squeezing enough out of the Orioles roster to keep them viable in the American League wild-card race this long.
Really, there's no other way to explain how a team that can't catch the ball and has only one starting pitcher who has remained in the rotation all season could still be in reasonable mathematical contention for the AL East title.
Showalter has kept the O's focused through a summer of bad luck and key injuries. The loss of pitching ace Jason Hammel and right fielder Nick Markakis for extended periods should have been enough to send the club reeling into another dismal stretch drive, but the Orioles are still standing.
Hurdle edges Baker
Los Angeles Times
Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle is helped by the brilliance of Pirates center fielder and National League batting leader Andrew McCutchen, but his roster otherwise is a cluster of grinders working together following 20 years of futility.
Hurdle's performance deserves the edge in a close all-NL race that includes Washington's Davey Johnson and Cincinnati's Dusty Baker, who have both directed their teams to division leads.
Baker's Reds are 17-3 since the All-Star break.
The Pirates' early August standing as the NL wild-card leader is remarkable given their low payroll and absence from the playoffs since 1992.
Hurdle beating the odds
Juan C. Rodriguez
With all due respect to Beltway managers Davey Johnson and Buck Showalter, the distinction of best job to date goes to Clint Hurdle of the Pirates.
Pittsburgh has been starving for a winner, and the fan base finally is being sated thanks in part to Hurdle's leadership. Not only do they appear destined to break the franchise's 19-year run of losing records, the Pirates could challenge for their first division title since 1992.
They have an MVP candidate in Andrew McCutchen, but Hurdle's Pirates are winning despite a pedestrian offense. The pitching has been solid. They are 23-16 in one-run games, and Hurdle has his players believing they can accomplish more than just finishing .500.
Ventura has delivered
Manager of the Year voters could have an easy time in 2012. Assuming no major shifts between now and Oct. 3, the Nationals' Davey Johnson and White Sox's Robin Ventura should be easy choices in their leagues.
It's difficult to separate the jobs they've done but I'm going to say that Ventura and his coaches have outperformed Johnson and his coaches.
The White Sox staff coaxed production out of question marks Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, improvised nicely with a pitching staff packed with rookies, and delivered a team that plays fundamentally well, like the Twins during their good years.
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