The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the results of Manager of the Year balloting this evening. Giants’ skipper Gabe Kapler was named the National League winner, while Rays’ manager Kevin Cash claimed his second consecutive win in the American League.
Kapler and Cash managed the best regular season team in the respective leagues. With balloting conducted before the start of the playoffs, voters are left to judge solely on clubs’ regular season bodies of work. In addition to posting their respective league’s best records, both San Francisco and Tampa Bay finished second in run differential (behind the Dodgers and Astros, respectively).
The Giants’ magical season was unexpected. While most preseason projections figured the Dodgers and Padres would battle for the NL West crown, San Francisco shockingly won a franchise-best 107 games to claim the top seed. That came with an aging core of position players on a team that had gone just 29-31 in 2020, making it all the more impressive that the Giants were able to consistently play at an elite level all year long. The team rewarded Kapler with a two-year contract extension last week.
Manager of the Year awards frequently come to skippers whose teams outperform expectations, so it’s little surprise Kapler fared well in the balloting. He appeared on 29 of 30 ballots, garnering 28 first-place votes and one second-place finish. The other first-place votes went to Craig Counsell of the Brewers and Mike Shildt, who was nevertheless dismissed by the Cardinals after the season. Counsell and Shildt finished second and third, respectively, while the Braves’ Brian Snitker and Dodgers’ Dave Roberts also picked up some down-ballot support.
While the Giants’ great season was unexpected, the Rays’ success shouldn’t have come as much surprise. Tampa Bay also had the AL’s best record in 2020, a season in which they claimed their second pennant. That said, the Rays enter each season in a loaded AL East that includes the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays, each of whom have significantly higher payrolls.
Nevertheless, the Rays continue to churn out talented players and leverage match-ups to great success. Tampa Bay has posted a winning record in four consecutive seasons, and the club has a cumulative 554-478 mark (.537 winning percentage) since Cash took the helm in 2015. That run of consistent success contributes to Cash becoming the first back-to-back Manager of the Year winner since Bobby Cox in 2004-05.
Cash’s hold on the balloting wasn’t quite as resounding as Kapler’s. The Rays’ skipper appeared on 28 of 30 sheets, garnering 19 first-place votes. Scott Servais of the Mariners (five), Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays (three), Dusty Baker of the Astros (two) and Alex Cora of the Red Sox (one) each garnered at least one first-place nod themselves, with Servais and Baker joining Cash as finalists. In addition to that group of five, the White Sox’s Tony La Russa and the Tigers’ A.J. Hinch garnered some down-ballot support.