Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve taken a look at potential Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year candidates in Major League Baseball. This week, we’ll review the managers that have impressed the most in 2013 and have their teams playing better than expected. First up is the National League and tomorrow, the American League.
Clint Hurdle (Pirates): Hurdle has to be considered the frontrunner at this point. While the Pittsburgh Pirates have improved the past two seasons, this year’s version looks to be the franchise’s best over the past 20 years. Behind five-tool player Andrew McCutchen, rising phenom Pedro Alvarez, and an impressive pitching staff, the Pirates have quietly become baseball’s best team. They took a season-best nine-game winning streak heading into this week and don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The question for Pittsburgh will be maintaining their performance for a full-season. The team got off to hot starts the past two seasons, but faded in the second-half of each year. If the Pirates manage to get into the playoffs and have their first winning season in 21 years, it will be hard not to give him the award.
Mike Matheny (Cardinals): Since taking over for mainstay Tony LaRussa, Matheny hasn’t allowed the Cardinals to miss a beat. He won 88 games last season and St. Louis nearly went to another World Series, losing 4-3 in the NLCS. He’s back at it and his Cardinals have the second-best record in all of baseball, sitting just behind the Pirates in the NL Central. Unlike Pittsburgh, St. Louis has had a lot of recent postseason success. So down the stretch, don’t be too surprised if they pass the Pirates up on the way to another playoff appearance. The Cardinals were a preseason favorite to win the division, so unless Matheny does that, he may not be able to beat out Hurdle for the honors.
Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks): Hired in 2010, Gibson has found success in Arizona and was named the league’s 2011 Manager of the Year. He again has the Diamondbacks in contention after going .500 last season and the club leads the NL West Division. Gibson’s team is the only one in the Division playing over .500, but it’s far from a lock things will remain that way. Only four games separate the first place Diamondbacks from the last place Los Angeles Dodgers and the playoff spot is completely up for grabs. But thus far, Gibson has done the best job of any manager in the NL West.
Walt Weiss (Rockies): After Jim Tracy has struggled for the past two seasons, he resigned at the end of 2012 and the Rockies went in a different direction hiring Walt Weiss this season. It’s still early in the process, but Weiss has done a solid job in his first season at the helm. Colorado was only 41-42 heading into this week, but that’s light years ahead of where the team has been the past two seasons when they were among the worst in baseball with a 137-187 record. The Rockies may not only finish over .500 this season for the first time since 2010, but they could wind up in the postseason playing in the mediocre NL West.
Fredi Gonzalez (Braves): Like Matheny, Fredi Gonzalez has taken over for a legend after replacing Bobby Cox in 2011. He’s also done an admirable job, averaging 91 wins over his two seasons as manager of the Atlanta Braves. Gonzalez has been flat out impressive while passing up heavily favored teams in the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. Not only does Atlanta lead the NL East, but they do so fairly comfortably, up 6 ½ games heading into this week. If Gonzalez and the Braves hang on to win the Division, he will certainly get some consideration for the award.