The Chicago Cubs have been the best team in baseball all season. Despite this being true, Joe Maddon will not be named NL Manager of the Year for 2016.
What are the chances that a person makes something better than it was prior without earning the same recognition they previously did?
Evidently, the chances are high for Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon. In 2015, Maddon won 97 games as the Cubs skipper, winning the NL Manager of the Year award. The Cubs won 24 more games than they did in 2014, making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Fast forward to 2016, where the Cubs own the MLB’s best record (83-47) and lead the NL Central by 14.0 games. Their run differential of 218.0 is first in the MLB, with the Washington Nationals 139.0 differential the next best. The Cubs also have the MLB’s top team ERA (3.14). For comparison’s sake, the Nationals are second with a 3.47 ERA.
Maddon’s ball club sent seven All-Stars to the 2016 Midsummer Classic, including their entire regular starting infield. Although Dexter Fowler sat out the game out due to injury, five Cubs were named starters for the game. The only two who didn’t start were Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, although Arrieta sat out the game as well.
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Despite all of this being true, the 2016 NL Manager of the Year most likely will not be Maddon. Although this assertion seems rather crazy, the reasoning behind it does make a lot of sense.
Yes, the Cubs have the best record in the MLB and are on pace to finish with more than 100 victories this season. However, a team winning 100+ games after winning 97 the season before should not come as a surprise. Maddon has done a fantastic job with this team, but the reality is the Cubs already were a great team.
Of course, the fact that the Cubs were good last season should not take away from their successful 2016 campaign. With a roster where many of the best players are in their second year, sophomore slumps were a possibility. Instead, guys like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Báez continued right where they left off in 2015.
Maddon deserves praise for his team not getting complacent after a successful 2015 season, that is for sure. The roster could easily have expected the team to still be great without continuing to work hard. Instead, the players held themselves accountable to continue getting better
However, winning Manager of the Year more often than not requires leading a team to exceed expectations. Essentially, if a team makes the playoffs a year after missing them, that manager gets heavy consideration to win the award.
The last seven NL managers and the last four AL managers to win the award exemplified this scenario, including Maddon. The Cubs won just 73 games in 2014 before bringing Maddon aboard . Many expected the Cubs to improve in 2015, just not to the degree that they did. Because Maddon’s squad exceeded expectations AND made the playoffs, he won the award.
Former Cubs’ manager favorite to win 2016 award?
Looking at 2016, there are many worthy candidates in the NL to win Manager of the Year, including Maddon. However, based on previous years, one manager seems to have a great shot at winning: Dusty Baker.
Baker took over the Washington Nationals job from former manager Matt Williams. In 2014, Williams won Manager of the Year after winning 96 games in his first season as manager. The Nationals were the preseason favorite to win the 2015 World Series as a result of their great 2014 campaign. Instead, the team flopped to a record of 83-79, missing the postseason.
This season, Baker’s Nationals have the second-best winning percentage in the NL, third best in the entire MLB (.580). Many expected the New York Mets to win the NL East this season, as they won last season’s NL pennant. Instead, the Nationals have seemingly run away with the division, leading the second-place Mets by 9.0 games.
The Cubs have had a great 2016 under Maddon, just as expected. At the same time, though, the job Baker has done turning the Nationals around should not go unnoticed. Consequently, the 2016 NL Manager of the Year award seems destined for Washington DC for Baker’s taking.