By Evan Brunell
During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Today: the AL Manager of the Year
Manny Acta, Indians
Current record through Sept. 8: 70-71
2010 Indians record: 69-93
Acta is certainly a prime candidate for the award, as no one expected the Indians to get this relevant quickly. After trading one losing situation for another when being fired in Washington, Acta's stature is on the rise. Known as a skipper who studies sabermetric concepts, Acta is also known for his enthusiasm and has many fans in the game. Acta has seen an Indians team survive no shortage of injuries that cut its Cinderella season short, but put baseball on notice that the Indians are a team to take seriously.
Terry Francona, Red Sox
Current record: 85-58
2010 Red Sox record: 89-73
As mentioned above, Francona has never won an Manager of the Year award. At this point, Boston's success is expected, which sets Francona back in his chances to win the award, especially when the offseason saw two high-flight acquisitions join the offense after missing the postseason in 2010. But Francona's work so far this year should be commended, as the team weathered a 2-10 start to sit atop the division for periods at a time. The team has been hit hard by injuries in the pitching staff, but the team has been able to keep it together. It can't be easy to manage a team as loaded as the Red Sox, weighed down by all expectations, but Francona has been able to keep the team free of controversy and focused on the prize.
Jim Leyland, Tigers
Current record: 81-62
2010 Tigers record: 81-81
Unlike the Red Sox, the Tigers had fairly minimal turnover aside from the blockbuster signing of Victor Martinez. Yet, the team has already matched its wins total from 2010 and has the division in hand, setting the team up for just its second playoff appearance since 1987. The other time making the playoffs was Leyland's first year in Detroit, when the team won the AL pennant before falling to the Cardinals. Leyland's done all this despite having to put a fire out in spring training when Miguel Cabrera was arrested for a DUI. The resulting effects could have torn the team apart, but it didn't. When you combine the Tigers' success plus Leyland's stature in the game, you get the mix of someone who should be considered the frontrunner for the award.
Joe Maddon, Rays
Current record: 78-64
2010 Rays record: 96-66
Yes, Maddon's team has taken a clear step back. Just a year after winning the division title, the Rays are slated to miss the playoffs by a fairly significant margin. And yet, this year has to be considered a success. Tampa Bay was clearly out of the race from Opening Day thanks to the presence of the Yankees, a beefed-up Sox team and a Rays club that saw the subtraction of Carl Crawford, Matt Garza and nearly the entire bullpen. Yet, here the Rays are, 14 games above .500 and with an outside shot at the wild card.
Mike Scioscia, Angels
Current record: 78-65
2010 Angels record: 80-82
Scioscia has already won the award twice -- 2002 and 2009 -- but could be adding a third. Despite having to contend with another season without Kendrys Morales and GM Tony Reagins foisting Vernon Wells onto him, Scioscia has the Angels threatening to take away the Rangers' division hopes. Scioscia isn't without his warts, as his insistence on playing catchers who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a bat shows, but he's clearly doing something right. The Angels have long overperformed with Scioscia at the help and this year is no different with a below-average offense being shored up by a trio of pitchers in Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.
Let us know in the comments who your AL manager of the year is.
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