- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The finalists for National League manager of the year show how competitive the National League West was last season.

Three playoff teams — guided by the three finalists for the award — came out of the division. They averaged 96 wins. Unfortunately for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, they were pitted against each other in the one-and-done format of the Wild-Card game.

The field for NL manager of the year consists of last year’s winner, Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a man who was expected to be the Nationals’ manager, Bud Black of the Rockies, and a “rookie” manager, Torey Lovullo. The winner will be announced Tuesday.

A look at the trio:

Dave Roberts, Dodgers

Sports Illustrated put out a cover with a question in August: “Best team ever?” It was overzealous — and borderline ludicrous — but also represented how well the Dodgers played for the first six months of the season on the way to 104 wins, which tied for the second-most in franchise history. Only the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, led by Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson and Carl Erskine, won more, and that was by a sliver. They won 105 games.

If Roberts wins again, he will become just the second manager to win in back-to-back seasons since the award started in 1983. Atlanta’s Bobby Cox won in 2004 and 2005, which were wins three and four for him, respectively. There are several other multiple-time winners — from Tony La Russa to Dusty Baker to Joe Maddon — but none have won the award in consecutive seasons. Cox and La Russa are tied at four with the most wins.

Roberts has developed into the prototype for the modern manager. He’s flexible, creative and willing to make multiple changes early in games. It’s also much easier to do when you have the talent that allows for such moves. Los Angeles does, which has made Roberts and the Dodgers such a perfect pairing the last two seasons.

Bud Black, Rockies

Black almost had “Nationals” next to his name two years ago when Washington was yet again looking for a new manager. Instead, he left the dugout for a year before being hired by the Colorado Rockies. He found the usual challenges in Colorado.

The Rockies‘ staff had a 4.51 ERA, which was 17th in baseball and ninth in the National League. In 2014 and 2015, the Rockies had the worst ERA in the NL. In 2016, they were 12th. So, Black’s pitching background appears to have had an influence there.

The team’s offense received the dual benefits of being in Colorado and playing during a season when home runs spiked. Those things helped the Rockies lead the NL in runs by a slight margin.

This season, the benefit of playing in Coors Field, and better pitching, helped the Rockies to the playoffs for just the fourth time since they started as a franchise in 1993. Their third-place finish was enough for a Wild-Card slot.

Only two NL managers have won when in charge of a third-place team: Maddon in Chicago 2015 and Buck Rodgers in Montreal in 1987. Joe Girardi is the only manager to win when leading a fourth-place team. That happened when the then-Florida Marlins finished 78-84 in 2006.

If nothing else, Black should receive consideration for his dry senses of humor. This is a man who pitched 15 seasons in the major leagues and often grunted during that time when throwing a changeup in order to make the hitter think a fastball was coming. That has to be worth something, even in 2017.

Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks

Lovullo is the lone rookie among the six finalists in the two leagues. He ended up in Arizona after a general manager change brought in Mike Hazen, who had worked with Lovullo in Cleveland and Boston, to the desert.

If Lovullo wins, he would be the first rookie manager since Matt Williams won in 2014 when he was in charge of the Nationals. He would also be the ninth NL manager to win with a second-place team.

The Diamondbacks flipped their record in Lovullo’s first season, going from 69-93 to 93-69. Only the Nationals and Dodgers won more games.

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