The Baseball Writers' Association Awards are split among the members of the various chapters throughout the country. So not every writer votes for every award. That means I did not vote for AL manager of the year. But if I had a vote, Rangers manager Ron Washington would have earned it.
He did earn 10 first-place votes out of the 28 cast (two in each AL city), but finished second to Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire, who had 16 first-place votes and 108 points to Washington's 81. I'm still amazed that three writers didn't even have Washington in the top three in the voting.
It's important to note that this is an award voted on at the end of the regular season. So Washington's solid work in the postseason in leading the Rangers to the World Series doesn't factor into the voting. But his body of work was good enough in my opinion to win the award anyway. A look at things to consider:
* The Rangers finish with 90 wins and an AL West title despite numerous injuries and issues throughout the 2010 season. It's the first playoff appearance for Texas since 1999 and Washington helped guide a young team through the rigors of the season.
* News breaks in spring training that Washington failed a drug test during the 2009 season. The club stands by its manager and his players crowd into the room in Surprise, Ariz., where he's holding a news conference to admit his mistake and apologize. Washington discussed the matter in a team meeting and his players stood by him. It was a rough start to the season, but it showed his team respected and cared about him.
* The Rangers start the season with Scott Feldman and Rich Harden as the Nos. 1 and 2 starters in the rotation. But neither made the postseason roster. Feldman's sinker, which helped him win 17 games in 2009, wasn't as effective. Harden never did find any consistency. Feldman was out of the rotation in the second half of the season and Harden was on and off the DL and moved to the bullpen eventually as Derek Holland took his place. Washington and his coaching staff make the adjustment and keep winning. Yes, getting Cliff Lee certainly helped in the second half of the season with that rotation. But even Lee had a five-start stretch in August where he struggled. Washington helped keep his pitching staff focused and they got the job done.
* Unlike the 1996, 1998 and 1999 playoff teams (and Johnny Oates shared AL manager of the year honors with the Yankees' Joe Torre after that 1996 AL West title), the 2010 edition had a versatile offense in the mold of Washington. From the day he was hired in November 2006, Washington stressed being able to score runs in a variety of ways. It took some time, but the 2010 Rangers made that a reality. They were able to get runners over with good situational hitting and stay aggressive on the basepaths to create runs. That strategy came directly from the manager. And they don't win the AL West this season by just bashing the ball all over the place. The versatility made it tough on opposing pitchers.
* Washington dealt with injuries, too. Nelson Cruz was on the disabled list three times in 2010 with hamstring issues. That's a big bat missing from the lineup. Ian Kinsler had two separate stays on the DL and missed the first month of the season. Josh Hamilton, the probable AL MVP, missed the final month of the season as the Rangers pushed toward the AL West title and the postseason. And Francisco, a critical late-inning bullpen piece, was put on the DL on Aug. 28 and didn't pitch again in 2010. Despite all of that, Washington never allowed his team to use the injuries as an excuse. He kept them pushing toward the ultimate goal and he worried about putting the best team he could on the field at that time.
* Washington is known for his ability to teach defense. He spent all kinds of extra hours working with young players to improve their footwork, how they think standing on the field during an opposing at-bat and the other necessary skills to make solid fundamental plays consistently. Like the offense, it took time for that attitude to take hold. But it did in 2010. Defense certainly helped the Rangers win the division and Washington's detailed instruction made that part of the game a priority.
* Communication with his coaching staff was critical as well. He established a good working relationship with pitching coach Mike Maddux, hitting coach Clint Hurdle, bullpen coach Andy Hawkins, bench coach Jackie Moore and the rest of his group. Washington figured out a management style that worked for all of them. He made sure they each felt like they had ownership in how the team was run, but he made the ultimate decisions. It was a close staff that did an excellent job in 2010.
* Washington wasn't afraid to show confidence in his young players or make the tough decisions. He moved then 21-year-old Neftali Feliz to the closer spot after Frank Francisco struggled to start the season. He shifted Julio Borbon from No. 1 to No. 9 in April when it was clear things weren't working there. He worked with three different first baseman, showing them some defensive pointers and keeping their confidence up despite some hard times at that position. Washington didn't make these decisions alone, getting help from his coaching staff and front office folks. But he was in charge of making sure the changes led to improved play and kept the team focused on its goal.
* Talk to players that they'll tell you Washington is a good motivator. There were times this season that the team struggled and Washington didn't panic. He talked to players individually and the team as a whole when needed, but didn't let much of anything bother him. His team followed his lead.
* Washington is loyal to his players almost to a fault. When most managers might give up on a player in a prolonged slump or make radical changes, Washington would usually keep things the same. He told the media he had faith in his players and backed it up by continuing to play them. More often than not, he was rewarded by a player snapping out of a slump or getting on a roll. In other words: He pushed the right buttons.
This isn't to say that Gardenhire didn't do a good job as well. He did. He didn't have key parts for much of the season and managed to help get his team to 94 wins and an AL Central title. And Gardenhire has been a good manager for years and one worthy of manager of the year. But for what the Rangers accomplished in 2010 after not making the playoffs in 11 years and the obvious fingerprints that Washington had on the style of play, he would have had my vote.