Tracy and Scioscia the easy choices

No real surprises here, huh?

    Jim Tracy of Colorado has won the NL Manager of the Year award and Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels has been selected for the AL honor.

    Tracy became the second manager to win the award after taking over in midseason, joining Jack McKeon for Florida in 2003. Scioscia also picked up the AL award in 2002.

    Tracy received 29 first-place votes and two seconds for 151 points in balloting released Wednesday by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Scioscia got 15 first-place votes.

Tracy was an easy choice. He took over an 18-28 team -- a team that went 74-88 the year before -- and went 74-42 the rest of the way. I would have voted for him even if the Rockies hadn't won the wild card. Since they did, there was simply no other reasonable choice. Tony La Russa got two first-place votes, and Joe Torre one. I certainly can understand the argument that La Russa and Torre both had good years ... but better than Tracy? The Dodgers were supposed to win the West -- yes, I know they lost Manny Ramirez for a while -- and the Cardinals were supposed to be pretty good, at least. The Rockies were nothing before Tracy took over.

Anyway, it's silly to quibble when 29 of 32 voters get it right.

It was obviously closer in the American League, with Scioscia picking up only 15 of 28 possible first-place votes. The others: Ron Gardenhire (6), Joe Girardi (4), Don Wakamatsu (2) and Ron Washington (1). Oddly, Wakamatsu picked up two first-place votes, two second-place votes, and three third-place votes, while Washington was one, one ... and 11 third-place votes. Consensus-wise, Scioscia was the best manager, Gardenhire was the second-best manager, and Washington was the third-best manager (though he actually tied for fourth in the results).

I'm not sold on Scioscia. As a fine manager, sure. But the manager of the year? Yes, winning 97 games and yet another division title was a real accomplishment. I certainly didn't think the Angels would win so many games this year. The Angels were as good as they were because of Kendry Morales (their second choice at first base), Torii Hunter, and budget acquisition Bobby Abreu.

Wait, wait ... I do know this: "Scioscia’s job in 2009 included keeping the Angels focused following the April 9 death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, who was killed in an automobile crash."

I will argue that you simply can't find any correlation between tragedy and performance, aside from the quantitative loss of the player's actual performance. This isn't football. A manager can't give a "Win one for the Gipper!" speech in April and expect results for six months.

All that said, I don't have a problem with Scioscia winning. Shoot, I might even have voted for him. The Twins didn't do anything special, Girardi did have some pretty good players, and Wakamatsu's Mariners weren't as impressive as you might think, considering their poor luck last year and their good luck this year. I might have voted for Ron Washington, but the Rangers' big gains in run prevention this year were partially offset by losses in run scoring.

The problem with managers is that so much of what they do is beyond our reach as analysts, and what's not beyond our reach -- all the bunts and pitching changes and lineups -- is overwhelming in its detail. The annual Bill James Handbook counts all sorts of managerial things ... but there's no attempt to tie them all together with a tidy bow, and the last three columns in each manager's entry are the old stand-bys: wins, losses, and winning percentage.

So we turn to what's obvious, the managers who win when they're not supposed to, or guide their team through troubled waters. By that standard, Tracy and Scioscia both were fine, solid choices this year.