Brewers' Counsell didn't win MOY, and that's OK

Brewers manager Craig Counsell had a strong case. (Hannah Foslien/GETTY IMAGES)

Based on my social media feeds, plenty of Brewers fans are steaming mad that Craig Counsell was NOT named National League Manager of the Year tonight in voting announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America. 

Counsell, who guided the Brewers to a league-best 97 victories, a Central Division title and a berth in the National League Championship Series that ended one game shy of the second World Series in franchise history, finished second to Atlanta's Brian Snitker. 

Snitker, the only manager named on all 30 ballots, guided the Braves to a 90-72 record and the East Division title. He certainly is a worthy winner, and I voted for him... in third place. 

My individual ballot, one of the 30 that counted, put Counsell first, ahead of my runner-up, Bud Black of Colorado. I listed Snitker third. (More on that later).

I'm not mad about the result. In fact, I think most of the writers did a pretty good job. Manager of the Year might not be as sexy as the other awards -- Most Valuable Player, Cy Young or Rookie of the Year -- but it is often more difficult to decide. 

You could make a case for any of the three finalists this year - as well as returning champions Dave Roberts of Los Angeles and Joe Maddon of Chicago - and I'd probably agree with you. They were all terrific in their own ways and worthy of consideration. 

But, there are things to think about when analyzing tonight's result. 

For starters, you can take everything you saw in the playoffs and erase it from your memory bank. Like the other postseason honors the BBWAA is rolling out this week, Manager of the Year is a REGULAR SEASON AWARD. 

Ballots are due before the first pitch of the post-season. In Counsell and Black's case, they were due after 163 regular-season games. 

If this wasn't the case, the manager of the year would be awarded to the guy who won the World Series. In this case, that would be Boston's Alex Cora, a first-year skipper who finished to Oakland's Bob Melvin (a three-time winner, former Brewers bench coach and fantastic guy). 

All Cora did was lead his team to 108 victories - a franchise record for a club with a rich history. He didn't win. 

And, that's OK. 

When it comes to Manager of the Year, voters tend to seize on narratives. And the narrative that plays the best is the "guy who got his team to play better than expected." 

If I ask 100 football fans, "Who is the best coach in the NFL?" how many of them will answer "New England's Bill Belichick" without hesitation? 

I'd say most. And, they'd be right. But, the guy in the hoodie doesn't win Coach of the Year every season, just as LeBron James doesn't win MVP in the National Basketball Association. They could, but they don't. Because... narrative. 

The Red Sox entered the season with championship hopes. Cora, with former Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke next to him, inspired his team to great heights. 

But, they were supposed to win. 

Melvin guided the A's, who own the smallest payroll in MLB, through an avalanche of pitching injuries en route to 97 victories and a playoff series against the Yankees, which they lost. (Playoffs don't count, remember?)

If Brewers fans think Counsell got hosed, what about Red Sox fans? Oh, that's right - they are still recovering from a victory parade hangover.

Melvin received first-place votes on 18 ballots, putting him comfortably ahead of Cora. Snitker's margin was closer. Here is a look at how the voting shook out (first-place votes are worth five points, second-place votes are worth three and third-place votes are worth one point).

Counsell was named on 29 ballots, receiving 11 first-place votes. This was hardly a travesty. 

Again, these decisions are tough. 

In 23 years as a voter, I don't recall casting a first-place ballot for a Milwaukee player or manager. This is most because there haven't been many deserving Brewers in my category (I generally cast one ballot per season). But, I would also think long and hard about whether my vote was being colored by the fact that I follow the Brewers more intently than other clubs. 

Interestingly, the Brewers have never had a Manager of the Year winner in either league. Counsell was the fourth Milwaukee manager to finish second in the voting, joining Tom Trebelhorn (1987) and Phil Garner (1992), who were in the American League, and Ron Roenicke (2011) in the National. 

When September began, I was ready to cast my ballot for Snitker. He's a great story, too. He's been with the Braves forever (I'm pretty sure he crossed paths with my buddy Tom Haudricourt in Richmond back before they started playing night games). The team surpassed expectations in what was supposed to be a "building" year, jumping from 72-90 in 2017 to 92-70 in '18. 

Brewers fans bristle at that suggestion, because Counsell led a similarly "earlier than expected" surge in 2017 and did not win the award. 

Again... narrative. 

I was ready to vote for Snitker in September, but the way Counsell kept the Brewers driving through September, utilizing his bullpen to masterful effect in a tough stretch where four-inning starts were considered "quality" outings, was a sight to behold. 

The Brewers closed the year with a playoff game every night and a massive winning streak that ended in postseason cheeseburgers. Even if the Brewers had lost Game 163 at Wrigley Field (they didn't), I would have considered voting for Counsell. 

They had the best record in the league. They finished strong. Counsell did it in creative ways, working in a number of new acquisitions at the deadline. Hometown bias be damned, Counsell earned my first-place vote. 

Black earned my second-place vote because the 91-72 record (and division tie with the Dodgers) was a great achievement AND because I think Coors Field is a brutal place to both play and manage. Games go long. Runs can be cheap. Pitching gets taxed. It's a great place for teams to visit (when the Rockies aren't good), but it's a damn tough place to play every day. 

Colorado finished with a run differential of plus-35. Based on the Pythagorean expectation, they finished with six more victories than expected. (Counsell and the Brewers exceeded their expected total by five). 

I voted Snitker third because the Braves had a losing record (38-40) against teams with .500 records or better and completely roughed up Miami and New York, going 14-5 and 13-6, respectively, against the division weaklings. 

Some folks in Atlanta may think that I'm an idiot for not recognizing Snitker's brilliance this season. I disagree, but I don't have a problem with that (especially since there are plenty of other reasons to call me an idiot).

Remember - guys who didn't vote for Counsell aren't idiots. They aren't homers. They just weighed their factors and came to a subjective decision.

I came. I saw. I voted. Then, I let the chips fall. That's how it goes in these elections, which are designed to create argument and discussion until they start playing ball again.

Below is a breakdown of the 30 individual ballots, submitted by two writers representing each city in the National League. For more information on the voting, see the BBWAA Voting FAQ.

 

Drew Olson

Drew Olson

Veteran journalist Drew Olson has worked in nearly every facet of sports media in Milwaukee... Read more

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