Buck Showalter felt humbled but incomplete the first time he won a Manager of the Year Award for a New York team.
That was in 1994, when a 38-year-old Showalter, Major League Baseball’s youngest manager, received the accolade following a strike-shortened season. His Yankees went 70-43 — the best record in the American League and second only to the Montreal Expos — but the cancellation of the final stretch and the postseason created one of the biggest what-ifs in major league history and left Showalter unfulfilled despite being recognized as one of the year’s top managers alongside Montreal’s Felipe Alou.
“I am honored that with the number of games we did have, they chose me,” Showalter said at the time. “But it’s something I didn’t feel like we took to the whole extent.”
Now 66, Showalter is once again the winner of a Manager of the Year Award after leading the Mets to a 101-61 record in 2022, his first season in New York City since 1995. Terry Francona, who led the youthful Cleveland Guardians to a surprising division title, was the A.L. winner. The awards are presented annually by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Showalter, speaking on a conference call, described the award as a joint effort, rather than an individual achievement.
“What an organizational recognition it is,” he said. “From ownership to the front office to all the people that go into it, and to the fans who supplied so much of the energy that our team fed off of this year. Now the challenge ahead of us is to do it again and to sustain some things that everybody allowed us to be a part of. I’m hoping that, and rightfully so, that it’s something that everybody takes great pride in, because it is a recognition of the organization as a whole.”
Mets General Manager Billy Eppler, however, made sure Showalter got his due in a statement.
“Buck poured every ounce of himself into making the Mets better on a daily basis,” Eppler said. “I’m thrilled the voters recognized what I got to witness every day this season.”
For his fourth Manager of the Year Award — he also won in 2004 with Texas and 2014 with Baltimore — Showalter beat out Atlanta’s Brian Snitker and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts. The Cardinals’ Oliver Marmol, the Phillies’ Rob Thomson and the Padres’ Bob Melvin rounded out the ballot.
It was a close vote, with Showalter and Roberts both receiving eight first-place votes. Showalter won thanks to a large edge over Roberts in both second- and third-place votes. It is the first time a Mets manager has won the award, which has been given out since 1983.
Much like Showalter’s first award, this year’s honor followed a campaign that ended sooner than he would have liked.
Under Snitker’s direction, Atlanta, which had won the 2021 World Series, erased what had been a 10.5-game deficit to Showalter’s Mets to win the National League East in the season’s final week. That forced the Mets into the best-of-three wild-card round, where they lost to the Padres.
Just like that, Showalter and company were done after the second-winningest regular season in franchise history.
“You roll the dice and sometimes it doesn’t work out for you, but it’s painful,” Showalter said. “It’s painful for the players. It’s painful for the organization. It’s painful for our fans because I think they respected how much our guys put into it. But our motto all year has been ‘play better.’ Just play better. Nobody wants to hear all the talk about this and that and what should have been, could have been. It’s just play better.
“You lick your wounds and you feel sorry for yourself for a very short period, and you realize that the task ahead of you is to sustain and maintain that level that you hold yourself to. Every team in baseball is trying to do what we’re trying to do.”
Francona, who was leading the youngest team in M.L.B. after missing large chunks of the previous two seasons because of health issues, won his third A.L. Manager of the Year Award. All three have come with Cleveland after he won two World Series with Boston.
Francona received 17 of 30 first-place votes, with Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde and Seattle’s Scott Servais finishing second and third. Houston’s Dusty Baker, the Yankees’ Aaron Boone and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash also received votes.
Francona’s latest recognition comes after the Guardians shocked the sport with a 92-win regular season and a first-place finish in the A.L. Central. The small-time spenders swept the playoff-tested Rays in the wild-card round and took the high-rolling Yankees to a decisive Game 5 of their A.L. division series before their improbable run came to an end.
While few picked the Guardians to go as far as they did, Francona has stressed that the 2022 season should represent a steppingstone in Cleveland — not just some one-off fluke.
“I know they are hurting right now, because they care, and they worked unbelievably hard,” Francona said after the division series loss. “But I hope as that wears off, they will realize just how proud we are of them and how much we care about them. And I also reminded them that this needs to be a starting place for us. This can’t just be a good story this year. We need to take this and go, because I think we have a chance to have something really special.”
Awards season will continue this week with the Cy Young Awards on Wednesday and the Most Valuable Player Awards on Thursday.