Just as he has every year that he's been the Rangers' manager, Ron Washington won more games in 2011 than he did the year before.
He won the AL West for the second straight season, navigated around the departure of Cliff Lee, dealt with injuries to key members of the team, massaged the hurt feelings of Michael Young and got a career year out of Mike Napoli. It was a very successful year, in other words. It just wasn't successful enough to land Washington the American League Manager of the Year award.
The prize went to Joe Maddon of the Rays for the second time in the last four years. Jim Leyland of the Tigers finished second and Wash finished third with both men garnering one first place vote from the writers.
There are two responses to this news. The first is a shrug of the shoulders because it is hard to summon too much emotion about the Manager of the Year award. The award rarely goes to the manager of the team that has most wildly overperformed expectations because those managers aren't always in the playoffs. According to Baseball Prospectus, Ron Gardenhire of the Twins was that guy this year as his team was projected to win 56 games and wound up winning 63.
Stats aren't everything, of course. There's always the narrative and that leads us to the second response.
Maddon won the award because his team wound up making the playoffs after being left for dead early in September. They certainly did their best to make up ground that month, but it is hard to eliminate the role of the Red Sox from the equation. If not for their collapse, Maddon does exactly the same job, but you can bet there wouldn't have been any votes cast for him when award time came around.
Washington and Leyland both built a fuller resume over the course of the entire season and had only the play of their own team to thank for their spot near the top of the voting. That seems awfully significant, as does the fact that Maddon's team actually underperformed according to the BP formula cited above.
So did Washington's, for that matter. Leyland was the only one of the top three who didn't fall short of the record the numbers said he should attain. It's a bit surprising how little love Leyland got in the voting, given the job he did with a Tigers team that won 81 games in 2010 and how much Leyland is beloved by the media.
We have our doubts that Wash will ever win the award if he didn't win it this year. He's not seen as being a brilliant tactician and the state of the Rangers right now means that he's always going to have a lot of talent at his disposal. The narrative matters too much and Washington comes up short on that front.