Will Showalter take home the hardware tonight?

The Orioles’ last chance to win a significant postseason award comes tonight with Buck Showalter being among the three finalists for American League Manager of the Year.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting came down to Showalter, the Athletics’ Bob Melvin and the White Sox’s Robin Ventura. Showalter edged out Melvin for The Sporting News award, with their peers turning in the ballots.

Showalter has won the award twice previously, with the Rangers in 2004 and the Yankees in 1994. This season, he guided the Orioles to their first winning record and playoff berth in 15 years, turning a 69-93 team into a 93-69 team that tacked on three more wins in the postseason.

The A’s won the AL West, moving into first place for the first time on the final day of the regular season. The Orioles settled for a wild card berth, which could work against Showalter. Voting was done before the playoffs.

showalter-smiling-sidebar.jpgAt the risk of sounding biased, I think Showalter deserves the award for removing the losing culture from a team predicted by many “experts” to finish in last place again and to lose 100 games. Thirty-two different players made their Oriole debuts. He handled the bullpen magnificently, demonstrating an expert’s touch in keeping his relievers sharp and rested.

Showalter had a 20-year-old Double-A shortstop at third base, a third baseman at first and an assortment of infielders playing the outfield. He navigated around injuries to key players. He had eight different players bat leadoff. His No. 5 hitter for seven games, Lew Ford, was employed by the Long Island Ducks earlier in the summer.

The Orioles made 178 roster moves in 2012. They recalled 36 players, optioned 33, placed 15 on the 15-day disabled list, selected the contract of 19, designated 17 for assignment, reinstated 14 from the disabled list, placed 11 on the 60-day disabled list, outrighted 10, traded for seven, dealt two, placed five on waivers, claimed two on waivers, released two, signed one as a free agent, added one to the roster and had one go on paternity leave. It was chaotic at times, but Showalter kept steering the Orioles in the right direction.

In some ways, it was business as usual for Showalter. The Orioles improved by 24 games. In 2004, Showalter’s second full year in Texas, the Rangers improved by 18 games. In his second full year in Arizona in 1999, the Diamondbacks improved by 35 games. In his second full year in New York in 1993, the Yankees improved by 12 games.

Showalter will attempt to become the third Orioles manager to win the award since its inception in 1983, joining Davey Johnson in 1997 and Frank Robinson in 1989. Here is the complete list:

2011 Joe Maddon Tampa Bay
2010 Ron Gardenhire Minnesota
2009 Mike Scioscia Los Angeles
2008 Joe Maddon Tampa Bay
2007 Eric Wedge Cleveland
2006 Jim Leyland Detroit
2005 Ozzie Guillen Chicago
2004 Buck Showalter Texas
2003 Tony Peña Kansas City
2002 Mike Scioscia Anaheim
2001 Lou Piniella Seattle
2000 Jerry Manuel Chicago
1999 Jimy Williams Boston
1998 Joe Torre New York
1997 Davey Johnson Baltimore
1996 Joe Torre New York/Johnny Oates Texas
1995 Lou Piniella Seattle
1994 Buck Showalter New York
1993 Gene Lamont Chicago
1992 Tony La Russa Oakland
1991 Tom Kelly Minnesota
1990 Jeff Torborg Chicago
1989 Frank Robinson Baltimore
1988 Tony La Russa Oakland
1987 Sparky Anderson Detroit
1986 John McNamara Boston
1985 Bobby Cox Toronto
1984 Sparky Anderson Detroit
1983 Tony La Russa Chicago

You may have noticed a tie in 1996. Could it happen again tonight?

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