Surprises, veterans round out top managerial candidates

Major League Baseball experienced a resurgence in the Beltway this past season.

Two of the architects of that turnaround may be honored on Tuesday when the Baseball Writers' Association of America name both the American and National League Managers of the Year.

Baltimore's Buck Showalter and Washington's Davey Johnson are considered the frontrunners for the award, while Oakland's Bob Melvin and Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox are also being considered for the AL honor, with Cincinnati skipper Dusty Baker and World Series champion San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy the other finalists in the NL.

Showalter's Orioles surprisingly battled the New York Yankees for an AL East title up until the last day of the regular season. And he did so without much to work with, as he used 12 different starting pitchers and had only one double-digit winner, a lineup that saw two castoffs (Nate McLouth and Lew Ford) play prominent roles because of injuries, a third baseman playing first base (Mark Reynolds), a first baseman playing right field (Chris Davis) and a 20-year-old rookie shortstop playing third base (Manny Machado).

Despite all of that, Showalter turned a 93-loss team from 2011 into a 93-win team in 2012 and got the Orioles back into the postseason for the first time since 1997.

Showalter has won this award with the Yankees back in 1994 and Texas in 2004.

Melvin, who took over for Bob Geren midway through the 2011 campaign, guided the A's to their first AL West title since 2006 with a furious finish to overtake the two-time defending champion Texas Rangers.

Oakland went from losing 88 games in 2011 to a 94-68 finish in 2012, and did so with a cast of unknowns after trading two of its winningest starters from a year ago, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, as well as its closer, Andrew Bailey.

Ventura, who had never managed at any level before taking the reins in Chicago, is probably a longshot to nab the award, but he had the White Sox in the playoff mix right up until the final week of the season.

The NL, meanwhile, comes down to three guys who have all won the award before.

Johnson, who was the AL Manager of the Year with the Orioles back in 1997, figures to be the frontrunner and has already been named the top NL manager by the Sporting News earlier this offseason.

The 69-year-old Johnson piloted the Nationals to their first-ever playoff berth and NL East title, and a major league-best 98 regular season wins. Not to mention he dealt with a multitude of injuries as well as the much-debated shutdown of ace Stephen Strasburg.

Baker has been the NL Manager of the Year three times over his 19-year career, winning the award with San Francisco in 1993, 1997 and 2000. This past year, he skippered the Reds to an NL Central title and 97 wins, the best for the franchise since 1976.

Of course, Baker missed time toward the end of the season with some health issues, but recently inked a two-year extension to remain with the club.

Bochy, meanwhile, led San Francisco to a 94-68 mark and an NL West crown. The Giants went on to win their second World Series title in three years, but voting was done prior to the postseason, making him an unlikely choice to nab the award.

He previously was the NL Manager of the Year in 1996 with the San Diego Padres.