The established formula for winning the Baseball Writers' Association of America's Manager of the Year Award is a regular-season result that greatly exceeds preseason expectation. Brian Snitker and Bob Melvin fit that formula perfectly in 2018, making the announcement on Tuesday night as their respective leagues' top skippers relatively unsurprising.
Melvin's A's (plus-22) and Snitker's Braves (plus-18) had the two highest win total increases in baseball from 2017 to '18. With the Braves still in the midst of a rebuild and the A's entering '18 with the lowest Opening Day payroll in the game, little was externally expected of these clubs going into the year. But the Braves won the National League East ahead of schedule, and the A's pushed the defending champion Astros in the AL West en route to an AL Wild Card spot.
Because the BBWAA voting takes place at the conclusion of the regular season, postseason results -- and, specifically, Boston manager Alex Cora's special place in history as one of just five rookie skippers to win the World Series -- were not reflected in the ballot results.
Melvin, who previously won Manager of the Year in the NL with the D-backs in 2007 and in the AL with the A's in '12, received 18 first-place votes and 121 total points in the voting. Cora finished second with seven first-place votes and 79 points, and the Rays' Kevin Cash, whose club won 90 games despite massive sell-offs in the trade market and a revolutionary pitching plan, finished third with five first-place votes and 57 points. The Astros' AJ Hinch and Yankees rookie skipper Aaron Boone rounded out the top five.
Though Melvin is no stranger to the BBWAA honor, what he did in 2018 was plenty strange.
"To accomplish what we did takes a lot of buy-in," Melvin said on MLB Network.
"Our coaches and our players had a really cool bond this year and a trust. It allows us to accomplish what we did, against all odds."
Oakland's 97-win season and Wild Card Game entry was even more amazing when you consider that the entire Opening Day rotation was erased by injury over the course of the year, forcing the club to dole out impactful innings to veterans such as Edwin Jackson, Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill.
"I think at some point in time, we got a little bit immune to [the injuries]," Melvin said.
"We had some guys go down in spring, we had some guys go down early, but it didn't detract from what our goal was, to go out there and play as hard as we could and try to win a ballgame. Our front office gave us a lot of guys and some depth to draw from, and ... we just didn't let those things bother us."
The 57-year-old Melvin's leadership was a steady presence amid the mixing, matching and revision it took to get the A's back to the postseason stage for the fourth time in the past seven years but the first since 2014.
Melvin is just the eighth manager to earn this award at least three times, joining four-time winners Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa and three-time victors Dusty Baker, Jim Leyland, Lou Piniella, Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon.
Snitker, meanwhile, received 17 first-place votes and 116 points overall. Brewers manager Craig Counsell, whose club tied a franchise record with 96 wins and beat the Cubs in Game 163 to decide the NL Central, finished second with 11 first-place votes and 99 points. Third-place finisher Bud Black of the Rockies received one first-place vote, as did fifth-place finisher Maddon of the Cubs (with Cardinals interim-turned-permanent skipper Mike Shildt in fourth place on points).
At a time when the managerial role has gravitated more toward former big league players, regardless of their inexperience on the bench, Snitker, who has spent more than 40 years in the Atlanta organization, was the increasingly rare longtime organizational guy given a chance to not only guide a club during the rebuild phase but to finish the job. The Braves' surge to the top of the NL East standings this season was a credit to his calm and optimistic approach.
"I've been through a lot," Snitker said.
"I think the biggest thing I can say for myself is I understand that this is a rough game. I'd always tell teams, 'I don't care if we're going good or bad, today's always the day we can start something really good and start a winning streak.'"
The Braves entered 2018 picked by many to finish third or fourth in the division. Instead, they spent 115 days in first and never lost more than four in a row.
Given the relative youth of the roster, the Braves' ability to stay atop the standings throughout the second half was especially impressive, and Snitker's decision to put NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Ronald Acuna Jr. in the leadoff spot coming out of the All-Star break reaped major dividends for the offense. The 63-year-old Snitker also had to guide an inexperienced bullpen that was without closer Arodys Vizcaino for 3 1/2 months.
Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos stayed with Snitker at a time when he could have hired his own guy, and Snitker rewarded Anthopoulos' loyalty. Now, Snitker joins his mentor and former boss Cox as the only Braves skippers to obtain this BBWAA honor.
"I think it's a testament to our organization," Snitker said.
"An award like this is indicative of you have really good players. Our organization, our scouting, our player development, our front office and the job Alex and his team did here this year was phenomenal. I'm the recipient of a really solid, quality job by a really strong organization."