The Mets’ first playoff appearance in six years ended earlier than expected, but the man who guided them there could earn some familiar hardware for it on Tuesday.
Buck Showalter is one of three finalists for the National League Manager of the Year, the winner of which will be announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday night. Braves manager Brian Snitker, who won the award in 2018, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who won it in 2016, are the other NL finalists this year.
Showalter has previously won the award three times (all in the American League) with three different teams — the 2014 Orioles, the 2004 Rangers and the 1994 Yankees. He is vying to become only the third manager to win it four times, joining Tony La Russa (with three teams) and Bobby Cox (two teams). He would also become the first Mets manager to take home the honor.
In his first year at the helm in Queens, the 66-year-old Showalter guided the Mets to 101 wins during the regular season, the second-most in franchise history. They spent most of the season atop the NL East — despite only getting a combined 34 starts from Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer because of injuries — before the red-hot Braves overtook them during the final weekend of the regular season. That left the Mets having to play the Padres in the NL wild-card round, which San Diego won in three games.
Throughout the year, Showalter steadied the Mets with his even-keeled and experienced demeanor, never making too much of any one win, loss, streak or slump. For a franchise that has had to deal with plenty of off-the-field issues in recent years, Showalter brought a buttoned-up approach that allowed his players to keep their focus on baseball as he reshaped the culture of the organization.
“It’s about the players,” Showalter said the night the Mets were eliminated from the playoffs. “It’s about the people. From the get-go, and [general manager Billy Eppler] and I were talking and [owner Steve Cohen], we’re trying to do things that fans can trust. Don’t talk about it. Do it. There’s been enough lip service. Not here necessarily, just in general. Fans don’t want — you know, show me. Play better.”
Showalter, who replaced Luis Rojas, kept the Mets well-prepared for any situation that might come up in a game. The manager, who just completed his 21st season in the big leagues, showed off his deep knowledge of the rule book on multiple occasions — like the time in April he had J.D. Davis steal second base to keep the Diamondbacks from appealing a potential early tag-up at third base or the game in June against the Marlins when Showalter won a double challenge on a double-play call.
The veteran manager was also lauded for his use of the bullpen during the regular season, dividing the workload and not overusing his best relievers while keeping the long haul in mind.
Standing in the way of Showalter for the award — which was voted on before the postseason — are Snitker and Roberts.
Snitker made sure the Braves avoided a World Series hangover while mixing in a number of young players who made a huge impact. The 101-win Braves finished the regular season 78-34 over the final four-plus months.
Roberts, meanwhile, managed the Dodgers to a franchise-record 111 wins during the regular season as they cruised to another NL West title.