The BBWAA announced the winners of the 2016 Manager of the Year Award this week. Dave Roberts, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, took home the award for the National League. In the American League, Terry Francona, of the Cleveland Indians, edged out Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister for the award. While Terry Francona did an exceptional job managing the Indians this past season, I feel Jeff Banister should have been voted best manager in the AL.
Francona led the Indians through pitcher injuries and drug suspensions, achieving a 94-67 record and getting to the top of the AL Central. No one doubts, not even me that Francona took a team that wasn’t considered a World Series threat going into the 2016 season, and made them the best they could be. With that being said, Texas Rangers skipper Jeff Banister did those same things and did them even better.
The Texas Rangers finished the 2016 regular season with the best record in the American League, and tied for the second-best record in all of baseball, at 95-67. Those 95 wins tied the club’s record for second-most wins in franchise history. Several of those wins came off beating the Houston Astros, who were considered a top contender to go to the World Series, coming into the season. In fact, the Texas Rangers didn’t lose a single series to the Astros all year.
As far as head-to-head matchups, the Rangers dominated the Indians. Texas won three of four games at the end of May/beginning of August. The Indians failed to beat Texas again, at the end of August, losing three of four in that series.
The regular season was tough for Jeff Banister. The team lost their Designated Hitter, Prince Fielder after numerous injuries resulted in his retirement. It was an emotional time for the club, and Fielder’s press conference brought tears and sadness to the ballclub. Dark times followed Fielder’s exit, as the club tried to cope with the loss of a friend. Banister led the team through this, always displaying a mentality of confidence and dedication.
The season also saw a heated rivalry break out into an all-out brawl on the diamond. In 2015, the Blue Jays knocked the Rangers out of the playoffs. Toronto’s Jose Bautista poured salt on the wound when he slammed a homer that was topped off with an “in your face” bat flip. The tension between the two teams carried over into this past season, and a fight took place. Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor landed a shot to Bautista’s jaw that was so intense, a flurry of memes followed for weeks. Again, Jeff Banister was there for the team, calming everyone down and helping them maintain their composure.
In all things good for the Texas Rangers in 2016, Jeff Banister was at the heart of them all. Despite constant injuries to players, a back-half of the starting rotation that couldn’t last five innings, and changes to several key positions, including DH, centerfield, and lead-off hitter, Banister managed the team to one impressive regular season.
Even though the Rangers were slated to have an extremely successful season, while the Indians were not, events occurred throughout the season that put Jeff Banister to the test. He was able to overcome those obstacles and keep the team on pace to win their division. Since only the regular season is judged when voting for Manager of the Year, it’s a shame that what Jeff Banister did wasn’t rewarded by winning the top manager award.
I’ll be the first person to congratulate Terry Francona. He did a fine job and is an exceptional manager. However, Jeff Banister overcame several of the same obstacles as Francona but took his team to a higher regular season mark. With the best record in all of the American League and a display of utter dominance in the West, Jeff Banister was clearly the best manager.