By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — In his first year as a manager, Alex Cora did some amazing things with the Boston Red Sox.

They were the best team in baseball from start to finish, winning a franchise record 108 games in the regular season. They coasted through the playoffs to capture their fourth World Series title in 14 years. No matter what Cora did to the lineup or the bullpen, it always seemed to come out gold. He never buckled from the immense pressure that comes with managing the Boston Red Sox, and rarely appeared to be in over his head.

All of that should mean Cora brings home the American League Manager of the Year award on Tuesday night, right? Maybe not.

With the highest payroll in all of baseball, the Red Sox did exactly what they were supposed to do. Some voters will likely hold that against Cora, and he’s going up against two manager who had a lot less to work with in Oakland’s Bob Melvin and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash.

It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Melvin take home the hardware, given the A’s went from 75 wins last season to 97 this season. They were below .500 midway through June, sitting at at 34-36, before shifting into warp speed and securing one of the AL’s Wild Card spots. They’re the A’s, so they obviously lost in the Wild Card game, but what Melvin did with an $80 million payroll (Boston was at $227 million) was nothing short of spectacular.

The same can be said for Cash, who turned the baseball world upside down when he started throwing his relievers out to begin games (at least when Cy Young favorite Blake Snell wasn’t on the hill). Like Melvin, he took a team with baseball’s lowest payrolls ($68.8 million) and led them to a 90-win season. That’s pretty impressive given the Rays play in the same division as the 108-win Red Sox and 100-win Yankees.

And just because Cora’s team led all of baseball in victories doesn’t mean much when it comes to claiming Manager of the Year. Of the last 21 managers to lead their team to a 100-plus win season, only one has taken home the end-of-season honors (Lou Piniella after guiding the Mariners to 116 wins in 2001). Cora has a great chance to buck that trend, just don’t be surprised if he doesn’t.

But even if Cora doesn’t bring home some hardware Monday night, chances are he won’t mind too much. He does, after all, have his fingerprints all over a much more important trophy.


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