Handing out the first-half awards

Ron Roenicke

All right, raise your hand if you were pretty much certain three months ago that those Milwaukee Brewers would have the best record in the National League right now. Yeah, sure you did. Go take a look at the preseason predictions from our panel of ESPN baseball geniuses. Not one picked the Brewers to win their division, sneak into the wild-card game or parade through the streets of Milwaukee on Halloween. Not one. But the Brewers didn't get that memo. Despite their almost inexplicable 1-9 funk over the last week and a half, they've held at least a share of first place every day since April 5. And the manager has been a huge part of that. However surprised (or not surprised) you are by this team, it hasn't been an easy group to manage. Roenicke made the bold decision to change closers (from Jim Henderson to Francisco Rodriguez) the day before the season. How'd that work out? This guy has also had to do enough creative lineup juggling, around injuries and other challenges, that you can never be too sure from week to week whether Carlos Gomez is hitting leadoff or cleanup. But he (and they) managed to pull that off, too. There are, as always, many distinguished candidates for this honor. But for the moment, we're shipping this prestigious half-trophy to Bernie Brewer's favorite manager in the big leagues.

Apologies to: Mike Redmond, Bruce Bochy.

AL Manager: Bob Melvin, Athletics

Bob Melvin

We don't usually deliver a lot of manager of the year glory to guys whose teams were predicted to win. But this is different -- because this team is different. Managing the Oakland A's is a juggle-fest. And Bob Melvin is such a master juggler, he ought to join up with Barnum and Bailey. It isn't often you find a first-place team where 13 players have already logged 100 plate appearances by the All-Star break. It isn't often you find a first-place team that has only four positions where the presumed "regular" has started even two-thirds of the games so far. It isn't often you find a first-place team that has already used 10 starting pitchers by the break -- after losing arguably its two best starters for the year in spring training. It isn't often you find a first-place team that's had six relievers save at least one game -- after having its anointed closer ( Jim Johnson) blow up like Mount Vesuvius before the season was even a week old. But Bob Melvin keeps proving he's one of the great mixers and matchers in this sport. And he's mixed and matched this fascinating group into the best team in baseball.

Apologies to: Lloyd McClendon, Joe Girardi.

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