NEW YORK (AP) â€” Back in spring training, the assumption was that the Cleveland Indians would win their sixth straight AL Central title.
Jerry Manuel's White Sox became the surprise of baseball, not only winning the division, but finishing with the best record in the American League.
That's what made him the favorite in voting for the American League Manager of the Year.
``I'm excited, that's quite an honor for me,'' Manuel said last week. ``A lot of the credit goes to a great deal of the organization. I'm standing on a lot of peoples' backs.''
Expectations play a large part in the voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. That's why Joe Torre, who led the New York Yankees to their fourth World Series title in five years, wasn't considered a front-runner, even though he is now considered a good possibility for the Hall of Fame.
Voting took place before the start of the postseason, so Seattle's sweep of Chicago in the first round of the playoffs wasn't a factor.
Art Howe, who led Oakland to the AL West title despite a payroll of $32.7 million, just 25th among the 30 major league teams, also was expected to finish high in the voting, along with Lou Piniella, who led the Mariners to the AL wild-card berth.
Manuel's White Sox, who finished 95-67, wound up five games in front of the Indians and were the talk of baseball for much of the season. They did it with a payroll of just $37 million, which ranked 21st.
Chicago won 17 of 25 games in April, taking the division lead on April 19. By June 2, the White Sox had the best record in the league, and the White Sox went 7-0 on a June road trip to Cleveland and New York.
``It appeared to me that we had a chance to compete if a lot of things went right for us,'' Manuel said. ``And, obviously, a lot of things went right for us to finish where we were.''