On the surface, Matt Williams and Buck Showalter have a lot in common: They’re both former corner infielders (though Showalter never cracked a big league roster), they’re both managers of Beltway-based clubs and, now, they’re both 2014 Manager of the Year winners.

But there’s also plenty that separates the two skippers, including a decade-and-a-half of managerial experience.

Showalter, the AL winner, has spent 16 seasons at the helm of various MLB teams: Four with the New York Yankees, three with the Arizona Diamondbacks, four with the Texas Rangers and five with the Baltimore Orioles. And he’s made a habit of winning MOY every decade—in 1994 with New York, in 2004 with the Rangers and on Tuesday with the Orioles.

Williams, meanwhile, just finished his first season as the top man in the dugout after an exemplary 17-year playing career, during which he netted four Gold Gloves and made five All-Star appearances. 

“As a newcomer to the managerial fraternity, it is a privilege just to be considered amongst the best in our game,” Williams told USA Today‘s Paul White after receiving the National League prize from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

And he deflected credit to his players: “These guys made my transition easy,” he said, per ESPN.com.

If Williams leaned on his players, Showalter’s players lean on him. “We present ourselves as a prepared team, and we feed off our leader,” Orioles outfielder Adam Jones told Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun.  

It makes sense to trust a guy who has racked up 1,259 wins, third-most among active managers.

That’s not to say Williams doesn’t command respect in the clubhouse. The Nats hired him with the expectation that he’d be a players’ manager, as The Washington Post‘s Adam Kilgore reported in October 2013. 

But there’s simply no substitute for experience; greener managers often have to rely on their players, staffs and front offices, as Williams admitted to Kilgore, “It just means that our organization had a great year. We set out with the goal to be competitive every day and to go out there and have a chance to win, and we accomplished that. It’s a sense of pride for the organization.”

To be fair, Showalter often expresses the same brand of humility, despite his expansive resume. “We have great players, I’m just trying to stay out of the way,” he told ESPN.com‘s Johnette Howard in September 2012, as the Orioles were charging toward a 93-win season and a wild-card berth.

This year, Showalter did one better and guided the Birds to their first division title in 17 years. It’s a commendable accomplishment, even if it ended in a disappointing American League Championship Series sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.

There’s something else the 2014 MOYs have in common: Like Showalter, Williams watched his club fizzle in the postseason, losing in four games in the National League Division Series to the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants.

The general perception is that Williams was outmanaged by San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy, who finished third in Manager of the Year balloting (BBWAA members cast their votes before the playoffs). John Canzano of The Oregonian summed up this line of thinking, undoubtedly shared by many in the Bay Area and beyond:

The bottom line, though, is that this is a regular-season award. And Williams piloted the Nationals to an NL-best 96-66 regular-season record, a 10-game improvement over 2013. 

Showalter can boast a similar swing—his O’s improved by 11 games compared to last year—and that’s surely what voters were looking at.

Williams and Showalter may stand at opposite ends of their career arcs, but this year they each got the one thing that matters: results.

Would both men trade their hardware for an October do-over and another shot at World Series glory? Most definitely. Will they be under an even more intense microscope if their squads make the postseason next year? You bet.

That’s baseball, where the question is always: What have you done for me lately?

For the moment, the grizzled managerial vet and the fresh-faced newbie can revel in an accolade that transcends service time and offers a reminder that each season, be it the first or the 16th, is a gift.

As Showalter told MLB.com‘s Brittany Ghiroli, “I am so thankful to get the opportunity every day. It’s something I never have taken for granted.”


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

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