There was little to suggest 2012 would be anything other than a rebuilding year for the Oakland A's after they traded three of their top pitchers before the season. They played much of the year with a rookie-laden starting rotation and patchwork lineups. But they won 94 games, wrested the A.L. West crown from the Texas Rangers and captured their first playoff berth since 2006.
Tuesday, the man who wrote those lineups, Bob Melvin, was named the American League Manager of the Year. Melvin edged the Baltimore Orioles' Buck Showalter, who led a similarly surprising turnaround, in a narrow vote to become the first A's manager to win the award since Tony LaRussa in 1992.
Davey Johnson of the Washington Nationals was the N.L. winner, with the Giants' Bruce Bochy finishing third behind runner-up Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds.
In his first full season in Oakland, Melvin led the A's to a 20-win improvement over 2011. A's players gave much of the credit for their second-half charge to Melvin and his even-keel leadership, which lent a sense of constancy amid a flurry of roster changes.
Melvin received 16 of the 28 first-place votes and 116 total points, while Showalter got 12 first-place votes and 108 points. It was the fourth-narrowest margin in A.L. voting, and the two were the only managers named to every ballot. Robin Ventura of the White Sox finished third.
Under Showalter, the Orioles improved by 24 wins over their last-place finish in 2011 and captured their first playoff berth in 15 years while battling the New York Yankees for position atop the A.L. East until the season's final days.
Nearby, under Johnson, the Nationals posted the franchise's first winning season since 2003 -- its second-to-last as the Montreal Expos -- and first playoff berth since 1981. Johnson received 23 of the 32 first-place votes. Baker received five first-place votes, while Bochy received the other four first-place votes.
It was the first N.L. East title in a full season for the Nationals franchise. Featuring one of baseball's best pitching staffs, the Nationals came within one out of advancing to the N.L. Championship Series before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the division series.
Johnson and Melvin became the fifth and sixth managers to win the award in both leagues. Johnson was previously named the A.L.'s top manager in 1997, while Melvin won the award in 2007 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Bochy guided the Giants to the N.L. West title despite the loss of closer Brian Wilson to injury in April and All-Star Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension in August. The Giants won their second World Series title in three seasons; however, voting for the award was conducted before the postseason.
Voting was conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.