Today, the SF Chronicle’s John Shea suggests the NL manager of the year award is a two-man race, between the Rockies’ Jim Tracy and the Giants’ Bruce Bochy.

Here’s his thinking:

Given voters’ tendencies, let’s cross out Lou Piniella (last year’s winner) and Charlie Manuel (no one has won the award after appearing in the previous year’s World Series). It’s also possible to eliminate La Russa and Joe Torre, whose Cardinals and Dodgers are faring as expected.

The Cardinals are faring as expected? Really?

Back in March, ESPN’s experts, all 21 of them, made predictions for the 2009 season. Only 4 of them picked the Cardinals to win the NL Central, and the rest picked the Cubs. Only two picked the Cards to win the Wild Card. In other words, an overwhelming majority thought St. Louis, which is currently 10.5 games up in the Central, would miss the playoffs in 2009.

Of course, those were ESPN’s baseball people. What did the real experts predict?

Here at Umpbump, nobody picked the Cardinals to win the Central, and I was the only one who picked St. Louis to win the Wild Card.

If you’re a fan of number crunching, the PECOTA nerds projected the Cardinals to win 80 games and finish in third place, behind the Cubs and the Brewers.

So as you can see, the Cardinals were never the popular choice to make the playoffs in 2009, which is why it’s silly to eliminate La Russa as a manager of the year candidate.

In fact, I’m going to throw my support behind Big T right now. Because, you know, his ego could use a little stroking.

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