The 2018 Major League Baseball season was a renaissance in managerial approaches, and Bob Melvin was deemed to have stood above the rest.

The Oakland Athletics manager was named the 2018 American League Manager of the Year on Tuesday, beating out Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Tampa Bay Rays skipper Kevin Cash.

Melvin — who was “a heavy favorite” — took an A’s team that looked like it would finish near the bottom of the AL West and turned them into a legitimate contender that finished 97-65, despite sitting around .500 as late as June. Though they were bounced by the New York Yankees in the Wild Card game, they were a tough customer despite finishing the year with baseball’s third-smallest payroll (per Spotrac). Their bullpen was electric and arguably MLB’s best, and they got key offensive contributions from young, rising stars as well as seasoned veterans on cheap deals.

Cora’s first-year accomplishments were impressive, chief among them guiding the Red Sox to 108 wins and the World Series title. He pushed the right buttons all season, getting the best out of his players on a nightly basis in ways few managers ever have been able to. But seeing as it is a regular season award and he was working with a high payroll team that was back-to-back AL East champions entering 2018, it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that he didn’t win.

Given how loaded the AL East was, coupled with the Rays selling off many players both prior to and during the season, what Cash did in Tampa with the game’s smallest payroll is nothing short of impressive. While his bullpen by committee plan was deemed comical by many out of the chute, it ended up being a fine way of leveraging the talent he had available, particularly with limited quality starting pitching beyond Blake Snell and, after the trade deadline, Chris Archer. Despite the modest resources, the Rays managed to go 90-72 while facing both the Red Sox and Yankees periodically throughout the year, in the process making a compelling push for a wild card berth.

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker won the award in the National League.

Thumbnail photo via John Hefti/USA TODAY Sports Images