Ron Washington has Texas contending again this year. The Rangers have already advanced to the ALCS. Washington is respected by his players and peers alike. Jim Leyland selected him as a coach for the 2007 All Star Game. Texas' record in September was 19-6. Yes, you've got to credit the players for this run, but I believe the manager deserves some credit as well.
The Rays lopped over $35 million off their payroll after last season. By the way, the Rays' payroll was 29th in all of baseball this season at $41,900,000. The team also lost its entire bullpen after last season, but still made the playoffs. Joe Maddon seems to know how to make the game fun. He also knows how to win games with a small payroll. He contends in the AL East. Enough said.
Although Jim Leyland entered this season as a lame duck, I do not believe that status affected his ability to lead or manage in the least. I don't think the players find it to be a distraction. The ballclub extended Leyland's and Dombrowski's contracts in July anyway, so the whole lame duck thing went away. Jim Leyland makes a lot of decisions that madden me. Lineups, reliever selection, you name it. However, he has been successful. His players love him. He is known for keeping the clubhouse loose, and for dealing with all kinds of personalities. He is loyal to his players, often to a fault, especially veterans. Before Jim Leyland was hired, the Tigers were caught in a seemingly endless cycle of losing seasons. Since then, we've contended for the playoffs almost annually. Not too bad.